You’ll be the man! . . . You must contrary me! Capulet is angry at Tybalt’s attempts to show off and disobey him. The consequences of this are seen in Act 3 Scene 1 when Tybalt searches out Romeo to regain the honour he feels he has lost because of this incident. It is not in his nature to let things go and he is the main participant in the violence in the first half of the play. Even in the midst of love hate is always present in the play. Act 2 Scene 2 is the famous balcony scene. It is full of the language of love and light: But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east and Juliet is the sun. Romeo compares Juliet to the sun, the source of life. It is if he alive for the first time. Yet, in contrast it is also a scene full of underlying violence and death underlined by Juliet’s warning ‘If they do see thee they will murder thee’. She is afraid Romeo will be discovered by her kinsmen and has no doubt what will happen. The danger they are in as a result of their families’ hatred if they pursue their love is thus emphasised. The result is they are forced into the secrecy that creates much of the dramatic irony of the play.
The theme of violence is also underlined in the Friar’s words to Romeo as he arranges the marriage of Romeo and Juliet that describe the depth of passion that Romeo and Juliet feels for each other: These violent delights have violent ends The words allow us to see love in a different light. The antithesis suggests that a love of such force and intensity can only be balanced by an outcome of equal force and intensity thus foreshadowing the ending of the play. It is a warning which if heeded may have prevented the tragedy but as we are aware from the outset Fate has already dashed any hope of the ‘star-crossed lovers’ survival.
Nevertheless, only a love of such violence could overcome the violence of the feud. After killing Tybalt Romeo hides in Friar Lawrence’s cell. As we are aware the Prince has tried to curb the violence by imposing a death penalty. Romeo however does not see this as act of mercy but a separation from Juliet would be fate worse than death. Hadst thou no poison mixed, no sharp ground knife No sudden means of death . . . But ‘banished’ to kill me? This introduces another aspect of the theme in the form of self-loathing and suicide.
He is concerned racked with guilt at his betrayal of Juliet by killing her cousin and concerned she thinks he is ‘a murderer’. When he learns of Juliet’s confused grief he snatches knife and has to be prevented from killing himself. This attempt foreshadows the lovers’ suicides at the end of the play. Similarly, when Juliet is desperate to find a way out of her proposed bigamous marriage to Paris, Juliet threatens to kill herself when she goes to friar Lawrence for help. I long to die If what thou speak’st speak not of remedy. In saying this she laying a heavy burden on the Friar.
He becomes responsible for her life or death at her own hands. In addition, throughout the play, Juliet’s words have given us the sense of being prepared to die so that when the moment comes In Act 5 Scene 5 she has no qualms about it. We can see how the death and violence have become so devalued in this society that it is turned to so quickly and easily as a remedy for difficult times. Violence is also present in the language of the play. It arises most shockingly when Capulet turns on Juliet as she refuses to marry Paris: Hang thee, young baggage! disobedient wretch! ? . .
. Speak not, reply not, do not answer me; ? My fingers itch. Juliet’s father’s words are cruel. He calls her names, he commands her not to speak and threatens to hit her. Ironically he wishes to cheer her up because she weeps too much for Tybalt but his compassion quickly disintegrates into hateful words and violent threats when he is thwarted. We see here how easily violence and hatred rise to the surface in a society where violent behaviour is the norm. The final scene of the play gives us further examples of violence as the cosequence of the hatred between the two families.
The Friar’s plan has gone wrong and Romeo believes Juliet is really dead instead of sleeping. He goes to her tomb in Verona to poison himself and be by her side. However, he is not the only mourner. Paris is there before him. Paris recognises him as a ‘vile Montague’ and believing he is there to despoil the tomb challenges him to a duel. Romeo, as he did with Tybalt in Act 3 Scene 3 tries to avoid the fight: Good gentle youth, tempt not a desperate man. . . Put not another sin upon my head. The language mirrors that of other duelling scenes where insults were based on claims to manhood.
In the end he is forced to kill Paris, as Paris will not back down. The violence occurs once again because of the unreasoning hatred of feud. However, Romeo’s actions when he discovers who Paris is are compassionate as he places him with Juliet in the tomb. This foreshadows the way in which love can overcome hatred and create reconciliation. The final acts of violence in the play are done out of love but are the result of hatred. Romeo poisons himself while Juliet stabs herself with a knife. The secrecy and intrigue forced on the lovers by the hatred of their families destroys them in the end by their own hands.
Mischance leads to mistiming and misunderstanding through which the lovers fulfil their destinies as symbols of a love so deep that it crosses the divide of hatred. In destroying themselves they destroy the feud. Hatred and the violence it causes form a backdrop to the play. It brings about five unnecessary deaths and forces true love into hiding and the ultimate self- sacrifice. In the end both are overcome but the cost is not only the waste of young lives but the destruction of the noble households. Law and order may be restored but the cost of the lives of Romeo and Juliet was high price to pay.