Romeo and Juliet is a play about decisions, and more importantly, about action which comes after the decisions. The play demonstrates how love and hate can impair the decision making process, which in turn creates foolish actions. The main characters make decisions based on hate or love, and the actions cause unforeseeable consequences. For all actions, there are consequences – and the more important the action is, the more serious the consequence. The actions in Romeo and Juliet were fuelled by hate. In the play, there are two feuding families – the Montagues and the Capulets. They have been fighting for so long that they can’t remember what they are fighting about.
The hatred of each other has been embedded in the minds of the families so much that there has been three brawls in the streets and many lives have been lost. Family members and those linked to the families had the hatred embedded in their minds so much, that the decisions they made resulted in serious consequences for either the character who committed the action or other characters in the play. A character in the play sent a challenge on the life of a member of the opposite house. A Friar linked to both houses must consider the hatred when taking action. Important actions that had been committed would have been different if the hatred between the Montagues and the Capulets did not exist.
The hatred between the two families can be seen clearly when Romeo step in to stop a fight between Tybalt and Mercutio. The fight emerged from a challenge on the life of Romeo by Tybalt. Romeo is a Montague and Tybalt is a Capulet. Romeo had just secretly married Juliet, Tybalt’s cousin; so he was unwilling to fight against a member of his own family. In this quote, Romeo says that he loves Tybalt and the name Capulet but Tybalt will never know why.
[I] love thee better than thou canst devise till thou shalt know the reason of my love. And so, good Capulet, which name I tender as dearly as mine own, be satisfied. (Act 3, Scene 1, Line 63-66)
Romeo’s friend, Mercutio, takes up Tybalt’s challenge. The two start fighting and Romeo steps in to try to put a stop to the fight. As a consequence to Romeo’s action of trying to stop the fight, he block’s Mercutio’s vision and Tybalt sword slips by Romeo and straight into Mercutio. “Why the devil came you between us? I was hurt under your arm.” (Act 3, Scene 1, Line 97-98) says Mercutio to Romeo after being stabbed. The consequence continues as Romeo, seeing that his friend is dead, becomes furious. Approaching Tybalt, Romeo says:
…Mercutio’s soul is but a little way above our heads, staying for thine to keep him company. Either thou or I, or both, must go with him. (Act 3, Scene 1, Line 121-124)
He fights and kills Tybalt out of rage. He is banished to Mantua, a neighbouring town, by the Prince.
Romeo could have done something other than stepping in front of Mercutio to stop the fight, but his initial reaction was to end the fight as soon as possible – before anyone got hurt or killed. Instead of stepping into stop the fight, Romeo could have tried to convince Tybalt or Mercutio to stop fighting, but that would have taken too long and it might not even work, so it was not worth the risk of wasting time. He could have just walked away, but that would not put an end to the fight. Romeo could have gotten the Prince to come and stop the fight, but that would have also taken too much time and the fight might have already been over and somebody might have already gotten hurt by the time Romeo gets back with the Prince.
The fight would never have started if Tybalt had never sent the challenge on Romeo’s life. If there was no fight, than Romeo would not have had to step in to put a stop to it. Mercutio would never had died and Romeo would never have killed Tybalt out of rage and been banished. The only reason Tybalt sent the challenge on Romeo’s life was because of the hatred between the Montagues and Capulets. If there was no hatred between the two families, then Romeo would have never had to step in front of Mercutio and cause the serious consequences.
The hatred between the Montagues and the Capulets triggered Friar Laurence to give Juliet a sleeping potion, an action with grave consequences. Her dilemma is that her father, Capulet, is ordering her to marry Paris but she can’t because it would go against her religion because she is married in secret to Romeo. Juliet asks Friar Laurence for a solution to her dilemma. The Friar proposes that Juliet take a special potion that would make it seem like she were dead. This is the Friar’s instructions to Juliet as to when to take the potion and the effects of the potion:
…Let no the Nurse lie with thee in thy chamber. Take thou this vial, being then in bed, and this distilling liquor drink thou off. When presently through all thy veins shall fun a cold and drowsy humour, for no pulse shall keep his native progress, but surcease. No warmth, no breath, shall testify thou livest… (Act 4, Scene 1, Line 94-99)
The potion’s effects would “continue two and forty hours” (Act 4, Scene 1, Line 107). Friar Laurence tells Juliet to take the potion before going to bed, and the next morning her family would find her “dead” and then take her for proper burial at the church. Romeo would be informed by letter and would come right before she wakes up so the two of them can escape to a Mantua. Juliet agrees to the solution and takes the potion home with her. Friar Laurence writes a letter to Romeo and gives it to another Friar, Friar John, to be delivered to Romeo in Mantua. That night Juliet takes the potion and everything goes according to plan, except that the letter never reaches Romeo because Friar John is quarantined in a house on suspects of having the plague. Romeo’s servant reaches him and tells him that Juliet is dead:
…Her body sleeps in the Capel’s monument, and her immortal part with angles lives. I saw her laid low in her kindred’s vault and presently took post to tell you… (Act 5, Scene 1, Line 17-21)
Romeo is shocked and he rushes back to Verona. Friar John is released from quarantine and tells Friar Laurence that the letter has not been delivered. By this time, Friar Laurence is worried about the consequences of the undelivered letter. He decides that he will write again to Romeo and then he will go to Juliet’s tomb and stay there. Romeo reaches Juliet’s tomb and encounters Paris, who has come there to grieve. As a consequence of giving Juliet the potion and not informing Romeo, Romeo kills Paris and then kills himself because he can’t live without Juliet. Juliet awakes soon after Romeo’s death and kills herself when she sees Romeo’s dead body.
To prevent the death of Paris, Romeo and Juliet, Friar Laurence could have talked to Capulet and tried to convince him to no marry off Juliet so soon. Friar Laurence could have told Juliet to run away to Mantua to live with Romeo that night. Friar Laurence could have told the Montagues and Capulets that it would be a sin to marry Juliet because she is already married to Romeo. He did not do any of these alternatives because he figured that his plan would work. He thought that Romeo would be informed. Also, if he told the families that he secretly married Romeo and Juliet, they would be infuriated with him.
If the hatred between the two families had not existed, then Romeo and Juliet would not have had to been married in secret. If the Capulet’s knew that Juliet was married to Romeo, then Capulet would never have had to force her to marry Paris. This would have given no reason for Juliet to ask for Friar Laurence’s help, which would have prevented the death of Paris, Romeo and Juliet. Friar Laurence would not have had to given the potion to Juliet if there was no hatred between Montagues and Capulets, which would have avoided the disastrous consequences of three deaths.
If the hatred between the Montagues and Capulets had not existed, then certain actions in the play would have been different. Taking action happens everywhere, everyday: making laws in the parliament buildings around the world, protesting in the streets against war, striking at the workplace for better working conditions, and standing up for what you believe at anyplace, anytime. Unfortunately with action comes consequence: the new law could be very unpopular with the public and the government might not be elected next election, the protester on the street might be arrested, the strikers in the workplace might be fired from their jobs, and the person who stands up for what they believe might not be heard. No one should be discouraged from taking action, even though there are consequences. If nobody ever took action, then nothing would be accomplished, and the world would become awfully a boring place.