How does Shakespeare present two or three of the older generation and their roles in the play’s tragic conclusion? Romeo and Juliet is a play set in Renaissance Verona with a tragic conclusion of the two young lovers, Romeo and Juliet, dying. The whole play is about the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets and how their children, Romeo and Juliet, have to pay the price for their actions and hatred to each other. As a result, the older generation play key roles in the play’s tragic conclusion due to their actions and decisions. Juliet’s death in particular is influenced by her parents’ and the Nurse’s betrayal to her and their lack of understanding in her. These characters also influence Romeo’s death and other individuals of the older generation like, Friar Lawrence and the Prince contribute to the play’s tragic conclusion.
The influences of Romeo’s and Juliet’s parents play a major part in the play’s tragic conclusion. We know this because in the prologue it says their ‘ancient grudge’ and their ‘rage’ will cause Romeo’s and Juliet’s deaths which will be the only way to ‘bury their parents’ strife’. Shakespeare emphasises the importance of the parents’ roles in the play’s tragic conclusion by using sonnet form and iambic pentameter in the prologue. The prologue implies that the parents play a major part in the play’s tragic conclusion because it shows that their ‘ancient grudge’ creates Romeo’s and Juliet’s doomed fate and the use of the sonnet form and iambic pentameter emphasises their importance. Among the parents, Capulet plays a key role in the play’s tragic conclusion, in Juliet’s death in particular. In Act 1 Scene 5, Tybalt recognizes Romeo’s voice as a Montague and wants to ‘strike him dead’ but Capulet orders him to do nothing ‘Content thee, gentle coz, let him alone’.
He keeps a peaceful attitude to Romeo’s uninvited presence and prevents Tybalt from starting a brawl. This suggests that if he hadn’t stopped Tybalt, it would have prevented Romeo and Juliet from meeting but his desire to appear as a good host to keep a good reputation stops him from doing so. Shakespeare shows Capulet’s desire to appear as a good host by using consecutive short sentences conveying contrasting emotions ‘Be quiet, or–More light, more light! For shame! I’ll make you quiet. What, cheerly, my hearts!’ This implies that even when Tybalt wants to strike Romeo dead, he still talks to his guests in between his conversation with Tybalt, showing that he cares about his reputation a lot. Thus, Capulet contributes to Juliet’s death by letting Romeo meet Juliet because he cares about his reputation so he stops Tybalt from creating a scene in front of his guests.
If he hadn’t stopped Tybalt, he could have prevented Romeo and Juliet meeting, therefore preventing the play’s tragic conclusion. Also, Capulet contributes to the play’s tragic conclusion because he agrees to Paris’s request of Juliet’s hand in marriage. In Act 3 Scene 4, after Tybalt dies, Paris askes for the second time for Juliet’s hand in marriage. Capulet agrees, not thinking about whether Juliet would actually want to be married to Paris and saying that she will do it, ‘she shall be married’. Also, he displays a sense of urgency and haste in getting Juliet married to Paris. Shakespeare portrays this in his dialogue where Capulet asks questions but doesn’t let Paris answer and carries on ‘Will you be ready? Do you like this haste?’
This is reminiscent of the first time Paris askes for Juliet’s hand in marriage in Act 1 Scene 2 because his response was that Juliet is too young and that he should ‘let two more summers wither in their pride’ and that his ‘my will to consent is but a part’ because Juliet should agree too. From this response it indicates that he contradicts himself because instead of waiting two more years, he accepts his request and he agrees without Juliet’s consent saying that Juliet will do exactly as he wishes. His contradiction implies that yet again he’s thinking about his reputation and social status or that from Tybalt’s sudden death, he’s remembered how easily young people die in Renaissance Verona, hence his decision for Juliet to marry Paris as soon as possible. Either way, it shows that due to his single-mindedness and selfishness, he forgets about Juliet’s consent and agrees to the decision which evidently leads to her death.
Furthermore, Capulet’s reaction to Juliet rejecting his plan for her to marry Paris contributes to the play’s tragic conclusion. In Act 3 Scene 5, Lady Capulet tells Juliet about Capulet’s plan for her to marry Paris. Juliet rejects this decision, saying ‘I will not marry yet; and when I do, I swear it shall be Romeo’. When Capulet learns of Juliet’s determination to defy him he becomes enraged and displays anger that even Lady Capulet, who agrees with Capulet’s decision, thinks that his anger is too much – ‘you are too hot’. Shakespeare depicts this anger through the use of blasphemous language ‘God’s bread! It makes me mad’. This implies that Capulet is so angry that he even swears at God.
Also, his anger is depicted through the use of animal language, calling Juliet a ‘green-sickness carrion’ and a ‘tallow face’ and how he lists what he’s done solely for Juliet having an effect of exaggeration ‘day, night, hour, tide, time, work, play, alone, in company, still my care hath been to have her match’d’. To add, Capulet’s anger is conveyed from the use of rhetorical/illogical questions and how he mimics Juliet ‘I’ll not wed; I cannot love, I am too young; I pray you, pardon me.’ Capulet’s excessive anger suggests that he thinks Juliet is ungrateful for not wanting to marry his choice of groom for her and that he’s angry because calling off the wedding would cause him embarrassment and loss of the political power the marriage would have brought him.
Capulet’s angry reaction to Juliet’s defiance contributes to the play’s tragic conclusion because he also ends up offending the Nurse calling her a ‘mumbling fool’ and a ‘gossip’s bowl’ which influences the Nurses change of attitude towards Romeo that makes Juliet go to Friar Lawrence wanting to kill herself rather than to marry Paris. Also, Capulet contributes to the play’s tragic conclusion by not supporting Juliet’s pleas for the marriage to be delayed a year and by yet again thinking about his reputation because if Juliet doesn’t agree it will cause him embarrassment and loss of the political power the marriage would have brought him. Another parent that influences the play’s tragic conclusion, in particular Juliet’s death is Lady Capulet. In Act 1 Scene 3, Lady Capulet introduces the idea of marrying Paris to Juliet. She describes him through metaphor – ‘precious book of love’ that ‘lacks a cover’. This implies that she thinks that Juliet can be the ‘gold clasp’ to complete the ‘unbound lover’.
Through this imagery, it shows her attitude to the role of women in marriage; the wife is just a book cover or a decoration. Her view of a woman’s role in marriage is shown in her own relationship with Capulet where Capulet clearly dominates over her. This is typical in Renaissance Verona because during that time society was male-dominated. However, this is different in Romeo and Juliet’s relationship where there is equality to both genders. Also, she influences the play’s tragic conclusion in Act 3 Scene 5 by not fulfilling her role as Juliet’s mother. After Capulet’s reaction to Juliet refusing to marry Paris, saying that he will disown her, Juliet turns to her mother for comfort and for help. However, instead she says ‘talk not to me, for I’ll not speak a word. Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee’.
Shakespeare uses iambic pentameter to make Lady Capulet’s words sound like spell-like, that they have an important and big impact. This suggests that Lady Capulet contributes to Juliet’s death by not fulfilling her role as her mother, instead she betrays her with her words of rejection with added impact from the use of iambic pentameter. An individual from the older generation that influences the play’s tragic conclusion is the Nurse. Throughout the play, the Nurse plays a loyal and mother-like role to Juliet and is always supportive to her decisions.
However in Act 3 Scene 5, the Nurse has a change of heart. ‘I think you are happy in this second match’ she says, saying that she speaks from the heart and ‘from my soul too’. Juliet is outraged with the Nurse’s change of heart because it’s like a betrayal. In the Nurse’s last line before she exits she says ‘Marry, I will; and this is wisely done’. Shakespeare yet again uses iambic pentameter to make the Nurse’s betrayal to Juliet have a big impact. This suggests that the Nurse contributes to Juliet’s death because Shakespeare’s use of iambic pentameter in her rejection shows the significant impact it has on Juliet.
Also, it implies that the Nurse doesn’t understand that Juliet’s love for Romeo is the real or that she doesn’t want to lose Juliet to an uncertain future with Romeo or that she gives up so praises Paris helplessly. Thus, the Nurse is presented as person who doesn’t like inconvenience, only encourages when the situation is convenient and her response to the inconvenience in this scene contributes to the play’s tragic conclusion because she betrays Juliet.