In my opinion I think that the audience are unable to allocate the blame to just one character or party for the deaths of the lovers. Instead, it is definitely necessary to distribute the blame amongst a number of individuals. The role of the individuals must not be the only thing considered, but also fate- Shakespere establishes from the onset that fate is a major contributor to certain events.
Shakespere’s audiences were more religious and superstitious than a modern audience and might have accepted this idea more. The patriarchal 17th century society of renaissance Italy influenced the way characters behaved; history also played a part like the ancient feud, which breaks ‘from ancient grudge break to new mutiny.’
This line reveals to us that the play concerns two rival noble families, the capulets and the montagues- the 2 families that have been enemies for centuries.
Throughout the play shakespere uses hawk imagery to show the audience that the lovers recognised each other as dangerous choices as their families were enemies. Another factor that plays a part is the importance of family honour as this is why the romance between Romeo and Juliet had to be a secret, if the family honour was not so important the lovers’ tragic death may not have happened.
Many characters can receive blame throughout the play, for example Romeo.
From the beginning of the play Romeo is shown as a romantic character- hence the name Romeo as it means romantic. Romeo can be partly blamed for the events that occur before the final tragedy as his persistence resulted in their deaths. He tried his hardest to overcome all boundaries as in act 2 scene 2 when Romeo climbed the capulet wall to be with Juliet. Romeo’s perseverance pushed the pair closer together in an intensely short space of time, so the romance may have moved too quickly for the young lovers.
Alternatively, Romeo can be accused of being thoughtless as he acted without considering the consequences of his actions. Also in this scene Romeo calls Juliet a ‘bright angel’ and a ‘dear saint’, which is Shakesperes way of suggesting that it is probably the destiny of the lovers to die early and go to heaven. Throughout the play Romeo makes suicide sound like an answer to his problems, as seen in act 3 scene 1. After Romeo has ‘slain’ Tybalt he is horrified by his actions and makes a reference to the fact that he is at the mercy of fate. ‘O I am fortunes fool.’ This is one of the main events that are the cause of the fatal incident. Read examples of lack of communication in Romeo and Juliet
Like Romeo, Juliet also regarded suicide as a solution to her problems; instead of opting to re marry to Paris she would rather commit suicide. ‘I long to die, if what thou speak’st speak not of remedy.’ This can show us that her feelings for Romeo are deep enough to risk her life on behalf of him. Juliet can acquire part of the blame a she sent messages through the Nurse to Romeo. This is irresponsible, as the nurse should have not been put in such a difficult position between Juliet and her employers. It can be argued that Nurse could have said that she preferred not to get involved in the lover’s communication, as her job is stake. In my opinion Juliet should not have been so irresponsible by putting the Nurse in such a critical position in the first place.
Another character we can apportion the blame to is the Nurse, she may have lacked education but it cannot hide the fact that she played an important role in getting the pair together which started with a letter passed to Romeo on behalf of Juliet. Blame can be allocated to the Nurse as she preferred to deceive her employers than let Juliet be happy, possibly because she was keen to witness a wedding. It could be said that without the Nurse’s support Juliet may not have gone through with the wedding and the pair would not have died the way that they did.
Unlike the Nurse, Friar Lawrence is an educated man and as such, more reprehensible of blame. How could a religious man such as himself go through with the wedding without the families of the lovers knowing? Friar played such a strong role upholding the pair’s relationship as from the beginning he was introduced as Romeo’s confident and he also knew about previous infatuations that Romeo had, like Rosaline. As an older man and a man of god we expect this man to give logical advice but in some ways this is not the case. Within one scene Friar agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet, this is very irresponsible as the law of patriarchal renaissance Italy stated that the bride’s father should chose her husband and he really should have considered Juliet’s tender age. Friar does show us that his stated reason is his desire ‘to turn your household’s rancour to pure love.’
Friar’s political ambitiousness and keen attraction to status and praise is the reason why he wants to resolve the ancient feud. Friar tends to take a more authoritative role between himself and Nurse ‘go before, Nurse. Commend me to thy lady.’ We can distribute more blame on Friar as back in the 17th century the church had a great deal of authority allowing Friar Lawrence to marry the pair- this would not be accepted in today’s society. Friar Lawrence can accept more responsibility for their deaths as he provided an escape route for Juliet- the potion. Act 4 scene 1 shows us that even friar thought the situation was difficult but it did not give him the right to give Juliet a ‘desperate remedy.’ He must have thought it through as he even wrote a letter to Romeo although he did not receive it. This is another problem, he really should have checked that Romeo received it- the pair would not have both committed suicides if Romeo knew about the plan before hand.
Lord and Lady Capulet are the parents of Juliet; neither show no interest in their daughter’s wishes and are more interested in keeping up their social position. This could be one of the reasons why the fatal incident happened. In the 17th century noble families paid a wet nurse to care for the child right from birth, this may be another reason why the relationship between Juliet and Lady Capulet lacked closeness and was so formal- this caused problems for Juliet concerning Paris. If the bond between the pair hed been more like a modern mother and daughter Lady Capulet would have known how Juliet felt about Romeo. Lady Capulet accepts her inferior role in the patriarchal society and defers to her husband and his views. She reveals a lack of sympathy and sensitivity. ‘Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee.’ What type of mother would say this to their daughter?
Capulet must also be considered culpable; ‘I think she will be rul’d in all respects by me.’ Despite stating that he will consult his daughter on deciding on her husband he arranges her marriage to Paris without speaking to her at all. The drastic timing of the marriage is very quick as Capulet spoke to Paris on the Monday and arranged the wedding for that following Thursday. This was extremely quick even for the1700’s, which showed the audience that Capulet arranged the marriage for convenience. Tybalt’s death caused Capulet to feel need to carry on the family name through marriage. This appoints more blame on the Caplets as they pushed Juliet into doing something that she did not want making her feel vulnerable to take drastic measures i.e.) the ‘desperate remedy.’ the society condoned gender inequality; this explains why Capulet treated Juliet the way he did ‘my fingers itch.’ In my view it did not give him the right to do and say as he did.
The main similarity between the two families is that they allowed an ancient feud to carry on from generation to generation and the result of this was the lovers’ fatal deaths. The Montague’s can also take part of the blame in the deaths, as they were not close to Romeo. Even when they had thoughts about him being suicidal ‘black and portentous must this humour proves.’ They did nothing about it. Montague’s failure to establish a communicative role with his son caused part of the problems leading to the deaths, as Romeo had to be secretive in the same way Juliet was.
Tybalt, Mercutio, Paris, Friar John and Balthasar can also take possession of some condemnation as they all played a part in the lives of Romeo and Juliet. Mercutio can be criticised for behaving in a provocative mischievous manner towards Tybalt by challenging him to a fight, which consequently goes wrong. This has a major impact on Romeo resulting in another death- the death of Tybalt. Tybalt’s death is the reason why Capulet tried to marry Juliet off so quickly and without his vicious actions he may not have died. Paris also played his part in the formidable tragedy, as he was too eager to marry Juliet. He did not know that she was not keen on the idea but Capulet and Lady Capulet forced them together. Balthasar, a Montague servant, is the final minor character that we can distribute blame to, he played his part by getting involved in a fight with the Capulet servants. He cannot receive much blame, as the role he played in the deaths was very small.
Finally, the only other factors we should consider are the conventions of society. Shakespere’s perception of Italy defined the country in terms of social stereotypes. Family honour is presented as being very important to the Italians, another social stereotype. Both families believed that they should continue the feud no matter how ancient it was. The 17th century society believed men were inferior to women and believed that men were the dominating sex; nowadays in society men and women are equal and men are not classed as stronger characters; ‘here comes your father; tell him so yourself, and see how he will take it at your hands.’ Throughout the play the characters are represented as easily provoked to violence or self-harm.
In terms of literary tradition Romeo and Juliet is very notable as it is probably the most common of shakespere’s plays. Whenever the media identifies lovers from rival sects, gangs or nationalities, particularly if young and keen to beat the odds, their story is told in terms of Shakespere’s couple. Romeo and Juliet have become more than fictional characters; they are role models to conflicting young lovers. Romeo and Juliet has been re-told in countless versions and media. Toady’s audiences are probably most familiar with Baz Luhrmann’s film, which sets the narrative firmly in a late twentieth century urban society, in which the rival factions fight it out with pistols. Events are reported on television and Leonard Di Caprio/ Romeo meets Claire Danes/ Juliet passionately in the swimming pool rather than on her balcony. The play has been equally heavily used by other arts inspiring paintings, musical scores, operas and ballets.
In my opinion I believe that we should really consider not ‘who’ is to blame but should instead consider ‘what’ is to blame. Without all the problems the pair face they may have not generally succeeded. If teenagers know that they are not allowed something they want it even more. Maybe if the ancient feud did not stand in the way the pair’s relationship would not have been as strong as it was.
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