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Blaming Justice (Looking at the theme of justice in Romeo and Juliet)

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William Shakespeares epic play Romeo and Juliet is considered by many to be historys greatest love story. It takes two star-crossed lovers and places their emotions against all odds and most certainly against much hate and violence. Romeo and Juliets love is obstructed by a long-standing blood feud between the Montagues and the Capulets. Coming from opposite sides of the feud, Romeo and Juliet must keep their love and eventual marriage a secret. In the end both families who cannot come to a reasonable conclusion to their feuding are struck by the double suicide of Romeo and Juliet committed in the name of love. This tragic ending has raised much controversy and discussion to both the purpose and cause of the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.

The constant and tremendous volume of violence in Shakespeares play in many instances overshadows the love found between the main characters. The hate found in the feud takes center stage in Shakespeares play as the feud is the subject of the very first words of the play (Weller, n.d.). The great emphasis that is granted to violence and hate throughout the play downplays the love story between Romeo and Juliet and portrays it to only serve as a device to bring about an end to the feud and show how terrible the consequences can be of such violent and vindictive behavior (Kerschen, 2005). The deaths of Romeo and Juliet served as a punishment to the families for continuing their pointless feuding. In turn the demands of justice can be blamed for the death of Romeo and Juliet.

A STORY ABOUT HATEA key component necessary to place the blame of the deaths of Romeo and Juliet on justice is establishing that the violence and hate associated with the feud is the main aspect of Shakespeares play. The first thing that has to be recognized is that the feud is directly responsible for making the love affair between Romeo and Juliet a condemned one. The feud controls the love story and not the other way around. This is a good indication that the feud is above all and it alone controls the outcomes in the story. The feud in a sense can be thought of as a stencil for the play as all the aspects in it has to been drawn within the boundaries of the feud. For example the feud serves as a complicating device that keeps the lovers apart (Kerschen, 2005). Romeo and Juliets love affair can only live within the boundaries of that the feud draws for it. The feud is a greater force than the love between Romeo and Juliet. Romeo, Juliet, and their love are merely pawns in the feud.

Further support that proves that the feud and its violence are paramount in the play comes from the fact that scenes of violence are placed first and last in the play, that is, in the most attention-getting spots for the audience (Kerschen, 2005). This proves that the feud is the most important aspect of the play. Not only does Shakespeares story begin and end with the feud but violence runs throughout the story, linking each event (Kerschen, 2005). This can be seen early on when Romeo and his friends intrude on the Capulet party where he meets Juliet and the love story begins, but this offense also causes Tybalt to seek revenge. Tybalts challenge to Romeo ends in Mercutios and Tybalts own death and leads to Romeos banishment. This goes own to glue together the rest of the play and eventually leads into the tragic end of Romeo and Juliet. The feud causes a domino effect in the story causing one event to lead into another. The mechanism that drives Romeo and Juliet is the feud.

CALLS FOR JUSTICEThe play itself offers clues that the demands of justice will bring about the tragic end in Romeo and Juliet. One of these clues can be seen in the death of Mercutio. After Mercutio is stabbed by Tybalt he angrily remarks, I am hurt. / A plague o’ both your houses! I am sped. / Is he gone, and hath nothing? (3.1.90-92). As Mercutio is dying he feels cheated (Weller, n.d.). He was killed over something he should have not had anything to do with. He was neither a Montague nor a Capulet, yet the feud ends up taking his life. He makes it very clear that his last wish is that both families be punished for their actions. In the end the audience can clearly see that the punishment for the families is the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. The demands of justice are satisfied with the tragic end of the couple and the grief of the families.

At the very end another clue that justice brings the death of Romeo and Juliet is seen. After the Prince hears testimonies from several characters he offers a final opinion where he makes it known who is at fault by stating, Capulet! Montague! / See, what a scourge is laid upon your hate, / That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love (5.3.291-293). Here the Prince portrays how the feud brought along the tragedy. The Prince goes on to add, “And I for winking at your discords too / Have lost a brace of kinsmen/ All are punish’d” (5.3.294-295). Here the Prince makes a direct reference to punishment. Meaning that all the deaths throughout the course of the play, including those of Romeo and Juliet were punishments for those who participated and winked at the feud. Justice demanded punishment. The punishment for the Montagues and the Capulets was the death of Romeo and Juliet. Therefore justice demanded and brought along the death of Romeo and Juliet.

CONCLUSIONWilliam Shakespeares play Romeo and Juliet is consider to be a story about love, but after taking a deeper look the play evolves into a story of hate and violence. The hate and violence heighten the significance of the feud and downgrades Romeo and Juliets love into just another victim of the feud. The love and eventual tragedy the love brings is what brings the feud to an end and punishes the Montagues and Capulets for not resolving their feud peacefully. Justice demanded that punishment be given and the final punishment the audience witnesses is the death of Romeo and Juliet. The need for justice to take place is what takes the life of Romeo and Juliet. The deaths serve as necessary sacrifices needed for justice to be served and to be taken seriously. The deaths of Romeo and Juliet served as a means of ending the feuds and their deaths were brought by the demands of justice.


Kerschen, L. (2005). Romeo and Juliet: Criticism. Retrieved January28, 2009 from Answers.com website: http://www.answers.com/topic/romeo-and-juliet-play-7 (Reprinted from Drama for Students, Thomson Gale.)Learning Themes: Romeo and Juliet. (n.d.) Retrieved January 28, 2009 from RoyalShakespeare Academy UK website: http://www.rsc.org.uk/romeo/learning/themes.htmlShakespeare, W. (1595 / 2004). Romeo and Juliet. Folger Library ed. New York:Simon & Schuster.

Weller, P. (n.d.) The Feud: Romeo and Juliet. Retrieved January 28, 2009 fromShakespeare Navigators website: http://www.clicknotes.com/romeo/Feud.html

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