Romeo and Juliet
Love and Hate in Romeo and Juliet
Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet is a play about both love and hate, and can be viewed as both a comedy and a tragedy. The comic structure according to the ancients was social in nature and ended with the restoration of social order. Tragedy was personal — it was used primarily, as Aristotle said, to effect a kind of catharsis (or cleansing of the emotions) through the witnessing of a great man falling. Romeo and Juliet employs two structures to show the struggle between love and hate. Love, Shakespeare suggests, is ultimately more important, as the feuding Capulets and Montagues show at the plays conclusion, “burying their strife,” finally, with the death of their children. The hatred between the two families, however, adds the tragic element to the drama — it is the heros and the heroines deaths that bring the families together. This paper will show how love in Rome and Juliet is Shakespeares antidote to the poison that exists in society; and it will also show how difficult it is for such love to bear fruit in a world where unreasonable hatred is so well-nurtured.
The play begins with a senseless battle between the servants of the feuding families — a battle that escalates into an enormous brawl that disturbs the streets of Verona. The Prince reveals to the audience that such fighting has happened not once, not twice, but thrice — and that should it happen again, the punishment will be death: “If ever you disturb our streets again, your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace” (1.1.99-100).
The love that blooms between the daughter of Capulet and the son of Montague becomes a solution to the feud in the eyes of the priest: “This alliance may so happy prove to turn your households rancor to pure love” (2.3.91-92). But in the eyes of Tybalt, Romeos attendance at the Capulet ball (where he first spies Juliet) is an offense that must be.