The general theme of William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is how two young, ‘star crossed lovers’ fight against the historical conflict of their constantly feuding families, for their right to be together and love one another. The play is full of physical violence and civil disobedience, “Romeo and Juliet” conflict.
Shakespeare, right at the beginning of the play, lets us know that conflict will feature largely when he says in the prologue ‘from ancient grudge breaks to new mutiny’ and ‘where civil blood makes civil hands unclean’
This immediately tells us that an old grudge will spark to life and as a consequence, fighting will break out and blood will be spilt.
The conflicting brawl between the two families is a constant obstacle for Romeo and Juliet. Such brawls are evident from the family servants to Lord Capulet and Montague themselves. Each, despite their difference in value, equally knows the importance of their own family’s honour and pride. Which, for is shown best in act 1 scene one when in a market a brawl begin between two Montague and two Capulet servants the capulets use language, while talking about montagues, such as ‘Tis all one, I will show myself a tyrant: when I have fought with the men, I will be cruel with the maids, and cut off their heads’ meaning when they have finished with the men of the montagues they shall kill the women. They are then confronted by two montagues, fighting breaks out between the four men. Benvolio a Kinsman of the Montague’s then steps in trying to stop the confrontation. In this act we see an example of a bigger, more honourable figure in Benvolio taking an almost neutral position. Tybalt and equally as hounerable figure to his respective family then confronts Benvolio drawing a sword against Benvolio’s, saying how he hates peace as much as he hates all Montague’s.
The distinct contrast between two equally honourable men’s views on their family’s conflicts shows how out of hand and seemingly unsolvable the problem of the feud is. This act is also an example of shakespeares use of stage craft to immediately show in a big and powerful way the extent to which people are willing to fight for the conflict that exists between then two families. The drawing of swords is the first site we get of weapons, a sign of war, in the play. The fact that they are brandished by two very honourable and respected members of the two families is purposively made by Shakespeare not only is it a stereotype image for conflict in general but its also to make the audience realise that the higher members of the families are just as likely to act irresponsibly and take a life, as the servants on the street.
There is another type of conflict presides physical violence, family on family. There is also emotional conflict within each family involving Romeo and Juliet and their fellow Capulet’s and Montague’s. This conflict is an example of a clash of two passions equally as strong. Romeo and Juliet’s love and the hatred the two family share for one another. The whole play links hate, violence and death together which seems quite obvious but it also links death with love. Shakespeare shows how the emotion of love is jus as overwhelming as that of hate. In many scenes the powerful emotion of love seemingly overpowers Romeo and Juliet’s will to live when conflict stands in their way. For example in act III scene three Romeo brandishes a knife to himself in Friar Lawrence’s cell after being banished from Verona and Juliet. Juliet also shows this sign of willingness to die for love, when on finding out she shall be marrying Paris she said ‘if all else fail, myself have power to die’. This theme of death and love linked continues until the inevitable conclusion of two suicides. This is an act to preserve their love as it seems to them more poignant than their physical existence.
The biggest example of conflict happens at the end of the play when Mercutio unwisely starts a fight with Tybalt. The fight escalates so much that Tybalt ends up stabbing Mercutio after Romeo unsuccessful attempts to break up the brawl. Mercutio dies cursing plagues upon the houses of Montague and Capulet. Tybalt then challenges Romeo to a fight which ends in Tybalts death from Romeo’s hand. After refusing to flee from Verona at the risk of losing his love, Romeo is banished to a nearby town called Mantua.
The reason Shakespeare includes conflicts is because it gives the story more unpredictability, making it more interesting, separating it apart from a thousand other love stories. He also links love with conflict and death to show the power of emotion most importantly love.