In the play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by Shakespeare, many leaders within the lovers’ lives played key roles in their last days, with severe mistakes and misjudgements clearing the path for the chain of events that saw the their demise. In all ranks and at many times in the play, lack of good leadership and advisory qualities meant that large mistakes remained uncovered and unnoticed. At these crucial times, guidance provided for the two young lovers was deficient, and this allowed the tragic inevitability to ensue. All the leaders influencing the lives of Romeo and Juliet played a part which, in the end, led to death and catastrophe.Order now
Successful leadership maintains a safe and stable society, and while being rational, should not be too soft or too restrictive. The leader is required to do this within the area of his responsibility and nowhere else, which was another mistake made by many leaders in the play. Though different leaders had different arcs of influence, their oversights and failures meant that every way of preventing the final consequence was ineffective.
Prince Escales is the highest ranking leader in the play, and he bears ultimate responsibility for all the people of Verona. It is therefore worrying that such a person is weak and illogical in decisions that he makes. This is first shown in Act 1, Scene 1, when he takes action to end a fight between the two feuding families.
“Enter Prince Escales with his train
“On pain of torture…Throw your mistemper’d weapons to the ground…
If ever you disturb our streets again
Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace” I.i.80-81, 90-91
The Prince’s speech after he enters may be powerful, but this does not mean that the discussion on the matter should be definitely over. This shows that the decision for this law was hastily made only at the Prince’s arrival, without any consultation of Montague and Capulet or even any other witnesses. The speech is the first thing that he does after he enters. This shows bad leadership as a good leader must place himself within his people and guide them, based partially on their own decisions. However, Escales shows his lack of thought early on by firstly making the law before any consultations take place. Contrarily, Escales is shown to have authority and respect, though it is unclear how much: he must stop the fight “on pain of torture” which suggests force is a primary factor in his rule. His military authority and power, though not exercised, is also shown when he describes the Montagues’ and Capulets’ weapons as “mistemper’d”. Though this suggests primarily that the weapons are offensive and angry towards one another, another meaning of this can also be that the weapons are weak and no match for the Prince’s, as steel for weapons is tempered to make it harder and more durable.
This is a pun used by Shakespeare, though not primarily for comic effect, to convey multiple attitudes the Prince has towards the feud, and to show the Prince uses the threat of his vast military power. However, a leader must choose to use his power and tread carefully when he does. To stop the feud the law that he has passed may frighten the families into submission as they do not want to lose family members, bringing peace. Though initially this seems like a good settlement, the issue of blame is more complicated than being able to accuse responsibility for an action on one person, especially when there are two sides in a feud, as is later found out when Tybalt is killed. A successful leader must determine the outcome of his actions and the problems faced with making a shock decision. Though militarily strong, Prince Escales shows his weakness as a leader by making unconsidered and immediate decisions without much thought to the consequences.
The failure of strong leadership in this highest order secures a breakdown when the law imposed on these aristocratic families has to be put into action when Romeo kills Tybalt. Here the Prince shows his leadership is inconsistent and biased.
“Who now the price of his dear blood doth owe?” III.i.179
“…And for that offence
Immediately we do exile him hence.” III.i.182-183
The fight between Mercutio and Tybalt, in which Romeo is forced to intervene when Mercutio is killed, is a clear example of the absurdity of the law the Prince imposed. In these circumstances the only person who can be punished is Romeo, as he is the only one living. However, the issue of blame can be taken to either Tybalt, since he killed Mercutio, or Romeo, who took the law into his own hands. Apart from passing an irrational law at the beginning, the Prince also fails to demonstrate another vital quality of a leader: he must be impartial when making decisions. Though there is no bias towards one family throughout the whole of the play, Prince Escales has relatives on both sides of the feud, which causes him to sometimes take sides. Examples of these relations are Mercutio, whose blood is “dear” to the Prince, a good friend of Romeo, and Paris, who is Juliet’s suitor.
If a leader is to maintain control of a situation, such as Escales is trying to do in the play, bias can make the situation more volatile and uncontrollable, as the unfavoured party will become more aggressive. A successful leader must rise above any ties he has to a situation and think clearly. However, in this fight scene, Escales does seem to listen first before giving an ultimatum, which he does in his speech. The use of rhyming couplets in Escales’ speech has the effect of an ending as rhyming couplets are crisp sounding and cause the sentence end solidly and sharply, with no further sounds.
This therefore emphasises the fact that this decision is ultimate. The lexis, such as “Immediately” and “hence”, also show the decision is not up for debate, because the action is abrupt. Overall, the fact that the Prince acted differently on the law he so clearly imposed shows his inconsistency and weakness as leader. Furthermore, his decision was affected by bias. The word “dear” (III.i.179) has two meanings, as Mercutio’s blood is precious, but also beloved to the Prince. This implies the Prince is truly saddened; however, a strong leader must not let personal issues come in the way of justice. Using this emotive language suggests that the Prince’s decision not to execute Romeo was aided by the fact that Romeo acted in vengeance for the murder of the Prince’s own kinsman. This weakness towards family members may have greatly affected Capulet’s definite decision to make Juliet marry the County Paris, a relative of the Prince, as it would give Capulet advantage, especially over the outcome of the reopened feud.
Although a clear leader of society, such as the Prince, can have influence on people’s behaviour by creating laws, a leader within a family can have a far greater effect mentally and emotionally on those in it. The most significant of these roles is parenthood. A parent must guide the child through times of uncertainty and despair, and the trust between the two is essential for both the welfare of the child and the security of the parent. As a great leader must do, a parent must also balance control and freedom. Due to his own selfishness and pride, Capulet’s changing attitude towards Juliet throughout the play creates a rift between Juliet and him that becomes impossible to repair.
“Let two more summers wither in their pride,
Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride…
Younger than she are happy mothers made.
Earth hath swallow’d all my hopes but she…
My will to her consent is but a part” I.ii.10-12, 14, 17
At the beginning of the play, Capulet is shown to be caring and very much in favour of Juliet’s own decision, instead of a forceful arranged marriage. “My will to her consent is but a part” suggests that although the County Paris is noble and a worthy husband to Juliet, (also a worthy entrant to the Capulet family) the real decision does indeed lie with her about her own marriage. Capulet points out to Paris in lines 10-11 that Juliet is too young. However, as Paris argues to Capulet, girls even younger than Juliet marry and even have children. This was common in the time of Shakespeare, and due to the high infant mortality rates of that time women had many children, accounting for the fact that many would die. Sadly, the life expectancy for mothers was also shortened due to the unhygienic conditions and lack of treatment for birth complications from so many pregnancies – therefore it was custom for girls to have children only just into their teens. Capulet also demonstrates this when saying “Earth hath swallow’d all my hopes but she,” which shows that all his other children have died. The metaphor comparing children to hopes in this line also emphasises the fact that Juliet is the pinnacle and dream of his whole life. This therefore suggests further that he is a compassionate and loving father to Juliet.
Notwithstanding, Capulet insists that Juliet should only marry when she is sixteen, as she is nearly fourteen in the play, and Capulet suggests “two more summers” should pass before a marriage to Paris. This can only, however, be seen as Capulet’s desire to spend more time with Juliet, which suggests that he thoroughly enjoys her company and wants Juliet to have the best possible adolescence. This is because marriage at sixteen would be uncommon, especially if the person marrying her was a nobleman, due to the health issues explained above. Therefore Capulet must truly love Juliet and think her exceptionally desirable to be married at that age, if it was solely up to him. The use of rhyming couplets in lines 10-11 also shows the finality of his decision: as in many other parts of the play, rhyming couplets are used to end a matter being discussed due to the crisp and perfect ending to their syllables. Paris shows his determination by arguing about her age after this, to which Capulet responds even more strongly, by giving a speech of more than 20 lines (13-38) which has rhyming couplet, ending the debate.
However, later on, Capulet sees that by forcing marriage on his daughter, he will gain significant political advantage over his bitter rivals, the Montagues. This sees Juliet isolate herself from her family at a time in her adolescence when she needs clear guidance from everyone around her.
“To answer ‘…I am too young’…
And you be mine, I’ll give you to my friend;
And you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets” III.v.185-186, 191-192
The feud between the two families has opened up again at this stage in the play, after Romeo murdered Tybalt in (Act 3) Scene 1. The County Paris, Juliet’s suitor, is the cousin of Prince Escales, and by accepting the Prince into his family, the Capulets will have more influence over the Prince and ultimately the judgement of both the feuding families by him. The Prince has already shown (Act 3, Scene 1) that his judgement can be somewhat distorted by family members, and Capulet calculates that by creating this link, especially with a new marriage, at this critical time, the Montagues will be served a far harsher punishment in the near future, while Capulet and his family will escape with none. The shift in attitude by Capulet is very significant and totally contradicts his approach to Juliet at the beginning of the play. Irony is used when Capulet mocks Juliet’s answer to the arranged marriage, that she answers “I am too young ”. This is extremely at odds with Capulet’s conversation with Paris in Act 1, when he suggests a marriage in “two summers”. It further shows Capulet’s inherent selfishness, perhaps not that much even to the family, since Juliet is part of it.
Capulet also disowns Juliet in lines 191-192. In the time of Shakespeare, banishment was the ultimate punishment, save death, and especially to an aristocrat girl with an easy upbringing, it would be worse. Since ordinary women had virtually no rights at that time, it would virtually condemn her to prostitution, though Capulet has not been as cold and obvious to Juliet. This may suggest that he still regards Juliet as a child. However, this scene marks a new stage for Juliet’s character in the play, showing she does not feel need to be led by parents anymore. Capulet’s changing and inconsistent parenting on Juliet causes her to grow up quickly throughout the play.
After her father passionately dishonours her, Juliet becomes much more independent of the advisers she should be closest to. Though there is no doubt Capulet is entirely to blame for his selfishness, the feeling of loss causes Juliet to feel so detached from her family that the advices she takes are totally from other characters. An adolescent teenager needs parents to be comforting but controlling as leaders – a balance which neither Capulet nor Lady Capulet have attempted. The detachment caused provokes Juliet to sacrifice everything for love – however total and true it may be – at a time when her judgement may be impaired by puberty and new-found feelings. It caused her follow a plan which was illogical and bound to fail, leading to the tragic outcome of the lovers’ story.
Montague is also troubled as a parent of Romeo. However, unlike Capulet, he struggles to control or comfort his son due to his lack of communication and his low self-confidence, from the very beginning of the play.
“Unless good counsel may the cause remove…
I neither know it , nor can learn of him…
See where he comes. So please you step aside” I.i.136, 138, 150
When mentioning “good counsel,” which Romeo obviously needs to comfort him and take him out of his depressed state, Montague is impartial himself, and “unless” has the connotations that someone should do it. As he does not mention himself, Montague hints at Benvolio in this scene. Montague fails to realise that he should be the one constantly trying to question and understand Romeo’s feelings. Montague is also shown as being very weak at relating to Romeo, even by merely guessing Romeo’s circumstances. He has a very negative approach, as when asked by Benvolio, even this time, he does not even attempt to guess the cause of Romeo’s troubles. Though the age difference between Old Montague (as described in stage directions in several points of the play) and Romeo, a young boy in his mid-teens, is significant, Montague was young at some point, and despite any changes in society, it does not seem likely that he has never fallen in love before. Therefore it seems absurd that Montague cannot see what is happening to Romeo – especially as Benvolio finds out soon after speaking with him. Hence, this must only be blamed on the low self-confidence and the distance he has built from his son – seemingly accumulated for a long time as it is such a vast one.
The impression Montague gives of his (very limited) efforts to Benvolio is so strong that Benvolio asks Montague and Lady Montague to “step aside” so that he can talk to Romeo alone. It seems peculiar that as the caring father he seems, by his pleas to Benvolio, he does not stay and talk to Romeo with one of his friends alongside. Again, this can be attributed to Capulet’s low self-esteem, which causes Montague to think that his distance with Romeo is even larger than it actually is. This lack of confidence is therefore mirrored in Romeo’s confidence in Montague, and when situations arise in which his friends must also be kept uninformed, Romeo must rely on himself for judgements. Montague’s parenting, and ultimately leadership, is too conservative to even have an effect on Romeo. A successful leader, especially a parent, must guide his subjects emotionally so that they can confide in him. Through the play Montague virtually avoids conversation with Romeo. Though Montague has no moody and changing attitude throughout the play similar to Capulet, and remains loving and caring towards Romeo, he creates no way for himself to show this kindness, and therefore leaves Romeo to rely on people much further to him than his father should be in times of need.
In Elizabethan times, it was common for the aristocracy and royalty to have wet-nurses, who would look after the newborn baby and breastfeed it, while the mother could not do this because she was usually busy and had to exercise and eat less (which breastfeeding prevented) to obtain her figure, which was very important as a symbol of beauty. The child therefore became very emotionally attached to the nurse, and vice versa, even more so as the nurse was selected because her child had died in childbirth but she was able to breastfeed.
Juliet’s Nurse cared for her from that time to the present. Therefore, Juliet is far more emotionally attached to the Nurse than her cold and distant mother. Close to a true mother figure (though significantly less educated and intelligent than Juliet) the Nurse is not a total leader but more of an advisor to Juliet, but one who is highly significant in Juliet’s decisions. Though silly and girlish for most of the play, which aids the progression of the sequence of events with Romeo, her lack of moral sophistication leads to abandonment by Juliet, at a time when she could have been the only one to prevent the disastrous outcome.
“Romeo’s a dishclout to him…
…and you no use of him
Speak’st thou from thy heart?
And from my soul too, else beshrew them both.” III.v.217, 219, 225-227
Juliet is, of course, truly and deeply in love with Romeo. In the past, for Juliet’s happiness, the Nurse has advised Juliet to marry Romeo as soon as possible, which satisfied Juliet greatly as Romeo was her only true love. Though at that point merely an accelerator to what Juliet wanted to do, the Nurse shows her naivety and misunderstanding when she thinks that Juliet will think the same way as her, just as she has done with the Nurse’s actions about Romeo. Due to her much lower social class and lack of education, the Nurse is unsophisticated and therefore does not understand the concept of true love. She describes Juliet’s relationship with Romeo as Juliet’s “use” of Romeo.
This is a vulgar statement – like many of the Nurse’s – and suggests that Juliet only loves Romeo for use for sex. Her trivial response to love may also be due to her great loss at childbirth, which emotionally scarred her in this way. Therefore she thinks that Juliet can just switch lovers. Thinking Juliet is on her side, she even insults Romeo by comparing him to a “dishclout,” which is a rag for cleaning dishes, when placed by the County’s side. As Juliet is deeply in love with Romeo, the Nurse’s truly enrages and saddens Juliet.
The Nurse also clearly does not understand the religious side of marriage, which suggests that she did not have a husband when she bore her own child. Shakespeare further makes this clear as she swears on a curse to her heart and soul – “beshrew” means a curse, but as she does not use any Christian-specific language, for example heaven or hell, the point is made clear that the Nurse does not know at all about religion. A lower social class and education may have hindered her in parts, but the Nurse should have been able to see that, after spending her life with all of Juliet’s, the love between Romeo and Juliet was true. The Nurse’s vulgarity and ignorance of Juliet’s unfounded love for Romeo meant that in the final situation before the deadly plan was put into action, she wasn’t involved. This prevented her from either intervening or persuading Juliet to stop, or from making sure it was known to some that Juliet was not truly dead. Overall, as a leading character in Juliet’s emotional life, therefore a leader of sorts, the Nurse failed in comforting and helping her, due to her own ignorance, when her help would have counted most.
The final leader involved in this catastrophic saga was perhaps the most directly involved in all of it. As a friar of the order of Saint Francis, Friar Lawrence is highly respected and listened to in the play. He is educated, wise, and a holy man, making him valued among the citizens of Verona. It is for this reason that Romeo seeks his advice and assurance when in love with Juliet. However, his lack of thought about any consequences proves very costly for the lovers, at two critical points where the tragedy could have been stopped.
Firstly, after Romeo and Juliet fall in love, Romeo comes to him to plea his consent in marriage. Hasty decision making and attempted control out of his arc of influence ensure that the sequence of events is not stopped.
“In one respect I’ll thy assistant be:
For this alliance may so happy prove
To turn your households’ rancour to pure love.” II.iii.90-93
Principally, a leader wishing to make a bold decision must carefully calculate the consequences of his actions. Friar Lawrence seems to only imagine one perfect outcome. Clearly, Friar Lawrence is shown to not envisage the hatred between these two families. However, the word “rancour” suggests that the hate is venomous, potent and deep running. It is therefore abnormal that such a man of great education and wisdom should make such a huge mistake. It seems that the intentions of Friar Lawrence are only good for a Utopian society: in reality a secret marriage would not only have terrible consequences between the two families, but at the centre of all the rage, taking hits from both families, would be the unfortunate lovers. ‘Pure love’ used by Friar Lawrence, especially after ‘rancour’ further suggests this, implying that the Friar’s dreams are just dreams.
The Friar here is also operating out of his scope of influence, which is one of the worst things a leader can do. This usually leads to disrespect and condemnation by more powerful people that control the areas that the Friar cannot. It is possible that the Friar, however aspired to solve the feud, and wanted the pride for doing something that the Prince, with all his military power, could not do. His decision making also seems to be hugely affected by the want of Romeo and his profound love for Juliet – the secret marriage occurs in Scene 6 (the final scene) in the same act, which suggests it was later that night. As aforementioned, a good leader must not be affected by those around him to make a calm and clear judgement – something which the wise and learned Friar Lawrence is not able to do. Therefore, his failures in Act 2 with the performance of the marriage ceremony seem to have only been done for his own purposes, or just for two people, which means he failed as a leader, since a good leader should bring stability to the environment around him, and he made it more turbulent, ultimately leading to the deaths of the lovers.
However, the Friar also performs the final act that dooms the couple more than anything else. The creating of his fake death plan for Juliet is primarily to save his image. By taking advantage of Juliet, and abusing his position as leader, he dooms the couple to an ill-fated plan which is the sole reason for their deaths.
“Hold, daughter, I do spy a kind of hope,
Which craves as desperate an execution
As that is desperate which we would prevent.” IV.i.68-70
Desperate for himself not to be ridiculed in front of the whole of Verona, Friar Lawrence persuades Juliet to take a “fake death” potion, which would make her appear dead for 42 hours. “We would prevent” suggests that Friar Lawrence is also deeply involved and would want the plan to work for both his and Juliet’s sake. Because Juliet is very much deeply in love with Romeo, the Friar is able to take advantage, and use this highly critical and deadly plan. Instead of good counsel and leadership, where, like a good leader, he must devise a hard but honest outcome to the situation, slightly sacrificing his own image in the process, he hastily develops the desperate and ill-fated plan, which secures the tragic fate of the lovers. Here, the Friar only has “a kind of hope” that the plan would work. This is bad leadership, as he is abusing his position as a trusted and respected man to force this plan, that has a very high chance of total and tragic failure, on Juliet.
For a critical, life and death, situation such as this, a solid means to solve the problem must be found and it should not just be left to ‘hope’ that the Friar’s plan is built around. This shows the Friar is more concerned with his own pride and image than anything else, bringing a further conclusion that the marriage itself was foremost for pride of the Friar, and not just good intentions. Words such as “desperate” and “hold” suggest that the Friar’s plan is instinctive and hastily made, which it turns out to be. Under stress, Friar Lawrence’s leadership does not hold up and recklessness and rashness secure the fate of the lovers. Due to tremendous miscalculation and oversight on the Friar’s part, coupled with reckless decision making, the outcome becomes clear and tragic: due to the wedding being shifted one day earlier, death is imminent for the young lovers.
Throughout the whole play, each leader, at the point where cool-headedness, calculation, and all those other aforementioned and explained qualities of a successful leader were paramount, failed to deliver. Arguably the largest failure was Friar Lawrence and his ill-fated plan, which was the reason the whole situation collapsed on Romeo and Juliet as it did. In spite of this, however, each of the leaders had a role to play, and if one of them had reacted in a manner a good leader should have done, the deadly sequence could have been stopped. However, no leader truly connected with the people that needed the most help, and therefore seeking love and true happiness the deadly chain took them to their final resting place.