‘Romeo and Juliet’ is not only a play that has a violent ending; instead, the entire play consists of violent emotions. These emotions lead to conflicts, and are significant elements that contribute to the drama, tension and crisis of the play.
Violent emotions are those which are so strong that they lead to violence, or those that are literally violent. In ‘Romeo and Juliet’, violent emotions are revealed through the plot, languages and characters, and they play a huge part in various themes.In ‘Romeo and Juliet’, love is dominant. However, it does not capture the audience by portraying the beauty and tenderness of love; rather, love is depicted in a way such that it is a violent, brutal and overpowering emotion that it could be devastating. In the prologue, ‘death-marked love’ and ‘children’s end’ evidently reveal that the play has a violent ending involving death, and with no doubt, it is a consequence of love.
The duality of love in shown in many ways, in Act 1 Scene 1, Shakespeare uses oxymoron, such as ‘heavy lightness’, ‘serious vanity’, and ‘bright smoke’. These images make the audience visualize and imagine how love can be sweet and affectionate, but at the same time, painful and violent. In the same scene, Romeo says,’Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs:Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes;Being vexed, a sea nourished with loving tears.’This also shows the two different sides of love.
‘Fire’ and ‘sea’ contrast with each other, since one is hot, and the other is cold; which is a sharp portrayal of love. Shakespeare often personifies love. In Act 1 scene 1, Benvolio says,’Alas, that love, so gentle in his view,Should be so tyrannous and rough in proof!’,and in Act 1 scene 4, Romeo comments:’Is love a tender thing? It is too rough,Too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn.’Here, love is being characterized. In Romeo’s lines, love is portrayed as a lively beast. Using the word ‘prick’ and comparing love with ‘thorn’, love is depicted as an aggressive and violent creature.
Romeo and Juliet both have thoughts of committing suicide. In Act 3 scene 3, Romeo brandishes a knife in Friar Lawrence’s cell and threatens to kill himself after having been banished from Verona and his wife. In Act 4 scene 1, Juliet also threatens to commit suicide:’If in thy wisdom thou canst give no help,Do thou but call my resolution wise,And with this knife I’ll help it presently.’Juliet also shows her willingness to experience death in Act 3 Scene 5 when she says,’If all else fail, myself have power to die.
‘Both Romeo and Juliet’s thoughts of taking their own lives evidently reveals that, love can be so passionate that it can be blinding; also, the power of love can overwhelm a person and causes one to be violent to an extreme.The theme of love as a cause of violence, i.e. death, continues and leads to the tragic ending of the play. Romeo and Juliet both made the choice of dying, which is the most potent expression of love. Their love is so profound that they decided to end their lives in its defence.
Here, the plot itself, plainly, shows violent emotions, and how the most important theme of the play, love, affects this violence.Violent emotions are crucial to the theme of hatred in ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Loathing between the two households is a main subject of the play, it has negative impacts, and the majority are violent.
In the prologue, ‘from ancient grudge break to new mutiny’ clearly states that hatred between the two households leads to the outburst of violence. ‘Civil blood’ shows that their dispute has caused injuries and deaths, which is another proof of violence. In Act 1 scene 1, Tybalt says,’What, drawn, and talk about peace? I hate the wordAs I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee’.His aggression causes the fighting between the Montagues’ and the Capulets’ men. In the prince’s speech in the same scene, Shakespeare uses imagery to signify violence.
‘Neighbour-stained steel’ implies swords stained with neighbours’ blood, while ‘purple fountains’ is used to represent blood, both descriptions show the existence of long-term hostility. In Act 1 scene 5, Tybalt, again, brings out hatred and violence.’Patience perforce with wilful choler meetingMakes my flesh tremble in their different greeting.I will withdraw. But this intrusion shall,Now seeming sweet, convert to bitterest gall!”Wilful choler’ illustrates that he is obstinately furious and will not give in.
Although he says he will ‘withdraw’ at that particular moment, he will definitely take revenge, this indicates that there will be another brawl between the two feuding families.Violent emotions are well conveyed through the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt. In Act 3 Scene 1, Mercutio says,’And but one word with one of us?Couple it with something. Make it a word and a blow.
‘The word ‘blow’ means a punch. Here, Mercutio provokes Tybalt by suggesting to start a fight, showing violence. He also says, ‘Will you pluck your sword out of his pilcher by the ears?’ Again, Mercutio insults Tybalt which is a trigger to their wrestle. The fact that Tybalt kills Mercutio is very commanding in showing the significance of violence as a result of hatred. Mercutio’s death is caused by the long-term feud between the two households; this is emphasised in the Prince’s lines,’I have an interest in your hate’s proceedings:My blood for your rude brawls doth lie a-bleeding.’Here, ‘my blood’ refers to Mercutio, the Prince’s kinsman. This clearly proves that Mercutio’s life is given up due to the loathe between the families, and that their abhorrence is vastly destructive.
Hatred is an intense emotion in the play, which enhances the tension throughout scenes and incessantly brings up violence.Although anger, differs from hatred, is more of an instant feeling, which changes from time to time, it contributes immensely to make ‘Romeo and Juliet’ an aggressive play. In Act 3 scene 1, Mercutio is killed by Tybalt under Romeo’s arms.
He is furious for being fatally wounded, he says,’A Plague o’ both your houses!’Mercutio repeats this line and curses the Montagues and the Capulets. Since Romeo is blinded by rage over his friend’s death, it sets him off to kill Tybalt. Romeo says,’Away to heaven, respective lenity,And fire-eyed fury be my conduct now!’Fired-eyed’ is associated with heat and it is an image which signifies anger. Romeo says he will act the way an enraged person acts, which subsequently, causes the death of Tybalt. This surely is an obvious proof of anger bringing about violence; and it is seen through languages and the plot.
Violence in anger is also conveyed when Capulet is irritated by Juliet’s disobedience of not marrying Paris. In Act 3 scene 5, Capulet says,’To go with Paris to Saint Peter’s Church -Or I will drag thee on a hurdle thither.’Here, violent emotion is shown through the idea of a ‘hurdle’, which is a sledge used for dragging criminals to their execution. Later in the same scene, he also says,’My fingers inch.’This line implies that Capulet is tempted to hit Juliet, which factually illustrates violence. Capulet calls Juliet ‘minion’, ‘green-sickness carrion’, ‘young baggage’ and ‘disobedient wretch’, these comments are harsh and insulting, and they demonstrates Capulet’s aggression.Grief and despair do not play a big role in ‘Romeo and Juliet’, yet, they contribute to the violent emotions of the play. In Act 1 Scene 2, Romeo is indulged in lovesick.
He compares being unrequitedly infatuated as to:’Shut up in prison, kept without any food,Whipped and tormented…’Shakespeare uses imagery to convey how grief can be brutal. The words ‘whipped’ and ‘tormented’ directly show cruelty and violence.As mentioned earlier, both Romeo and Juliet have thoughts of killing themselves. That is not only a cause of love, but a consequence of sorrow, too. In Act 3 scene 3, after himself is banished, Romeo says,’In what vile part of this anatomyDoth my name lodge? Tell me! – that I may sackThe hateful mansion!’In these lines, Romeo means, the part of his body which his name is kept should be destroyed.
This aggression is raised by Romeo’s despair of being banished and hearing the Nurse’s report on Juliet’s depression. Juliet, who mourns over Romeo’s banishment and the arranged marriage between herself and Paris, threatens to commit suicide, as well. This is yet another example demonstrating how grief leads to violence.Even though violence is not being considered as the major subject of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, we cannot deny that violent emotions are consistently revealed throughout the play. The crucial themes, such as love and hatred, are being constantly depicted as aggressive sentiments. The plot itself, having a sadistic ending and consisting of several characters’ deaths, evidently expresses violence.
Shakespeare also makes use of languages, for example, imagery, to demonstrate hostility and aggression. We say that violence are drawn out through various themes, but simultaneously, these emotions make up the play. They are vital in enhancing the tension, and quite frankly, violent emotions are the centre of the drama and crisis of ‘Romeo and Juliet’.