Romeo and Juliet Theme Paper


In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, violence plays an important part of the action and causes the
deaths of several of the characters. And a theme of the play is violence begets violence. The chorus states
"From ancient grudge break to new mutiny Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean." (Prologue lines
3 and 4). This tells us in the prologue that the feud has been going on for some time, the fighting has
recently flared up and the civilians fighting each other.
The first fight takes place at the very beginning of the play in Act I, scene i . Gregory and
Sampson of the Capulet house are the initiators of the brawl. As Abraham and Balthasar, servants to the
Montagues, approach, the Capulet servants plan to start a quarrel. The servants exchange a few words and
they draw their weapons. As Gregory sees Tybalt in the distance he says "Say "better." Here comes one of
my master's kinsmen." (I, i, l 54, 55), urging Sampson to state that they serve a better man than Abraham
and Balthasar. Abraham accuses Sampson of lying and Sampson causes the fight by saying "Draw, if you
be men." (I, i, l 68).
Benvolio, the peace-maker, arrives, he attempts to stop the fight. Future violence is foreshadowed
when Benvolio says "Part, fools! Put up your swords; you know not what you do." (I, i, l60, 61). Benvolio
draws his sword to beat down the weapons of the servants. This in turn causes more violence as Tybalt
thinks Benvolio was involved in the fighting. Tybalt challenges Benvolio saying "What, drawn, and talk of
peace! I hate the word, As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee. Have at thee, coward!" (I, i, l66-68).
Several citizens of the town join the fray. Soon town officers arrive and attack. When the Prince enters he
says:
"Three civil brawls, bred of an airy word,
By thee, old Capulet and Montague,
Have Thrice disturb'd the quiet of our streets
And made Verona's ancient citizens
Cast by their grave beseeming ornaments
To wield old partisans, in hands as old,
Canker'd with peace, to part your canker'd hate.
If ever you disturb our streets again,
Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace. " (I, i, l 85-94)
From this passage we learn that there has also been two other skirmishes in the city started by the feud
between the Montagues and the Capulets. There is also foreshadowing of someone being punished for
fighting.
That night, Romeo and his friends sneak into the Capulet party. Tybalt, recognizing Romeo, says
angrily:
"This, by his voice, should be a Montague.
Fetch me my rapier, boy. What dares the slave
Come hither, cover'd with an antic face,
To fleer and scorn at our solemnity?
Now, by the stock and honor of my kin,
To strike him dead I hold it not a sin." (I, v, l 53-58)
Tybalt seems very angry at Romeo and his anger is furthered by the morning's fight. Tybalt is ready to
fight Romeo in the middle of the party when his uncle says:
"He Shall be endur'd.
What, goodman boy! I say, he shall. Go to;
Am I the master here, or you? Go to.
You'll not endure him! God shall mend my soul,
You'll make a mutiny among my guest!
You will set cock-a-hoop! You'll be the man!" (I, scene v, l 75-80)
Capulet is angered at Tybalt for his lack of respect for the party, and Tybalt being a hot-tempered young
man becomes even more angry at Romeo. Romeo does not know about any of this.
Later on, after Romeo and Juliet have met, Mercutio and Benvolio are talking. They discuss
Romeo and we learn from Benvolio that Romeo has not been home since the Capulet's party (II, iv, l 3).
Benvolio says "Tybalt, the kinsman to old Capulet, Hath sent a letter to his father's house." (II, iv, l 6, 7).
Tybalt has apparently sent the challenge because he is angry at the Montagues in general after the fight and
particularly mad at Romeo because Romeo attended the Capulet party.
After Romeo and Juliet are secretly married, Mercutio, Benvolio, a page and servants are in the
streets talking. Benvolio foreshadows a fight with the Capulets when he says:
"I pray thee, good Mercutio, let's