Public Violence In Romeo And Juliet
Public violence, a deadly plague committed by many individuals around the world, results in deadly effects contributing to the breakage of a society. This is evident
in Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Shakespeare has a very strong message on public violence leading to devastation, shown by the effects of certain vicious actions. Firstly, those that are themselves involved in public violence are harmed by their
own actions, and these actions later lead to their own deaths. Secondly, the people related to the victims are also impacted negatively, because of the loss of someone so close to them, which in turn causes them to commit further acts of violence, becoming a cycle. In Romeo and Juliet, it can be seen that violence affects individual’s lives by causing those who engage in violence harm, and causing people around them to commit further acts of violence due to their impaired judgment.
Violence affects individuals’ lives by causing those who commit these acts harm,
usually leading to their own deaths in the end. Firstly, Mercutio causes his own death by starting a brawl on impulse. This is shown when he provokes Tybalt after he comes to search for Romeo. This causes a public brawl to ensue between them, because of Mercutio’s inability to control himself due to the hot temperature. This scuffle ends with Tybalt killing Mercutio as Romeo is trying to stop the fight, thus causing Mercutio to blame them both for his death. This is shown when he states:
“I am hurt. / A plague on both your houses! I am sped. / Is he gone
and hath nothing?” (3.1. 85-85). This passage proves that Mercutio is dying, and that the
cause of his death is the violence between himself and Tybalt that he commences and fiercely engages in. This proves that public violence that he participates in on a hot day after meeting a foe, affects his life negatively, ultimately ending it. Secondly, Paris also causes his own death when he begins a dispute. This is shown when Romeo comes to Juliet’s tomb and finds Paris there. Paris mistakenly blames Romeo for the cause of Juliet’s grief and death, justifying it by the fact that Romeo has killed Tybalt. Romeo does not want to fight, however, Paris initiates it. Paris’ death after participating in a brawl with Romeo can be shown by: “O, I am slain! If thou be merciful, / Open the tomb, lay me with Juliet.” (5.3. 72-73). This proves that Paris dies after participating in a fight with Romeo, thus causing his own death. Therefore, this also confirms that public violence ultimately leads up to the death of certain characters if they choose to be involved. These examples prove that when certain characters provoke or engage in public fights, the violence affects them in a very dreadful way, and causes their unforeseen deaths, as seen with the characters Mercutio and Paris.
Violence also affects the individuals that are related to the brawlers by causing them grief and in turn, causing them to commit further acts of violence. Firstly, Romeo commits a further act of violence after a major brawl occurs due to his frustration following the death of Mercutio. After Romeo witnesses the death of Mercutio, he explodes with anger and grief at Tybalt for killing his very close friend, and in turn, slays Tybalt. This passage demonstrates Romeo’s anger at Tybalt for killing Mercutio:
Alive, in triumph, and Mercutio slain.
Away to heaven respective lenity,
And fire-eyed fury be my conduct now!
Now, Tybalt, take the ‘villain’ back again
That late thou gavest me, for Mercutio’s soul
Is but a little way above our heads,
Staying for thine to keep him company.
Either thou or I, or both, must go with him. (3.1. 117-124).
This passage proves that Romeo’s judgement changes drastically, following the death of Mercutio, and it shows that Romeo is extremely angered at Tybalt, and begins thinking violently, therefore challenging Tybalt to a fight by claiming that one of them must die. Romeo is affected by Mercutio’s death and his judgement is impaired with fury, causing him to commit a further act of violence by engaging in a fight, and eventually killing Tybalt. Secondly, Paris also participates in an act of violence due to his misconception and grief. Paris is tremendously grieved about Juliet’s death (his loss of his love), and believed that she died because of sadness over Tybalt’s death during a brawl. Paris then considers Romeo as the source of her death because he is the one who has killed Tybalt, so when Romeo arrives at the Capulet burial vault Paris thinks of Romeo as an enemy of Juliet, causing him to begin a dispute among the two.
This passage shows Paris’ view of Romeo when he arrives at the Capulet burial vault:
This is that banished haughty Montague
That murdered my love’s cousin – with which grief
It is supposed the fair creature died –
And here is come to do some villainous shame
To the dead bodies. I will apprehend him.
Stop thy unhallowed toil, vile Montague!
Can vengeance be pursued further than death?
Condemned villain, I do apprehend thee.
Obey, and go with me, for thou must die. (5.3. 49-57).
This proves that Paris is misinformed of Romeo’s true nature, and due to his impaired judgement of losing his love, starts to fight with Romeo. Paris is related to Tybalt as he was close to marrying Tybalt’s cousin, Juliet. Tybalt’s death by the hands of Romeo causes him to turn against Romeo for brawling and killing Tybalt. All in all, Tybalt’s death affects Juliet, which affects Paris, which in the end results in his death, due to the quarrel with Romeo. These examples prove that not only are the people initially and directly involved in a brawl affected by it, but also those that are near them as they sometimes attempt to avenge the victims, causing further violence.
In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, he truly and effectively demonstrates through the dynamic actions of his characters how public violence negatively affects those who perform violent acts, and how it affects those related to the brawlers, through their changed opinions and distorted judgement. Firstly, the people involved in public violence are affected directly- ultimately being slain for participating in violent behaviour. Secondly, those that are closely related to the victims are harmed as well, because of the grief of losing their loved ones, impairing their judgment and thinking. This eventually causes them to pursue more aggression, ruining their own life, as well as another (innocent) individuals. Many acts of public violence do occur every day worldwide, and the after effects of these are tremendous, resulting in cycles of this attitude. If people who are about to commit violent acts stop and think about the consequences and results of their behaviour, and about who they are about to attack, maybe public violence will one day come to an end. Until society does not truly understand that violence leads to more violence, and results in a chain-effect, society will continue to weaken in this sense.
Cole, Douglas. Twentieth Century Interpretations of Romeo and Juliet. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1970.
Granville-Barker, Henry. Prefaces to Shakespeare. New York: Hill and Wang, 1970.