Conflict in Romeo & Juliet

English Literature, GCSE

Act 1

Conflict is a major theme throughout the play.  It starts with the Prologue. ‘Two households both alike in dignity’.  This tells the audience that the conflict is between two noble families with equal wealth and status in society.  Shakespeare does not give the audience a reason for the conflict but he states it is an ‘ancient grudge’ which continues to erupt and disturb the streets of Verona.  The conflict regularly leads to death as ‘civil blood makes civil hands unclean’.  The details of the Prologue foreshadow events in the play.  In this violent and dangerous setting Shakespeare  has created a love story struggling to exist as they have: fate ‘star crossed lovers’; time ‘the two hours traffic of our stage’  and their  parents ‘doth with their death  bury their parents’ rage.’ – all battling against them.

The opening scene of the play begins with conflict Sampson and Gregory are servants of the feuding families – the Montagues and Capulets.  They provoke a fight showing that the feud affects all strands of society.  The simple action of ‘biting’ the ‘thumb’ leads to a riot which must be broken up by the highest authority figure Prince Escalus.  The Prince delivers a powerful speech giving the audience context and more details of the cost of the warring factions.  ‘Thrice you have disturbed the quiet of our streets’, he further suggests that it was ‘bred of an airy word’ the feud has no justifiable cause but it continues to grow more violent with fatal consequences.  Interestingly both Lady Capulet and Lady Montague call for peace whilst their husbands call for swords.

The conflict in Act 1 brings together Benvolio the peacemaker and the warmonger Tybalt.  Tybalt attacks Benvolio with the words, ‘what drawn and talk of peace! I hate the word, as I hate hell  all Montagues, and thee’.  Shakespeare highlights the threat from Tybalt from the beginning of the play he is a dangerous opponent as he refuses to back down and he is presented as enjoying the chaos as it makes him feel powerful.

In the midst of the conflict in Act 1 scene 1 the audience is introduced to Romeo.  He is an isolated character operating outside of the stereotypical male in Verona.  He is suffering from internal conflict he loves his family but he doesn’t want to kill to protect the family name.  He is also in love with Rosaline who has vowed to remain ‘chaste’.  His conflict is playing the courtly lover to a woman who does not return his love.  He uses a string of oxymorons to reveal the conflict in his society and within himself: ‘why then O brawling love, O loving hate.’  The love Romeo has for Rosaline is perfect preparation for the contrast with his love for Juliet.  In Act 1 he  is full of self-pity, ‘Ay me! sad hours seem long.’

Act 1 scene 5 shows conflict between the older and younger generation. Tybalt is enraged when he hears Romeo’s voice at the Capulet party. ‘This by his voice, should be a Montague. Fetch me my rapier boy.’ Shows that even a formal gathering on a happy occasion is overshadowed by the feud. Tybalt’s character is incapable of just enjoying himself as protecting the family name is more important. Lord Capulet usually ready for a fight has different priorities for the feast. He attempts to calm Tybalt down quietly and privately, ‘I would not for the wealth of all this town here in my house do him disparagement.’ Shakespeare shows how Capulet is an authority figure who will not accept any challenge to his authority he asks Tybalt, ‘Am I the master here or you?’ Capulet fears the Prince’s warning but he also wants to protect his asset Juliet.

The scene ends with both Romeo and Juliet realising that they are in love with the enemy. Romeo says, ‘ My life is my foe’s debt.’ Whilst Juliet states, ‘My only love sprung from my only hate…That I must love a loathed enemy.’ Shakespeare reminds the audience again that their love is under pressure from the conflicts in their society.

Religious Imagery in Romeo and Juliet

English Literature, GCSE, Uncategorized

Religion is important to the context of the play.  Shakespeare focuses on Catholicism with the use of the Friar and confession.  When Romeo and Juliet meet their language has religious symbolism throughout.  They clearly worship each other from the beginning.  Religious devotion is compared to love because the rituals and traditions would be familiar to an Elizabethan audience.  Everyone went to church and if they failed to do so they were fined.

Using biblical Imagery to describe devotion to God such as Song of Solomon.  Praying would be a sign of devotion and commitment to God.  Praying is supposed to be a time when devotees reveal their true selves, speak about the things we fear to share with others.

Confession is a means of purging sin, Romeo is confessing his sins to Juliet. 

Act 1 Scene 5. 10 Key quotes on Religion

10 key quotes explained

1. Romeo (To Juliet) If I profane with this unworthiness hand  This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this.

Romeo describes himself as unworthy in the presence of Juliet.  She is a ‘holy shrine’ a place of worship for pilgrims.  Devotees usually look up because they are placed in high places.  Pilgrims usually kneel or bow before the shrine.  Shrines are not usually touched so the word profane is juxtaposed with ‘holy’.  Romeo is using flattery to engage Juliet’s interest.

2. Romeo (to Juliet) My lips two blushing pilgrims ready stand.  To smooth that rough touch with a gentle kiss.

The metaphor comparing his lips to ‘two blushing pilgrims’.  He has been on a quest to find true love and in the presence of Juliet he feels compelled to take her hand and kiss it.  Juliet is presented as a goddess exalted above Romeo he again lowers his status to lift up Juliet.  The quatrain is delivered in iambic pentameter and a regular rhyme scheme. 

3. Juliet (to Romeo) Good pilgrim you do wrong your hand too much.

Juliet echoes Romeo’s symbolism in her response.  The word ‘good’ shows that Juliet immediately trusts Romeo.  She contradicts Romeo’s idea of being unworthy ‘you do wrong your hand too much.’  Juliet shows she can match Romeo in wit and religious imagery in her speech.  She describes his behaviour as respectful and acceptable ‘mannerly devotion’.

4. Juliet (to Romeo) For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch, And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.

Romeo describes his kiss as ‘rough’ whereas Juliet describes it as ‘holy palmers’ kiss.’  She wants to show Romeo that she will not play the coy, submissive typical Elizabethan woman.  Both compare touching hands to kissing – for Juliet this is breaking all the rules.  She is almost engaged to Paris, she is talking un chaperoned to a stranger in public and she is flirting with this young man.

5. Romeo (to Juliet) Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?

Romeo replies with a rhetorical question clarifying that saints have human emotions.  They physically show their religious devotion through prayers and rituals such as kissing statues.

6. Romeo (to Juliet) Thus from my lips, by thine, my sin is purged.

The extended metaphor continues with the reference to sin.  Why does he mention ‘sin’?  In this scene Romeo and Juliet have transferred their worship and devotion to God to each other which might be classed as sinful by an Elizabethan audience.  The word ‘purged’ symbolises cleansing and purification. 

7. Romeo (to Juliet) O, then, dear Saint, let lips do what hands do: They pray — grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.

Shakespeare juxtaposes ‘faith’ and ‘despair’ effectively in this speech.  It is an example of foreshadowing anytime the couple feel hopeful in the play it is overshadowed by the feud.  Even before they meet there is danger and threat brooding from Tybalt.   Romeo is presented as impetuous and impatient in this scene. 

8.  Juliet (to Romeo) Saints do not move, though grant for prayers sake.

Juliet’s language shows that she is not the innocent, passive and submissive girl presented in earlier scenes with her mother and the Nurse.   She shows she has a voice and she speaks intelligently and articulately despite her young age.  She is giving Romeo permission to touch her.

9. Romeo (to Juliet) Sin from my lips? O trespass sweetly urged!

Romeo uses exclamatory phrases to show his enthusiasm, passion and commitment to Juliet.  Is Romeo in love with being in love?  Shakespeare shows Romeo’s progress from his love for Rosaline.  Rosaline has promised to keep herself ‘chaste’ he has endured unrequited love at the beginning of the play but he has become more optimistic because Juliet returns his love. She encourages Romeo to kiss her again.

10. Romeo (to Juliet) Give me my sin again.

Shakespeare subverts ideas connected to religion at the time.

The kiss (sin) is on Juliet’s lips so Romeo must remove it with another kiss.

The whole encounter between Romeo and Juliet is captured in the sonnet for. Two quatrains with equal lines for Romeo and Juliet. The sonnet then breaks down into individual lines for Romeo and Juliet showing harmony and equality in the relationship.

Time in Romeo & Juliet

English Literature, GCSE, Teaching Resources

Romeo and Juliet explores the theme of time and the role it plays in the tragedy.  The conversation between Capulet and Paris explores the theme of time.  When Paris asks to marry Juliet.  Caplets says ‘My child is yet a stranger in the world; …Let two more summers wither in their pride’  Juliet is 13 years old extremely young even for Elizabethan times.  He is presented as a caring father, protecting his daughter from growing up too quickly.

Marriage for Juliet would inevitably lead to motherhood as Paris states, ‘Younger than she are happy mothers made.’  This reveals that marriage amongst the nobility is about producing an heir as quickly as possible.  Lord Capulet”s reply ‘too soon marred are those so early made’ is the voice of experience and reason.

However, he has decided to hold a feast which he believes will reveal that Juliet is the most beautiful.   The audience would believe that Capulet holds these feasts often but in Act 5 scene 1 he confesses that it has been 30 years since he has last at a party.  Therefore the audience can see that Capulet is keen to secure Paris as a suitor for Juliet.  Why wouldn’t he wait for such a ‘solemn’ occasion?

After the untimely death of Tybalt (the same day as Romeo and Juliet’s wedding). Capulet”s impatience to secure Juliet the marriage speeds up the plot.  Paris states, ‘These times of woe afford no time to woo.’  This is true of Romeo and Juliet their wedding night is surrounded by a background of secrecy, banishment and death.   Capulet worried by Juliet’s constant weeping for Tybalt gives Paris a date for the wedding.  ‘Thursday, tell her, She shall be married to the noble Earl.’

Capulet leaves Juliet desperate and alone when he tells her to ‘you be mine, I’ll give you to my friend;’ showing his true intentions Juliet is his property to dispose of her as he feels.  The monosyllabic words ‘hang, beg, starve, die in the streets.’ are powerful and disturbing to the audience as Shakespeare’s use of dramatic irony makes them aware that Juliet is already married.

Lady Capulet and the Nurse’s response to Capulet”s condemnation of Juliet adds to her isolation and fears. She cries, ‘Delay this marriage for a month, a week, or if you do not, make the bridal bed in that dim monument where Tybalt lies.’ Another good example of Shakespeare’s foreshadowing time becomes the enemy in Romeo and Juliet’s relationship. The play ends with Juliet dead in the monument also relating to the theme of destiny.

Act 4 Scene 1 begins with the theme of time. Paris tells the Friar, ‘her father ‘in his wisdom hastes our marriage to stop the inundation of her tears.’ Capulet sees her grief as ‘dangerous’ The Friar’s plan to save Juliet from a second marriage to Paris also explores the theme of time. The whole plot hinges on Friar’s Lawrence’s potion allowing Juliet to appear dead to her family and his ability to inform Juliet of his plan. Again the Prologue reminds the audience that they are ‘star-crossed lovers’ and ‘their doomed love” maybe they are filled with hope that the young lovers can be reunited.

The hope the audience might have felt is soon destroyed in Act 4 Scene 2 as Capulet brings the wedding forward to Wednesday when Juliet tells him she has ‘learnt to repent the sin of disobedient opposition …Henceforward I am ever ruled by you.’

The first death of Juliet leaves the audience in suspense. She has made the hard choice of taking the potion despite misgivings of it might be poison. The effect of the potion is timed so that she doesn’t wake during the funeral and close down any possibility of her marrying Paris. Friar Lawrence is attempting to protect himself but also to keep the young lovers secrets. Ultimately time defeats the young lovers as they are only reunited in death in the final scenes of the play.

Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde introduction

English Literature, GCSE, Teaching Resources

Gabriel Utterson the lawyer

There are many contradictions in Stevenson’s introduction of this important character. He is the main vehicle for investigating the strange case of Jekyll and Hyde.

The reader learns he is a man who tries to be non judgemental. He recognises that all humans have failings and he will not intervene to prevent anyone making a mistake. He has been the last person people see before receiving the death penalty but he doesn’t become sentimental or emotional – he remains professional.

Gabriel Utterson has a small circle of friends some close relatives. Richard Enfield with whom he takes regular walks on a Sunday afternoon. They seem to have very little in common- they walk in silence and they are relieved to see anyone else they can call to. Both men are respectable gentleman so their weekly walks are a show to the world they have nothing to hide. Interestingly, the walks take place on the sabbath a time when everyone attends church. Maybe a reflection of Victorian hypocrisy – hiding real thoughts and desires from society. Utterson’s private drinking, his love of the theatre but rarely attends. His serious outward appearance which relaxes when he’s had a glass of wine.

Richard Enfield

Richard Enfield is the opposite of Gabriel Utterson he is a popular man about town. His conversation with Utterson on this particular walk is lively and engaging as he recounts the story of the door. Initially he wants to establish that he is not a gossip because it is ungentlemanly and beneath him. He is also aware of how gossip can destroy reputations.

Again Enfield seems to have a dark side as he confesses to being on the road in the early hours of the morning. He offers no explanation of his behaviour but he condemns the behaviour of Hyde.

Enfield tells the story of Hyde trampling a young girl in the early hours of the morning. Enfield points out that even if it was an accident there was a distinct lack of humanity from Hyde. He made no attempt to stop and to enquire if the girl was harmed. It was the intervention of Enfield and a group of women who prevented his escape from justice.

Enfield’s story reveals two things about Victorian society money buys you power and you can live above the law. Secondly there is little or no protection for the vulnerable especially children. Hyde has to pay the child compensation to protect his reputation.

Both characters Utterson and Enfield raise the strange relationship between Jekyll and Hyde. The compensation paid to the child comes from Jekyll’s account not Hydes. Hyde gets the cheque in the early hours of the morning (he is not a blood relative). The spectre of blackmail and homosexuality are touched upon.

All of Enfield’s story builds mystery and suspense but most intriguing of all is the description of Hyde – animalistic, demonic, frightening and repulsive. The use of biblical language in his description brings in the theme of the supernatural – what power can this creature have over the respectable Dr Jekyll?

The Story of the Door

The description of the door helps to build mystery and suspense from the beginning. The door which Hyde uses is hidden from public view. The door is neglected and it does not look like it belongs in the area. Significantly, Hyde has a key to the door which gives him a sense of entitlement and empowerment- he can come and go as he pleases. A door can be a symbol of freedom and imprisonment. The key has obviously been given to Hyde which tells the reader he is trusted and close to the owner. The door which Hyde uses is hidden from public view therefore it introduces the theme of secrets and appearance vs reality. In Victorian society are appearances given greater importance than the truth. Both Utterson and Enfield agree that there is cause for concern about the relationship between Jekyll and Hyde but they agree to remain silent.