Breaking the rules: Romeo and Juliet’s quest for independence Essay
Romeo and Juliet is a famous play by the great playwright William Shakespeare. People who read the play or watched films that adopted its plot feel the touch of this tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet. With regards to this play, people hold different opinions and interpretations. Some feel sorry about their eventual death while others think that their final death reconciled their feuding families and united the two lovers.
This essay will argue that by breaking the rules, Romeo and Juliet finally attain success and independence. This argument stands on the fact that even though both Juliet and Romeo died through committing suicide, they attain success in the form of unity between the Montagues and the Capulets.
Their death helped their families go through a recognition stage. They unanimously throw away their feud after seeing the consequences it brought. At least there is hope for independence for future members of these two families.
Romeo and Juliet are star-crossed lovers who come from two feuding families, the Montague and Capulet, who live in Verona. Their families are in an endless conflict with each other. The two lovers ought not to show their love to each other because of this long standing feud. Both families disapprove of such an affair.
However, in spite of the feud between their families, Romeo and Juliet assert their independence but end up in a tragic predicament.
The Balcony scene is the first indication of Romeo and Juliet’s readiness to break social rules and have independent wills. Even though Juliet is well aware of her family’s hatred of the Montague, she falls in love with Romeo and goes ahead to organize for a marriage with him the next day. In the “balcony scene”, Juliet tells the following lines “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name, Or if thou will not, be but sworn my love, And I will no longer be a Capulet” (Act 2, Scene 1, Lines 74-78). These lines reveal Juliet’s willingness to deny her own family name just to marry Romeo. She asks Romeo to deny his family name so that they can fall in love without the disapproval from their families.
When Juliet utters these lines, she stands in sharp contrast with her rigid family rules and wishes to be an independent person capable of pursuing her own love rather than staying in the trap of her family name. This shows that Juliet is already proving her ability to think independently. However, her wishes cannot be accomplished as things stand.
This is because of the feud between their families. It is this quest for independence that leads to the death of both Juliet and Romeo. Juliet meets her death when she takes a drug that would help her run away from marrying Paris. When she feigns death, Romeo thinks that she is indeed dead. He takes poison and kills himself. Upon realizing that Romeo is dead, she stabs herself and genuinely dies.
Romeo also shows his independent spirit by falling in love with a daughter of the Capulet. He is in love with Rosaline, a relative of the Capulet and Benvolio advises him to end the affair. He ends it but commits a bigger crime when he falls in love with Juliet, a real daughter of the Capulet. His readiness to break the rules and attend the ball at the Capulet portrays his quest for independence.
As the son of the Montague, Romeo is not welcome. However, he attends the ball and comes to the balcony of Juliet after her beauty attracts him. When Romeo attends the ball and follows Juliet to the balcony, he proves that just like Juliet, the social and family rules do not confine him. He is instead ready to pursue his own desires and make his own decisions about his own love affairs.
Romeo bravely makes himself known to Juliet and they agree to organize a secret marriage. The society cannot tolerate their love because their families are in a long held feud, and society knows the repercussions this marriage would yield. In spite of the definite family disapproval and numerous obstacles, Romeo and Juliet marry.
The bravery, independent spirit and defiance against their feuding families are what touch the audience the most. This hurrying into marriage shows how the two lovers yearn for freedom from the chains of the feud between their families. They even wish to drop their family names because they are curtailing their freedom of choice and association.
However, as it has already been mentioned in the previous part, the union of Romeo and Juliet will not only fail to win the blessings of their families, but will also face restrictions from them. In their quest to overcome this opposition from their families, they go through so many hardships including death. Juliet tries to run away from a marriage partner, Count Paris, just to marry Romeo.
She feigns death by taking a sleeping potion, and this brings a lot of trouble to them. Romeo on his part has to go to exile and almost kills himself while there. On coming back, Paris confronts him for a fight, and he kills Paris. He finally kills himself because he thinks Juliet is dead. Juliet also kills herself with Romeo’s dagger when she realizes that he is dead.
They go through all these hardships because of their yearning for freedom and independence. The two lovers refuse to surrender to the wills of their families, but instead they try every possible way to safeguard their love and fight against the rules.
The statement “From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life” (Shakespeare, 2012, Prologue, Lines 5-8) shows that Romeo and Juliet prefer death to adhering to the rules and wills set by their feuding families.
Finally, the death of Romeo and Juliet puts an end to their love and is powerful enough to reconcile their feuding families. In another sense, the two lovers rise high above their mortal death and become perfectly united with each other spiritually.
In a world, they are not able to make their independent choices and be together based on their own desires, but their death enables them not to pay attention to social rules and assert the supremacy of their love over the feud and rules of their families. Furthermore, their death reminds their feuding families of the foolishness and irrationality of their long-held conflict. The two families reconcile at last.
Romeo and Juliet elevate themselves to heroes by violating the socially accepted norms and bravely fighting for their own independence and freedom. Thus, Romeo and Juliet attain success over their families despite the feud and stringent orders that guide the way the two families relate.
This success may seem to be irrelevant to them, but at least it makes sense to their families at the end. They die before accomplishing the independence and the freedom they searched for a long time. Their families, however, make peace with each other after realizing what their feud is capable of causing.
A conclusion can be comfortably drawn that by breaking the rigid rules regulating their behaviors, Romeo and Juliet finally attain their independence. They break loose from these rules, and they finally attain their freedom in their death. This freedom is not only theirs, but for all other family members.
Members of the two families who remain behind will enjoy this freedom that Romeo and Juliet looked for using all their tactics. Their families are now at peace with each other, and his means no restrictions will be there in dealing with members of the former enemy family.
Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet, Ed. René Weis. London: Arden, 2012.
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