What is the role and function of family in Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet?
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Family serves as a dividing factor in Romeo and Juliet. The Montagues and Capulets are locked in an old feud of unknown origins, with young men on both sides willing to take lives in defense of what they view as their honor, which is inextricably bound up with their family identification. In short, without the family dynamic in Verona, Romeo and Juliet would not have been a tragedy. The couple could have married in the open, with the blessing of their families, and the series of events that resulted with their mutual suicides would never have occurred. The conflict between their love for each other as individuals and their obligations to their family (especially Juliet) is the central fact of the play around which everything revolves. Sprung, as the chorus tells us in the Prologue, from "the fatal loins of these two foes," the protagonists are locked into a deadly and inevitable march toward tragedy by their family affiliations.
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