Examine how Shakespeare presents the way people show commitment in Romeo and Juliet. Focus on one or two characters in your response.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet is one of his most famous tragedies. Although it is a tragedy it is populated by people who are mostly likable. Only Tyblat comes across as villainous, and even he is loved by his family, especially the Nurse. Therefore, the characters in the play show...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet is one of his most famous tragedies. Although it is a tragedy it is populated by people who are mostly likable. Only Tyblat comes across as villainous, and even he is loved by his family, especially the Nurse. Therefore, the characters in the play show various forms of commitment to each other. The most obvious example is Juliet's commitment to Romeo.

Although she is only 13 years old, Juliet shows a fierce loyalty to Romeo. She risks everything by falling in love and secretly marrying him. Shortly after meeting Romeo she learns his true identity, but this does not deter her love which she expresses immediately in Act I, Scene 5:

My only love sprung from my only hate!
Too early seen unknown, and known too late!
Prodigious birth of love it is to me
That I must love a loathèd enemy.
She basically lies to her parents by not revealing her plans and faces a very difficult dilemma when she learns that Romeo has killed Tybalt. She chooses to stick with Romeo and sends the Nurse to find him so they can consummate the marriage. Later, when her father presses her to marry Count Paris she again demonstrates her love for Romeo by agreeing to the Friar's very frightening plan. She decides to fake her own death and be placed in a tomb so that she can be reunited with her husband. Not many teen girls would choose such a path. Before drinking the potion she expresses her fears in the best soliloquy of the play in Act IV, Scene 3:
How if, when I am laid into the tomb,
I wake before the time that Romeo
Come to redeem me? There’s a fearful point.
Shall I not then be stifled in the vault,
To whose foul mouth no healthsome air breathes in,
And there die strangled ere my Romeo comes?
Finally, Juliet shows the ultimate commitment when, after discovering Romeo dead in the tomb of poisoning, she uses a dagger to kill herself so she can join her love in the hereafter.
 
Another character who shows loyalty is the Friar. He's loyal not only to Romeo and Juliet but also to the city of Verona. Unfortunately, his plans fall apart and he shares responsibility for the final tragedy in the play. Nevertheless he does what he thinks is right for everyone concerned.
 
The Friar agrees to marry Romeo, partly out of his loyalty to the son of Montague, but also because he thinks marrying a Montague to a Capulet will end the feud between the two families which has ravaged Verona. He says, in Act II, Scene 3:
But come, young waverer, come, go with me.
In one respect I’ll thy assistant be,
For this alliance may so happy prove
To turn your households’ rancor to pure love.
The reader also should consider the Friar's words of wisdom to Romeo about taking love slowly and not rushing into things as an example of his love and  commitment. Likewise, he shows loyalty to Juliet by devising the plan which will allow her to avoid marrying Paris and be reunited with Romeo. That the Friar's plans go astray does not change the fact that he was truly loyal to the couple and was doing his best to bring them together and end the terrible feud.
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team