Explore the ways Shakespeare presents strong feelings to interest the audience in romeo and juliet and merchant of venice

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brookestephanie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Romeo and Juliet is, of course, about love. A strong feeling by anyone's standards. However, the remarkable vitriolic feud between the two families is a less conventional feeling to look into if you're so inclined. 

Once you've looked at the strength of this hatred, its longevity, how it is a catalyst for a vast amount of death and suffering both within the play's time line and before its beginning, it gets really interesting to conflate the two strong emotions.

There's a curious tension between love and hate in Romeo and Juliet that in many ways underpins the whole play. We're familiar with the idea that their love has the potential to reconcile the families, but how effective is it in actuality? Their love emerges from hate, and the tragedy that occurs is a result of the collision between the lovers and their potentially equal love with the firmly structured society they were born into.

There's a fine array of strong feelings to choose from in the Merchant of Venice as well, there's Antonio's source-less melancholy, the "bromance" that strives for prominence over romance between Antonio and Bassanio, the racial and sexual discrimination that fuels remonstrance from Shylock and Portia respectively.

Seeing as we're looking at MoV alongside R+J I'd propose the racial tensions between the Christians and the Jew, focusing on Shylock's demand for a pound of flesh and his 'hath not a Jew eyes?' speech. If Romeo and Juliet reveal the cruel restrictions of their society through their potentially transcendent love, Shylock reveals the equality behind the superficial distinctions of race by reducing the entire populace of the world to flesh and blood.

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