How does characterization and conflict help to bring about the unfortunate deaths in Romeo and Juliet?This is the quote I have to use to answer the question: “Romeo and Juliet is not simply a...

How does characterization and conflict help to bring about the unfortunate deaths in Romeo and Juliet?

This is the quote I have to use to answer the question:

Romeo and Juliet is not simply a tragedy of two individuals, but the tragedy of a city.  Everybody in the city is in one way or another involved in and responsible for what happened."

Asked on by lilly11

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is a fairly interesting question.  I think that the standard response would credibly speak of how the Veronian society approaches the conflict, in that few, if any, have the courage to stand up to the feud between both houses.  In capitulating to their antagonisms, the citizens who participated or benefited from the rivalry contributed to the deaths of the kids because they were the social order that both lovers sought to transcend.  Yet, I think that a real interesting study lies in the Prince.  Perhaps, Shakespeare is attempting to make a statement about political leadership in times of intense hatred.  The Prince, the political authority, should be the force that ends up bringing peace to Verona.  In alllowing the feud to grow to the magnitude that it has or in his inability to stop its growth, the Prince is a fairly ineffective political leader.  His first appearance is filled with intense language, strong words, and a demand for the fighting to cease.  Yet, in his investigation of the deaths of Tybalt and Mercutio, the Prince comes across as vauge and imprecise, unable to fully support his original edict or order of death.  Furthermore, he appears to have based this decision on his personal interests, stating that the Capulet/Montague feud has caused the death of his kinsman, Mercutio.  Perhaps, Shakespeare is making a statement about how weak- willed or collusive political leaders can only bring about more suffering to their people.  If the Prince had executed Romeo, at least some level of authority or political structure would have done its part to stand up to the warring factionalization that divided Verona.  The deaths of Romeo and Juliet, therefore, can be drawn closer to the idea of poor and ineffective political leadership.  In this light one can argue that Shakespeare is suggesting that individuals in the position of power who cannot effectively wield it and govern through it end up dooming the people they profess to serve.

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