How does Shakespeare create conflict and opposition in the Prologue and Act 1, Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet?

Expert Answers

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

In the Prologue to Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare sets the scene for what's about to follow. He gives us the background to the ensuing action, telling us about the long-running feud between the Montagues and the Capulets. Straight away, the audience is aware that bitter, bloody conflict is an ever-present feature of life in Verona. And what's more, we're left in no doubt that this monumental feud will lead in due course to the tragic deaths of the two star-crossed lovers.

Just how bitter and bloody this conflict really is can be observed in the very first scene, when servants from the rival families face off in an unseemly street brawl. The fact that humble servants are so filled with hatred for the other side and so ready to draw their swords at the drop of a hat is an indication of the depths of bitterness that permeate all aspects of social life in the city.

These servants only work for the Montagues and the Capulets, yet they're as puffed-up with pride as any member of the family. As such, they are ready, willing, and able to defend family honor by whatever means necessary. Immediately, the audience starts asking itself the question: if this is how servants behave, what on earth will the young aristocrats from each family be like?

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the prologue of Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare outlines a narrative structure filled with conflict and opposition. The houses of the Capulets and Montagues are similar - alike in dignity - but they are caught in a terrible feud that has entwined the entire city. Shakespeare outlines the full extent of this conflict which allows him to create dramatic irony. This irony is created because the audience knows the events of the play but the characters do not, which creates an exciting dynamic for both the audience members and readers.

In Act 1, Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet, the conflict described in Shakespeare's prologue is dramaticized. A feud quickly breaks out between the smaller side characters in the houses of the Montagues and Capulets. This feud is calmed down by the Prince, but the audience quickly realizes this feud is real and quickly escalating. The combination of these opposing factors (the Montagues and the Capulets) and the creation of dramatic irony is what creates the conflict and opposition in the prologue and first scene.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial