How does the feud in Romeo and Juliet contribute to the lovers' deaths?

The feud between the Montagues and the Capulets is the cause of Romeo and Juliet's deaths, and probably their romance as well. If there were no feud, the two families would have moved in the same circles, and Romeo and Juliet would have known each other all their lives. A marriage might have been arranged between them to unite the two great families and their fortunes. There would have been no need for haste, secrecy, or violence.

Expert Answers

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

The feud between the Montagues and the Capulets was the central context which shaped the entire course of Romeo and Juliet's doomed romance and, eventually, their deaths. With their families engaged in a vendetta, Romeo and Juliet 's relationship placed them in an awkward situation, at odds with their...

See
This Answer Now

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

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The feud between the Montagues and the Capulets was the central context which shaped the entire course of Romeo and Juliet's doomed romance and, eventually, their deaths. With their families engaged in a vendetta, Romeo and Juliet's relationship placed them in an awkward situation, at odds with their own families, leading the two to marry in secret. Furthermore, keep in mind that the feud was violent. This violence would be critical in shaping the tragedy to follow.

More than anyone else in Romeo and Juliet, the character of Tybalt practically incarnates the vendetta within himself, with his virulent hatred of the Montagues. Romeo's killing of Tybalt represents one of the critical turning points of the play: in punishment for killing Tybalt, Romeo is banished from Verona, which leaves Juliet further isolated as her own situation deteriorates further. Increasingly under pressure by her family to marry Paris, Juliet turns to Friar Laurence for assistance (and remember, she is desperate enough to threaten suicide as an alternative to the marriage). Thus, the two endeavor to fake Juliet's death, a plan which results in fatal consequences.

However, the vendetta is the key context which shapes and informs this entire sequence of events and the entire course of their doomed romance. It should therefore be understood as being absolutely critical in shaping the tragedy of the play.

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

The feud between the Montagues and the Capulets is entirely to blame for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, though it may well also be responsible for their romance.

The two feuding houses are among the wealthiest and most prominent in Verona. If there were no feud, Romeo and Juliet would certainly have met long before they encounter one another in the play. It is likely that they would have grown up together, and perhaps a marriage would even have been arranged to unite the two families. In these circumstances, it is quite possible that Romeo and Juliet might still have loved each other, but the eventual marriage of childhood sweethearts after getting to know one another for many years is a far cry from the intense passion depicted in the play.

Whether Romeo and Juliet would have fallen in love or not, without the feud, it would have been a very different kind of love, without any of the elements, such as secrecy and haste, which give rise to their violent deaths in the play. Tybalt would doubtless still have been a troublesome character, but without the feud, he would have been compelled to vent his hatred elsewhere. There would have been no deaths, no reason for violence, probably no romance, and certainly no play.

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

The animosity between the Capulets and the Montagues is only part of what contributes to Romeo and Juliet's becoming "star-crossed" lovers, doomed from the beginning.  Even the light/dark imagery employed by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet conveys this idea.  For, in the daytime, the lovers are not safe together; only in the darkness can they love.  Thus, their secrecy, forced by the conditions of the feud, leads to the complications that turn to tragedy. 

Since Romeo cannot ask Lord Capulet for permission to marry Juliet and secretly weds her instead, Paris unknowingly asks for the hand of the young maiden. The complication of this marriage proposal to Juliet's life cannot be resolved because Juliet dare not reveal to her mother that she has married one of their enemies.  Thus, she panics and flees to Friar Laurence, who unwittingly sets in motion the tragic events at her tomb.

When Tybalt, who has become enraged by Romeo's presence at the party for Juliet, walks the streets of Verona, his enmity causes him to engage in conflict with the loyal friend of Romeo, Mercutio, who is fatally wounded during Romeo's well-meaning intervention. Without this enmity between the two families, Romeo and Mercutio would not conflict with Tybalt, and neither would be placed in danger.  Romeo's resulting banishment has resulted from this conflict, a banishment that has caused him to remain ignorant of what transpires with Juliet's supposed death.

Because of the feud and its ramifications, Romeo is unable to defy the stars as he avows, in several circumstances.  However, it is yet his impulsive behavior and rash judgment that leads to his tragic end, not the feud itself.  Likewise, Juliet places herself in precarious situations because of the secrecy she becomes involved in as a result of marrying a Montage; but, again, she, too, dies from impetuosity, not hatred as she remains in the tomb instead of accompanying Friar Laurence out of it.  There, she rashly decides to join Romeo in death.

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

First, it makes Tybalt mad at Romeo.  So when he tries to fight Romeo and Romeo ends up killing him.  That makes it so that Romeo gets exiled and Juliet is sad.

Second, Juliet cannot tell her parents that she is in love with Romeo and that they have actually already gotten married.  That means that they still want her to marry Paris and she has to take the potion that Friar Lawrence makes so that she can play dead and not have to marry him.

Because she takes the potion, Romeo thinks she's dead and kills himself.  She wakes up, sees him dead and kills herself.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team