How important is the theme of conflict in Romeo and Juliet?

Expert Answers
jmeenach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both responders above make credible and valid points about conflict and theme; and to be sure, the question as posed is a little odd. As with any story, take away the conflict/s and there isn't much of anything left. At least nothing interesting. ;-)

That being said, I do believe Shakespeare uses R&J as a vehicle to present observations about the nature of conflict, and these are questions which are quite germane to the play itself. For instance, Shakespeare uses the chorus' prologue to firmly cast the feuding families in a shameful light. That they have remained engaged in a conflict that has transcended the generations so far as to lose its point and its purpose entirely, suggests something what a conflicted human race we are. I believe Shakespeare must have been purposeful in omitting any historical context to their argument - his point was that there was no point to the feuding.

Based upon the sub plots and complications throughout the play, it stands to reason that Shakespeare has a message about the fruitlessness of petty conflicts.
Based upon what becomes of Romeo's friendship with the Friar, Juliet's estranged relationship with the nurse and her entire family, and the regretful deaths of Tybalt, Mercutio, and Paris - perhaps we could say that we should be a bit more careful, particularly in our youth, about the battles we choose.

I submit this response in the spirit of trying to justify the question's intent.

bmadnick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I just want to be sure you understand that conflict is an element of all literature. Conflict is the struggle between two opposing forces. You have different kinds of conflict that characters have to face.One is thecharacters themselves have a conflict with each other, known as man This is the feud between the two families.Man vs. nature iswhere the struggle involves something found in nature,suchas anearthquake. A conflict with something in society can occur by fighting against a government that is tyrannical. In Romeo and Juliet,this occurswhen Romeo is banished for killing Tybalt. Man vs. the unknown isa type of conflict where a character struggles against something for which there is no explanation. This is seen in the play when the lovers struggle against fate. The last type of conflict is man vs. himself, where the character has an internal struggle. She/he must overcome or deal with something like whether to tell on your best friend or finding the courage to fight a drug addiction. Romeo and Juliet have internal struggles they must face in the play, such as finding out that each is from the family that's a sworn enemy.

bobqzzi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I’m not sure one can even consider the unqualified term “conflict” as a theme at all. Consider that every play, indeed nearly every piece of literature, has some sort of conflict at its core; if they didn’t there would be no story. That said, conflicts abound in Romeo and Juliet, and the prolog immediately introduces us to two: the feud between Montagues and Capulets and fate versus the young lovers . Of course, the feud keeps Romeo and Juliet apart to begin with, and fate conspires to keep them apart and eventually drive them to kill themselves.

orlamcg | Student

The play that I have studied is Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Act three, scene one, the climax of this play, is a scene where much conflict occurs.

This scene opens with two of Romeo's friends, Benvolio and Mercutio, talking. Tension and suspense is established when Benvolio says,

'The day is hot, the Capulets abroad,

And, if we meet, we shall not 'scape a brawl'

The 'fiery Tybalt' enters looking for Romeo. He felt that Romeo had insulted him by going to the Capulet masked ball and he wanted to exact his revenge.

Mercutio deliberately insults him and draws his sword. Just as Benvolio tries to calm them down, Romeo enters. Tybalt tries to incite Romeo into fighting by insulting him: 'Romeo, the love I bear thee can afford/ No better term than this, – thou art a villain.'

Romeo resists Tybalt's challenge because he is now related by marriage to him. Mercutio is embarrassed by Romeo's inaction and he challenges Tybalt. As Romeo tries to stop the fight Mercutio is mortally wounded by Tybalt.

As Mercutio dies he says, 'A plague o' both your houses! / They have made worms' meet of me.' Romeo realises he is partially responsible for his friend's death and his anger leads him to kill Tybalt. He then realises he is 'fortune's fool' and flees the place.

The Prince of Verona arrives and decides to exile Romeo from the city.

What are the underlying causes of conflict in this scene?

The main cause of the conflict in this scene arises 'From ancient grudge' between two major families in Verona – the Capulets and the Montagues. The feud is so strong that the play opens with their servants fighting. Indeed, the rift is so strong that the Prince of Verona is prompted to announce, 'If ever you disturb our streets again/ Your lives will pay the forfeit of the peace.'

Another cause of the conflict is the mercurial nature of Tybalt. He saw Romeo's appearance at the Capulet masked ball as an insult and was determined to challenge Romeo.

Mercutio also contributed to the conflict. He was very quick to engage in a quarrel with Tybalt and condemned Romeo for avoiding conflict, 'O calm, dishonourable, vile submission!'

Finally Romeo has much internal conflict in this scene. He is being challenged and insulted by Tybalt but feels he cannot retaliate because he is now secretly married to Juliet, Tybalt's cousin.

It is clear there is much conflict in this scene and many reasons for it – this conflict adds greatly to our enjoyment of the play.

parama9000 | Student

There must be conflict for a tragedy, or even a story to occur. In the case of Romeo and Juliet, the main conflict was their tragic attempt to marry secretly without the approval of their feuding families.

jess1999 | Student

Basically the whole entire play of Romeo and Juliet revolves around conflict. For example, we have the Capulet family and the Montague family constantly arguing with each other. Now, conflict plays an important role in Romeo and Juliet because the cause of the young couple's death was conflict. Because of Romeo and Juliet knowing that their parents would know accept their love, they had to go through a secret marriage and much more.

grace308 | Student

I had to do this question as course work hahahaha..... I hated it...Conflict is important in the story of romeo and juliet because shakespeare uses it throughout, building tension and intrueging the audience. Conflict is important in all good drama, even in modern drama. In romeo and juiet there is conflict between the families, between romeo and tybalt and between the lovers. The conflict is what ultimately leads to the death of these "star crosed lovers". The conflict is not only represented in physical brawls but also in verbal and self conflict, which is shown when juliet feels alone and close to suicide "if lal else fail, myself have power to die". these types of conflict can be especially shown in the prologue, act 1 scene 1, act 3 scene 1 and act 3 scene 5.

bollywood912 | Student

I think Shakespeare added Conflict in because every story needs a little bit of hatred and love (both) without them the story wouldn't be successful!!!

Sasha xx