What is the role and significance of family in Romeo and Juliet?

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Family is the driving force behind much of the plot in Romeo and Juliet. The titular characters are from rival families. The prologue tells us that the Capulets and Montagues are "both alike in dignity," so if this were any other city and the two families were not at...

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Family is the driving force behind much of the plot in Romeo and Juliet. The titular characters are from rival families. The prologue tells us that the Capulets and Montagues are "both alike in dignity," so if this were any other city and the two families were not at odds, there would less likely be an impediment to Romeo and Juliet's marriage and spending the rest of their lives together, since they are both of equal social standing. But because their families are at war, a relationship between the two is impossible. Juliet's family plays an especially prominent role in her life; it is her father's wish that she marry Prince Escalus's cousin Paris, a wish that gradually turns into a demand as the story progresses. Because of her duty to her father, Juliet pretends to give her consent to marry Paris before taking the potion that makes her appear dead. Had her father not demanded she marry Paris, she would never have needed to play dead, and Romeo would never have killed himself.

Juliet's cousin Tybalt also shows how much of a driving force family is in this story. When Tybalt kills Romeo's friend Mercutio, Romeo is so enraged that he kills Tybalt in turn. Juliet, having only married Romeo a few hours before, is distraught that her husband would kill her cousin. Romeo, too, recognizes that their marriage made Tybalt his cousin by law and that the civil strife between the Capulets and the Montagues led him to kill his new cousin.

Ultimately, the conflict between their families bleeds over into Romeo and Juliet's relationship so much that they literally cannot find a way out of it. They take their lives because their families have made a life together impossible.

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The family feud between the Capulets and the Montagues drives the plot of the play. Although the reasons for their feud seem to be lost in the mists of history, Capulets and Montagues continue to be deadly enemies. Romeo and Juliet, therefore, represent the ultimate forbidden love. Their relationship, including their marriage, must be kept a deep secret, for the Capulets would most likely kill Romeo if they were to find out that he wed one of theirs.

The family feud works to physically separate the lovers. The prince of Verona, utterly fed up with the street fighting, murder, and mayhem, has declared he will pass the death penalty on any of the family members found brawling. When Romeo murders Tybalt in a fit of anger because Tybalt murdered Mercutio, Romeo has to flee Verona.

Family dynamics also enter the picture when Juliet's father decides she must marry Paris. Of course, he doesn't know his daughter is already married to a hated Montague.

Family thus determines the tragic fate that dogs the two young lovers. An arbitrary feud between their families costs them their lives.

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In William Shakespeare's tragedy Romeo and Juliet, family plays an important role in motivating characters' actions, conflicts, and choices. 

Romeo and Juliet belong to two different families of the noble class living in Verona. The families have been engaged in a feud for as long as anyone can remember, to the point that everyone has forgotten the initial cause of the feud. As such, family is first and foremost associated with conflict and with loyalty. One does not choose one's side in this conflict; one is born into one side or the other. It is expected that each member of the family will participate in the feud on his or her designated side based solely on family loyalty. 

In Juliet's case, family also develops some of the true complexities of parent-child relationships. The Capulets only want the best for their daughter, including marriage prospects, and as such they push her into making certain choices. In doing so, they do not consider Juliet's preferences, trusting that they know what is best for their daughter. The result is that Juliet is driven to lie, by omission or directly, leading to conflict and ultimately to tragedy for the family. 

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