These Violent Delights Have Violent Ends Meaning

What is the significance of this quote to the play "Romeo and Juliet"? 

"These violent delights have violent ends"  (Act 2. Scene 6. Line 9)

Asked on by tmdarling

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Violence is a motif that permeates the entire drama of Romeo and Juliet as characters act upon their passions in scene after scene:

  • The street brawl between the feuding "two households" opens the play. In this scene, the servants all the way up to the lords of the households engage in insults and swordplay. Benvolio describes to Lord Montague how Tybalt "...swung about his head and cut the winds" in a threatening manner.
  • When Tybalt hears that Romeo has made himself a guest at their party, he suggests violence, "It fits when such a villain is a guest/I'll not endure him." (1.1)
  • In the famous balcony scene of the second act, Juliet is fearful of the violence of Romeo's emotions, urging him to be more prudent, "O swear not by the inconstant moon" (2.2)
  • In Act II, Scene 6, Friar Laurence warns Romeo against his passion, as well, urging moderation, "...love moderately, long love doth so."
  • In Act III, Mercutio engages in emotive words with Tybalt. When Romeo tries to intervene, tempers are already on fire and Tybalt uses his advantage to stab Mercution. Enraged, Romeo then kills Tybalt and must flee Verona for fear of death because of the decree of the Prince.
  • Learning of this, Juliet finds herself in a storm of emotions, "What storm is this that blows so contrary? (3.2) and she impulsively runs to Friar Laurence, flinging herself down in despair until Friar Laurence devises his plan.
  • In the final act, of course, the tragic results of the violence of emotions is effected. Romeo slays Paris and himself in his violent despair. Then, Friar Laurence himself is guilty of imprudence and a violent reaction of fear as he flees the tomb, leaving Juliet alone with the violence of her emotions when she discovers her husband is dead.
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sullymonster's profile pic

sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Friar Lawrence says this to Romeo just before the wedding.  He is trying to tell Romeo to "love moderately", meaning to not be too extreme in his feelings.   The Friar suggests that when a feeling is expressed with such exaggeration, with no limits, than the feeling is likely to die out.

This quote has importance because it foreshadows the ending of the  play as well.  The "violent delights", meaning the passionate love, of the two teenagers do bring about violent ends for both. 

Also, this quote is symbolic of the plays theme.  All of the violent delights of the characters, both love and hate, result in tragic ends.  Mercutio and Tybalt and wrapped up in emotion and duel.  When Mercutio is killed, Romeo's grief puts him in a murderous rage.  The message is that when humans allow emotion to take control and to be exaggerated, then they are putting themselves in danger.

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