What are some quotes demonstrating rivalry in Romeo and Juliet?

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mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main rivalry in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is that between the Montagues and Capulets. Shakespeare never gives a reason for the feud but we know, from the very beginning that there is a great deal of hatred involved. It sometimes spills over into the streets, as in Act I and Act III. There are several quotes in each Act that demonstrate the intensity of the rivalry.

The opening lines of the Prologue announce the rivalry between the two wealthy families of Verona:

Two households, both alike in dignity
(In fair Verona, where we lay our scene),
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
In Act I, Scene 1 this dispute erupts in the streets as men of the house of Capulet, Gregory and Sampson, confront the Montague men by "biting their thumb" at them, which is an insult. Sampson says,
Nay, as they dare. I will bite my thumb at
them, which is disgrace to them if they bear it.
When Benvolio, a Montague and Romeo's cousin, arrives on the scene, he tries to calm down the furor but is then interrupted by Tybalt who threatens him:
What, drawn and talk of peace? I hate the word
As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee.
Have at thee, coward!
When the brawl is broken up by the Prince's men the Prince comments on the bitter feud and the violence which is part of it:
Rebellious subjects, enemies to peace,
Profaners of this neighbor-stainèd steel—
Will they not hear?—What ho! You men, you beasts,
That quench the fire of your pernicious rage
With purple fountains issuing from your veins
An excellent summation of the feud comes from Romeo as he enters the scene after the violence. He says that each side continues the feud simply because they love fighting:
O me! What fray was here?
Yet tell me not, for I have heard it all.
Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love.
Later in Act I when Tybalt discovers Romeo at Capulet's party he is angered and wants to challenge the Montague. The fuming Tybalt is dissuaded by Capulet from fighting, but his indignation is apparent and he says he will do something about it later:
Patience perforce with willful choler meeting
Makes my flesh tremble in their different greeting.
I will withdraw, but this intrusion shall,
Now seeming sweet, convert to bitt’rest gall.
At the end of Act I Juliet also feels the sting of the rivalry as she finds out that Romeo is a Montague and laments falling in love with an enemy of her family. She says,
My only love sprung from my only hate!
Too early seen unknown, and known too late!
Prodigious birth of love it is to me
That I must love a loathèd enemy.
Benvolio's words at the beginning of Act III again demonstrate the bitterness of the feud as he warns Mercutio to get off the street before the Capulets come along:
I pray thee, good Mercutio, let’s retire.
The day is hot, the Capels are abroad,
And if we meet we shall not ’scape a brawl,
For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.
When Tybalt comes on the scene he challenges Romeo. In a case of dramatic irony, because Romeo has already married Tybalt's cousin, Romeo backs down. Tybalt is not to be put off and he says,
Romeo, the love I bear thee can afford
No better term than this: thou art a villain.
There are numerous more quotes that demonstrate the ferocity of the rivalry throughout other Acts of the play as well.
Read the study guide:
Romeo and Juliet

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