How is the theme of hate portrayed in Romeo and Juliet?

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In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet there's clearly enmity between Romeo's family, the Montagues and Juliet's family, the Capulets. The Chorus even says so in the opening lines of the play.

CHORUS. 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. (Prologue, 1-4)

It's an animosity that occasionally erupts into open hostility and violence—sometimes deadly violence—but does the enmity and animosity between the two families rise to the level of hatred? Is hatred the driving force in the Montague and Capulet's interactions with each other? Is hatred the driving force in the play?

The theme of a play drives the action of a play forward. Shakespeare's Othello is driven forward by Iago's hatred for Othello. Everything of consequence that happens in Othello is a result of Iago's hatred for Othello.

The action in Romeo and Juliet isn't driven forward by the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets, or their supposed hatred for each other, but by the love of Romeo and Juliet. The feud between the Montagues and the Capulets is important to the play, but it's incidental to the forward movement of the play.

From the moment that Romeo and Juliet meet and fall in love, the play is driven forward by what they do. Their actions are based on their love for each other, not on the feud between their families. The feud establishes the environment of antagonism and distrust between their families in which Romeo and Juliet's live, and the feud influences their decisions, certainly, but if Romeo and Juliet at any time surrender their love to the feud, the play is over.

The Prologue to act 1 is about the feuding families, which sets the environment for the play. The Prologue to act 2 is about Romeo and Juliet, which focuses the action of the play on them, not the feud.

Tybalt is the only character in Romeo and Juliet whose actions seem to be motivated by hatred for the Montagues, collectively and individually, but are his actions truly motivated by hatred, or by his self-assumed duty to protect the Capulets' reputation?

Tybalt believes that, as an honorable Capulet and defender of the Capulets' name, it's his duty to hate the Montagues. But even the head of the Capulet family, Lord Capulet himself, doesn't hate any of the Capulets, even those who show up uninvited at his feast. Lord Capulet specifically forbids Tybalt from acting on his hatred for Romeo for having "crashed" the Capulets' party.

Lord Capulet is much more concerned about having his party go well than with defending his family's honor and letting Tybalt cause a brawl with the Montagues in his own home.

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From the outset of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet the audience knows that hatred is one the themes of the play. In the Prologue, Shakespeare calls the rivalry between the Montagues and Capulets an "ancient grudge" and refers to "mutiny," "rage"...

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and "strife."

Hatred rules the day in Act I, Scene 1 as the Capulet servants announce they will rape the Montague women and incite violence by using insulting gestures. Tybalt, Lord Capulet's cousin, is characterized as full of bitterness toward the Montagues. When he first appears he threatens the peacemaking Benvolio:

What, drawn and talk of peace? I hate the wordAs I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee.Have at thee, coward!
Tybalt again shows his antagonism in Act I, Scene 5 when he overhears Romeo at Capulet's party. He calls for his sword and is ready to fight in the midst of the festivities. He is dissuaded by Capulet, who doesn't want the party spoiled, but this only works to enflame Tybalt's rage and he vows revenge:
Patience perforce with willful choler meetingMakes my flesh tremble in their different greeting.I will withdraw, but this intrusion shall,Now seeming sweet, convert to bitt’rest gall.
Friar Lawrence is inspired to bring the hatred to an end when he agrees with Romeo's request to marry Juliet, despite his misgivings over the speed of the proceedings. He believes the marriage will bring the feud to an end and unite the families. In Act II, Scene 3 he says, 
But come, young waverer, come, go with me.In one respect I’ll thy assistant be,For this alliance may so happy proveTo turn your households’ rancor to pure love.
Mercutio too, incites hatred in Act III, Scene 1. He ignores Benvolio's warnings to get off the street and avoid the Capulets. On cue, Tybalt shows up looking for Romeo, labeling him a villain. When Romeo backs down to Tybalt, because he has just secretly married Juliet, Tybalt's cousin, Mercutio is incensed by Romeo's cowardice and challenges Tybalt himself. After being fatally wounded he curses both families for his demise:
A plague o’ both your houses!They have made worms’ meat of me.I have it, and soundly, too. Your houses!
Lady Capulet joins in the acrimony by classifying Benvolio a liar and calling for Romeo's death after the death of Tybalt:
He is a kinsman to the Montague.Affection makes him false; he speaks not true.Some twenty of them fought in this black strife,And all those twenty could but kill one life.I beg for justice, which thou, prince, must give.Romeo slew Tybalt; Romeo must not live.
The hatred ultimately leads to the tragic suicides of the title characters. The Prince sums up the bitter feud and its consequences in Act V, Scene 3. He also laments his own losses since both Mercutio and Paris were related to him:
Where be these enemies?—Capulet, Montague,See what a scourge is laid upon your hate,That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love,And I, for winking at your discords too,Have lost a brace of kinsmen. All are punished.
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Why and how does Shakespeare include hate as one of the main themes in Romeo and Juliet?

One of Shakespeare's more central points in the play is to show the harmfulness of intense, passionate, violent, uncontrolled emotions as opposed to calm, rational, reason. That's one reason why both love and hatred are in the play. Shakespeare is not showing them to be emotions that are polar opposites. Instead, he is showing that violent, uncontrolled love is just as harmful, even deadly, as violent, uncontrolled hatred and that there really are no clear distinctions between the emotions. Hence, hatred is an underlying theme of the more central theme concerning uncontrolled emotions vs. rational thought.One place in which we can clearly see that Shakespeare wants to show there is very little distinction between violent love and violent hate and how both are harmful emotions is in Romeo's early speeches in the very opening scene. When Romeo sees the damage left over from the opening battle scene, his first response after asking what has happened is to point out, "Here's much to do with hate, but more with love. / Why then, O brawling love! O loving hate! ..." (I.i.173-74). While in this speech he is moaning over Rosaline's rejection, these lines also characterize the entire essence of the play. Romeo is pointing out that the Capulets' and Montagues' brawl has just as much to do with hatred as it does with love--that there really isn't a clear distinction between hatred and love, especially because both are violent, irrational emotions. He is pointing out that the reason why the two families are feuding is because they hate each other, but more importantly, they hate each other due to what we could call love. They hate each other because they love themselves, their ideals, and their principles, which they think are so much more important than the other family's ideals and principles that they must fight each other. Hence, Romeo is extremely correct to point out that their feud has as much to do with love as hatred and even that hatred can be caused by a certain violent, irrational, uncontrolled love. Therefore we see Shakespeare's central point is to assert that there really are no clear distinctions between love and hatred and that both emotions when allowed to be violent, irrational, and uncontrolled can lead to just as much damage in contrast to the use of the rational mind.

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How is hate intertwined within Romeo and Juliet?

In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the theme of hate is most prominently seen in the feud that exists between the Capulets and Montagues. It is because of this ongoing feud—and no one remembers why it even started—that Romeo and Juliet not only meet and marry in secret, but also die. Their families will not let the past go, but insist upon feeding the hate that stands between them.

One of the play's themes is hatred.

Hatred breeds disaster, and the feuding families’ blind intolerance is punished with the deaths of their children.

This hatred is found at the beginning of the play. Although the Prince has outlawed any fighting associated with the feud, Capulet's servants are still prepared to do battle, most especially Sampson. While Gregory explains that it is only their quarrel because it is their master's quarrel, Sampson is ready to fight and face the hangman's noose.

Enter Benvolio and Tybalt. While Benvolio tries to stop the brewing fight from taking off, Tybalt (a real hothead) is ready to come to blows with Benvolio. He is concise about what (and who) he hates. He draws on Benvolio:


What, drawn, and talk of peace? I hate the word As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee. Have at thee, coward! (Act I, Scene 1, lines 65-67)

Old Capulet and Old Montague enter with their wives. Each man is ready to fight, and each wife tries to stop her husband from drawing his sword.

In Act III, Scene 1, Tybalt comes upon Mercutio while looking for Romeo. The two men throw insults at each other, and Mercutio is ready to cross swords with Tybalt. Romeo arrives and tries to make peace. Because Romeo previously attended the Capulets' ball uninvited, Tybalt is furious. Even though Capulet told Tybalt to leave Romeo alone, Tybalt announces that he is looking for and wants to fight Romeo. As they come face to face, Tybalt challenges Romeo:


Romeo, the love I bear thee can afford No better term than this: thou art a villain (lines 59-60).

Tybalt does not "love" Romeo; he hates him. Romeo does his best to prevent violence. He asks Benvolio for his help and tells Tybalt that he (Romeo) has no quarrel with him. As Romeo tries to shield Mercutio and keep the sword fight at bay, Tybalt slides under Romeo's arm with his sword and kills Mercutio. Stunned with disbelief and self-hatred for not standing up to Tybalt (even though he did it for Juliet's sake—Tybalt is her cousin), Romeo pursues and kills Tybalt.

The hate established in this scene initially involves Tybalt and Mercutio. When Romeo arrives, it shifts, but Tybalt takes a cheap shot and kills Mercutio. Romeo's anger gets the best of him, and he exacts revenge for his friend's death.

As the end of the play approaches, Paris's hate for the Montagues is obvious. Paris is infuriated that Romeo killed Juliet's cousin, Tybalt. When Romeo arrives at Juliet's burial site to see the woman he believes is dead, Paris (who is already there) attacks. Romeo tries to warn Paris off, but the other man cannot be reasoned with, and Romeo kills Paris to defend himself. Romeo, still believing Juliet is dead, poisons himself and dies. When Juliet wakes and sees Romeo dead, she stabs herself with his dagger and dies. 

An alarm goes out in grief over Paris, Romeo, and Juliet. The Capulets and Montagues meet the Prince. Lady Montague has just died out of grief over Romeo's banishment. Now the parents of the young couple learn what has happened—all because of their feud. Capulet offers his hand to Montague, and the two men make peace. Montague says he will build a statue to honor Juliet. Capulet will do the same for Romeo, noting that the statues are "Poor sacrifices of our enmity" (Act V, Scene 3, line 316).

In other words, the statues mean little in light of what has been lost—Romeo and Juliet, their beloved children—because of the hate that existed between these two men and their families.

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