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The Theme of Hatred in “Romeo and Juliet”

Hate plays a pivotal role in the play. The long feud between the families (‘from ancient grudge’) and when individuals fight like Tybalt and Mercutio (‘Tybalt, you rat-catcher, will you walk?’) are some examples of where this is shown. Further illustrations are: Firstly, the sonnet in the play opens with a short piece of text which describes, summarises and dramatizes the love and hatred in the play. Next, Shakespeare describes the key points and themes of the play and summarises the plot. We also know that there is a conflict between the two families and a contrasting theme (hatred and love).

It tells us about the feud between the families and the fights they get into, the love between Romeo and Juliet (destiny) and how they both die at the end. This immediately introduces the disgust between the families that there is throughout the play. It explores the fact that the two families really loath each other and have always fought. This alone shows us the hate the characters have for each other. You could also say that the themes explored here are an oxymoron as Shakespeare explores both hate and love, two opposites.

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Also, the love between Romeo and Juliet is forbidden and always includes some thought or action to do with their hate. This could be described as an oxymoron because even when they are with each other, there is still an element of hate between them. Other language devices used include repetition of the word civil, ‘Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.’ This emphasizes the fact that the people are doing wrong and that hate is everywhere in public. This could also be an oxymoron because if someone is civil, they would not usually draw ‘blood.’ In this sonnet, Shakespeare does not say why there is an ancient grudge between the families.

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This leaves an unanswered question for the audience to contemplate, adding drama to the play because they do not know the cause of the hate. Was it something between two distant relatives that sparked a grudge? Or was it a natural rivalry between leading families? Furthermore, the use of the adjectives fatal, piteous and fearful adds to the effect of hate because they are negative words and can be associated with hate. If we look more closely at the words, we can see how they link to other play parts—for example, the word fatal means to cause death or cause something terrible to go wrong.

This is reflected at the end of the play by the fact that because the letter was not delivered, both Romeo and Juliet died (a fatal mistake). Fearful means to be anxious or nervous about your safety. This fearfulness is reflected a lot in the lay because there are many fights where your life is in danger. Lastly, the word piteous means to receive or to cause pity. The fact that Romeo and Juliet died at the end of the play can obtain pity. This could be presented dramatically in a way that would mean that the audience does not know exactly what will happen, making the play exciting. They know that the two lovers will die and that there will be fights and hate between the families but nothing more.

There is also another part in the play in which Mercutio is involved in hate. This happens in Act 3 Scene 1, where Tybalt and Mercutio fight. The fight is caused by Mercutio, who provokes Tybalt by defending Romeo from Tybalt’s criticisms. Sadly, Mercutio dies at the hands of Tybalt, and so with revenge in his sight, Romeo fights and kills Tybalt. This play has many fight scenes showing the Elizabethan audience’s interest in violence and bloodshed. Any audience likes to see fights, so for a play to be good and worthy of watching, it must have violence.

Shakespeare would have known this, which is probably why he added so many fight scenes, other than to add drama and show the contrast in themes. This scene shows that the two houses still have their differences and hate each other. This, in the end, goes against them, with death on both sides. In this scene, we can find hatred coming from both Tybalt and Mercutio. Tybalt shows his hatred towards Romeo before the fight, ‘Romeo, the love I bear thee can afford no better term than this-thou art a villain.’ This quote shows how much Tybalt despises Romeo even after Romeo explains why he was at the party and that he, in fact, loves the Capulet (Juliet).

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It is also exciting that Tybalt called Romeo a ‘villain’ rather than another name. One would normally associate a villain with a criminal or someone who has stolen something, not what Romeo did. However, despite Romeo’s excuses, Tybalt still wants to fight him and so attacks Romeo, angering Mercutio. This is when Mercutio fights Tybalt and Mercutio dies. The hatred that Mercutio shows is surprisingly towards both houses. As he is dying, he says, ‘A plague on both your houses!’ This tells us that after all his anger towards Tybalt, Mercutio is, in fact, angry, almost disappointed at both sides.

He also seems to predict what may happen in the future, which of course, does happen; both Romeo and Juliet die. Thus, Shakespeare has explored two very different parts of hatred, one for the enemy (Tybalt to Romeo) and one for a friend (Mercutio to his house). This gives an exciting twist to the plot; we would never have expected Mercutio to be angry at his friend. However, this scene could be presented dramatically in a way that would convey the character’s anger. By using an increasingly elevated voice, anger and frustration can be shown. Also, the use of an exclamation mark (which is used in Mercutio’s part, ‘A plague on both your houses!’) emphasizes the sentence and further reiterates the character’s anger.

Moreover, the fact that they are fighting and one dies means that excitement is added to the scene. Furthermore, the language used by Mercutio can be a connotation of many things. For example, the word plague can be associated with death, pain and misery. This seems to be a perfect reflection of what happens at the end of the book: the death and pain that Romeo and Juliet went through and the pain and misery that the houses went through. Shakespeare raises the issue of hatred in this section by angrily writing Mercutio’s part. Mercutio curses Romeo and everyone else at the scene of his death. Shakespeare also uses a lot of negative words in the text, like plague and pain.

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This also brings more hatred into the play. Shakespeare may have done this to emphasize how passionately both families hate each other. A killing on each side of the family shows that hate is a base for the play. The fighting also builds up tension making the play a lot more interesting, and it detracts from the other theme: love. This varies the play and also makes it more appealing. In conclusion, this play obviously has more hatred than first impressions give. This hatred is portrayed in several ways, including the language of the play and how it is spoken and acted. Overall, it seems that every time love surfaces, it is drowned with hatred.

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The Theme of Hatred in "Romeo and Juliet". (2021, Sep 15). Retrieved August 14, 2022, from