What Can End a Feud?

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet two families “alike in dignity” have been feuding for all time. In the prologue of the tragedy it is stated that “Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. / From forth the fatal loins of these two foes / A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life, / Whose misadventured piteous overthrows / Doth with their death bury their parent’s strife” (1.1.4-8). From the very beginning of the play, readers understand that the only way that this feud will end is with the blood of the lovers Romeo and Juliet.

One must wonder about the reasoning for the end of the feud though. Is it simply because blood is shed that the warring between the two families ends or is it specifically because Romeo and Juliet were in love? In Act Three Scene One a street fight leads to the deaths of both Mercutio and Tybalt, yet it only strengthens the hatred between the families as shown by Lady Capulet arguing for the death of Romeo “Prince, as thou art true, / For blood of ours shed blood of Montague!” (3.1.143-144). The death of Mercutio and Tybalt forced both Romeo and Lady Capulet to seek revenge not to realize that the cause of their deaths were fueled by petty arguments between the two families.

Therefore, what makes Romeo and Juliet cause the ending of the feud between the families? In the prologue it states that the two “Star-crossed lovers take their lives.” Perhaps because of this, the act of taking one’s own life out of love for another rather than attacking in fury or hate is what causes the families to realize their faults. It seems as if Shakespeare, in his play, is asking the reader to make a distinction between the causes of both hate and love. As he says, “And the continuance of of their parent’s rage / Which but their children’s end, naught could remove,” (1.1.10-11). It seems as if Shakespeare is stating that the Capulets and Montagues only become aware of their pettiness after the deliberate deaths of their two children who wanted to be together, rather than two deaths based on hate.

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3 thoughts on “What Can End a Feud?

  1. pamsutherland

    When Romeo and Juliet die, the feud ends. When Romeo and Juliet die, both families end, die in essence. There is no lineage left to carry out the names. Perhaps this aids in the reconciliation, there will be an end to the feud because there is no hope for the families to continue past the current generation.

    Yes, by marrying, Romeo and Juliet showed the families that there is hope and the feud can end. This simple act of love combined with the complete loss of family lineage (something amazingly important to both families) was enough for the stubborn enemies to see the unwanted results of the feud. These results, so devastating, were more powerful than the instinct built in after ages of feuding. The loss was finally enough for them to learn a lesson. The cost – everything!

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  2. gagnonr1

    I’d gather to say the feud ends due to that the death of their children, Tybalt, Paris, and Mercutio: all of this bloodshed happened simply because the two families were feuding. Had the Capulets and Montagues not been feuding, none of the bloodshed would have happened. There wouldn’t have been any street brawl. Romeo and Juliet would’ve probably already had met and fallen in love without having to hide their affairs. I think when the families saw their children did with the poison and dagger laying with them, they finally saw just what the price of having these long-lasting feuds can have detrimental affects in which death would and did have a factor. A major factor.

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  3. cassieerossetti

    I feel like you’ve touched on the reasoning but didn’t get the whole idea. I think it was a combination of the fact that there was death and the fact that it was Romeo and Juliet who died. Through their love they showed their families that the feud was pointless, and the tragedy of their deaths I think finally put the whole situation into perspective for both the Capulets and the Montagues.

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