Duality

The very first word of this play is two, and throughout the play we are presented again and again with pairs of people and concepts. In terms of people we have Capulets and Montagues, Romeo and Juliet, Tybalt and Benvolio. As you can see, sometimes the pairs are complementary and work together. Other times they are opposites. We also see duality in the main ideas the play deals with. For example, love and hate, war and peace, home and exile. Perhaps Shakespeare was trying to show us that everything is part of a whole.

Analysis of duality in the play

Question

How does the theme of duality affect the main characters, Romeo and Juliet?

Although Romeo and Juliet are from enemy families, they fall in love. In the initial meeting between the pair, they talk of pressing their palms together. They say:

Juliet
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,/
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.
Act 1 Scene 5

This reminds us of hands coming together in prayer and is perhaps hopeful that their love will succeed.

Question

In marrying Romeo and Juliet what does Friar Lawrence hope will happen?

Friar Lawrence hopes that in marrying the couple, their families might also find peace. He says:

Friar Lawrwence
For this alliance may so happy prove/
To turn your households' rancour to pure love
Act2 Scene 3

The duality of rancour or spite and pure love is presented by the Friar in hope that love can turn the bitterness between the Capulets and Montagues around.

You can find the theme of duality in lots of plays by Shakespeare:

  • Macbeth – this play deals with duality in many ways. Amongst other themes, it explores: foul and fair, supernatural and natural, good and evil.
  • Antony and Cleopatra – Antony is a Roman and Cleopatra is Queen of Egypt. Like Romeo and Juliet, they should be enemies, but instead they find love.
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream – the boundaries between the worlds of reality and fantasy are blurred in this play about fairies and love.
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