Families in Romeo and Juliet

In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare presents two families to the audience: the Montagues and the Capulets. These two families, despite their similarities, despise each other and continually battle. The conflict between the two families is almost presented to be natural until Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet fall in love. It is here that everything changes. When Romeo and Juliet die, both families apologise for their behaviour and vow to honour each other, thus remembering their children's unjust deaths.

Within the families, there are relationships which contribute to Romeo and Juliet's tragic deaths.

How is the theme of family presented in Romeo and Juliet?

In Romeo and Juliet the Capulet and Montague families are presented as:

  • similar to each other
  • warring against each other
  • apologetic and repenting for their past behaviour
How does Shakespeare show this?EvidenceAnalysis
SimilarShakespeare presents the similarities between the two families in the prologue, as he highlights to the audience how they are similar."Two households, both alike in dignity."This shows that the two families are similar. The use of the word "dignity" highlights how the families have similar principles and status in the city of Verona.
WarringIn the opening scene, Shakespeare presents the families' servants fighting against each other, for their house's honour. The families themselves quickly get involved and it turns into a fight against each other."By thee old Capulet, and Montague, have thrice disturbed the quiet of our streets."This shows the Prince's anger as Capulet and Montague have been involved in another fray on the streets of Verona, upsetting the peace. The families have "thrice disturbed the quiet of our streets" illustrating how the conflict is continuous and despite the Prince's warnings, they still continue to battle against each other.
Apologetic and repentingWhen the families discover Romeo and Juliet have committed suicide, they apologise for their behaviour and vow to uphold their memory in their hearts."O brother Montague, give me thy hand."This shows that Capulet wishes Montague to forgive him for their previous arguments. Capulet's address of Montague as "brother" illustrates how he wants their relationship to move forward; they are like brothers due to their deceased children's marriage.

Analysing the evidence

Thou wast the prettiest babe that e'er I nursed.
An I might live to see thee married once,
I have my wish.
Act 1 Scene 3

How does Shakespeare present the Nurse's feelings towards Juliet in this quotation?

NURSE: "Thou wast the prettiest babe that e'er I nursed. An I might live to see thee married once, I have my wish."

  • "prettiest" - the Nurse is declaring Juliet as the "prettiest" of all the babes she has ever nursed. This shows how the Nurse favourites Juliet and her beauty.
  • "I nursed" - this indicates that Juliet and the Nurse have a special connection, as it was the Nurse who nursed Juliet - she breast-fed her and made sure she was healthy through her early years.
  • "I have my wish" - this shows that the Nurse wishes for Juliet's happiness, putting Juliet's happiness before her own.
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