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Individuals vs. Society in Romeo and Juliet

This is an English project about the conflicts of individuals and society in Romeo and Juliet.
by

Lloyd Torres

on 17 November 2012

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Transcript of Individuals vs. Society in Romeo and Juliet

Individual Society Since the dawn of civilization... ...many wars... ...conflicts... ...struggles... ...and rebellions... ...have been fought because of... This conflict is a recurring theme in Shakespeare's... Seriously. Yes, I know it isn't on the list, but bear with me. In the play and its adaptions, Romeo, Juliet and the other characters must decide if they should follow their individual desires, or bow down to society's will. Romeo and Juliet > ? The characters deal with pressure from... Family Government Religion Not proud you have, but thankful that you have.
Proud can I never be of what I hate,
But thankful even for hate that is meant love.

Juliet Capulet
Act 3, Scene 5, 146-148 In this scene, Juliet is informed of her arranged marriage with Count Paris. She says the aforementioned quote to Lady Capulet to express her individual opinion that she does not wish to marry Paris. Lord Capulet disagrees with her, however. “How, how, how, how? Chopped logic! What is this?
“Proud,” and “I thank you,” and “I thank you not,”
And yet “not proud”? Mistress minion you,
Thank me no thankings, nor proud me no prouds

Lord Capulet
Act 3, Scene 5,149-152 As Lord Capulet is the head of the House of Capulet, this is essentially a societal institute (family) conflicting against the will of an individual (Juliet). Office of His Excellency Escalus By the grace of God, Prince of Verona, Esquire, etc. Rebellious subjects, enemies to peace,
Profaners of this neighbor-stained steel!—-
Will they not hear?—-What, ho! You men, you beasts,
That quench the fire of your pernicious rage
With purple fountains issuing from your veins,
On pain of torture, from those bloody hands
Throw your mistempered weapons to the ground,
And hear the sentence of your moved prince.
Three civil brawls, bred of an airy word,
By thee, old Capulet, and Montague,
Have thrice disturbed the quiet of our streets
And made Verona’s ancient citizens
Cast by their grave-beseeming ornaments,
To wield old partisans in hands as old,
Cankered with peace, to part your cankered hate.
If ever you disturb our streets again,
Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.
For this time, all the rest depart away.

(I.i.71-88) Prince Escalus says that quote after he breaks up the fight between the houses of Montague and Capulet. As the Prince is the head of Verona's civil government (another societal institute), he is therefore imposing his will, and by extension society's, unto the will of the fighting members of both houses. He and society are conflicting with the individuals' will to fight. The characters of Romeo and Juliet sometimes find themselves conflicting with Friar Laurence, a representative of the Church... ...and also conflict with the values that the Church adheres to. The Veronesi Affair Memoirs of Friar Laurence:
The Man Behind It All Recipient of the Stephen T. Colbert
Award For The Literary Excellence I must admit, I was originally reluctant to marry Romeo and Juliet. When the young master asked me to marry them, I said, "......Young men’s love then lies / Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes" (II.iii.67-68), but I eventually agreed to when there was the possibility of the union healing the bonds between the rivaling families of Montague and Capulet. I was also originally reluctant as Romeo’s faithfulness was questionable, as he originally ‘loved’ Rosaline but suddenly changed his mind when he met Juliet. Being unfaithful means that the marriage may conflict with the tenets of the Church now or in the future. For example, Romeo could get tired of Juliet and lust after someone else, which is forbidden in the Church’s doctrine. Basically, as a representative of the Church, I was conflicting with young Romeo's individual desire to marry Juliet.

I should've just refused, to be honest. I also have reason to believe that the couple ignored my advice to love moderately; in the way, they also conflicted with many values that the Church advocates. For example, Juliet once revered Romeo as a god, and says, “Or, if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self, / Which is the god of my idolatry” (II.ii.113-114) This conflicts with the Church, because the Bible says, “Do not have any other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) and “You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” (Exodus 20:4) Modern Connections Fig. 1 - Some teenagers see themselves as individuals with their own beliefs, thoughts, plans, and desires; but those are constantly opposed by society in one way or another. Some teenagers then rebel against society by doing actions that are clearly considered taboo and forbidden by society as a whole. Individual vs. society is a common example of conflict in many works of literature. For example, in the novel Fight Club (yes, it’s a novel), the antagonist, Tyler Durden, opposes the consumerist society prevalent throughout the world and seeks to destroy it with his followers. This conflict can also be seen in movies. In James Cameron's Avatar, the protagonist, Corporal Jake Sully, goes against the humans working for the RDA Corporation (which is beginning to dominate Pandora, the movie’s setting) in order to free the indigenous people living there. Personal connections...? My opinion is that individuals should have more freedom within society. However, their freedom should also be limited if it poses a danger to society as a whole, or to their well-being. In conclusion... Conflicts between an individual and society can be seen throughout Romeo and Juliet, as its characters often find themselves choosing between individual desires and bowing down to society’s demands. They mostly conflict with their family, their religion, and their government. Juliet’s desires is suppressed by her father, the characters constantly go against the values of the Church, and the government suppresses the Capulets’ and Montagues’ wish to fight. The struggle between the individual and society started since human civilization existed (and is recorded in various works of literature and art), and will continue as long as civilization exists.
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