When William Shakespeare wrote 'Romeo and Juliet' (thought to be 1595-7) the story was already well-known as a tale of young, forbidden love. (Source: The Oxford Companion to English Literature, Ed. Margaret Drabble.) In writing his play as a 'romantic tragedy', Shakespeare presented a true love doomed by family feuds, rivalry, jealousy, revenge, secrecy and fate. The familiar idea of Romeo as a romantic lover, thwarted by feuds and family loyalty, would have been appreciated by his 16th Century audience, in a time of divided religions and family loyalties, war and codes of honour.
Shakespeare set 'Romeo and Juliet' in 12th Century Verona as one of the as one the original settings and also because Italy would be understood to represent somewhere romantic, hot-blooded and with a history of feuds and vendettas. Romeo first appears as a young man already in love with Rosaline and is persuaded to gatecrash the Capulet's masked ball.
He instantly falls in love with Juliet, marries her secretly but then tragically kills her cousin Tybalt in revenge for the murder of his friend Mercutio. Romeo is then banished, attempts to re-unite with Juliet but, fatefully, their plans go wrong and they both die tragically. Only then do their families, the feuding Montagues and Capulets, admit that their enmity had doomed the lovers.
Act III, Scene I is a pivotal point of the play, advancing the plot by forcing Romeo into violence, murder and exile. The feud between the Montague and the Capulets is, therefore, re-inforced towards the tragic ending. The characterisation is also vital, revealing how a disagreeable quarrel becomes murderous and the cause of Romeo's banishment.
At the opening of the scene Benvolio, Romeo's kinsman and friend, is anxious to avoid a quarrel. He signals his awareness that trouble may...