June 12, 2024

Who Should Be Pardoned in Romeo and Juliet? An In-Depth Look

Shakespeare's timeless tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, revolves around the whirlwind romance between two young lovers from feuding families—the Montagues and Capulets. Amidst this backdrop of familial discord, the actions and decisions of several characters significantly influence the play's tragic ending. This article delves into who should be pardoned and who should be punished for their roles in the harrowing conclusion.


Benvolio: The Peacemaker

Pardoned: Benvolio emerges as a character who consistently strives to maintain peace and order. Throughout the play, he refrains from engaging in unlawful behavior and makes concerted efforts to de-escalate conflicts. For instance, in Act 1, Scene 1, he attempts to stop a fight, showcasing his peacekeeping nature.

Pacifist Actions

At the outset of the play, Benvolio tries to halt a burgeoning brawl, urging, "Part, fools" (1.1.58). His intentions and actions are rooted in a desire to prevent violence and further discord between the feuding families.

Honesty and Integrity

Benvolio's honesty is a testament to his integrity. He provides a truthful account of the events leading to the Prince, illustrating his commitment to transparency and justice: "Oh, Noble Prince, I can tell you all of the unfortunate events of this fatal brawl” (3.1.145-146). His consistent efforts to promote peace and his moral character warrant his pardon.

Friar Lawrence: The Well-Meaning but Flawed Guide

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Should be Punished: Friar Lawrence's well-intended actions inadvertently set the stage for the tragic events that unfold. His decisions, driven by a desire to help Romeo and Juliet, end up exacerbating their plight.

Irresponsible Guidance

The Friar marries Romeo and Juliet without a thorough consideration of the potential consequences. This hasty decision overlooks the broader implications of uniting the two feuding families.

Complicity in Deception

In a bid to prevent Juliet's forced marriage to Paris, Friar Lawrence devises a plan for her to fake her death. This plan, fraught with risks and dependent on perfect execution, ultimately leads to a series of miscommunications and the lovers' demise.

Lord Capulet: The Authoritarian Father

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Should be Punished: Lord Capulet's actions towards Juliet are harsh and coercive, playing a significant role in the tragic unfolding of events.

Forcing Marriage on Juliet

Capulet insists that Juliet marry Paris, disregarding her feelings and autonomy. His authoritative command, “You must get married to Paris” (3.5.117), intensifies Juliet's desperation and propels her toward drastic measures.

Threatening Disownment

When Juliet resists the forced marriage, Capulet resorts to threatening her with disownment. This severe ultimatum places unbearable pressure on Juliet, contributing to her decision to follow Friar Lawrence's perilous plan.

Thematic Considerations

Youth and Impulsiveness

The impetuous nature of Romeo and Juliet's romance—falling in love and deciding to marry within days—underscores their youth and the impulsiveness that characterizes their actions.

Parental Pressure and Authority

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Lord Capulet's authoritarian approach highlights the conflict between individual desires and societal expectations. His inability to understand or respect Juliet's wishes exacerbates the tragic outcome.

Role of Confidants

Figures like Friar Lawrence and the Nurse play pivotal roles as confidants to Romeo and Juliet. Their guidance and decisions critically shape the course of events, illustrating the profound impact of their actions.

Critical Analysis

Actions and Consequences

An in-depth analysis of each character’s actions reveals their contributions to the final tragedy. While Friar Lawrence and Lord Capulet are significant culprits due to their poor judgments and coercion, Benvolio’s role as a peacemaker justifies his pardon.

Moral and Ethical Judgment

Evaluating the story through a moral and ethical lens helps determine justice for each character. Friar Lawrence and Lord Capulet's actions warrant punishment, whereas Benvolio’s integrity and peacekeeping merit his exoneration.

In the end, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet serves as a poignant exploration of the far-reaching consequences of both well-intentioned and misguided actions, as well as the destructive nature of unchecked familial feuds.

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