How Does Shakespeare Use Conflict to Create Tension

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In Romeo and Juliet the main conflict revolves around the Capulet’s and the Montague’s old feud. This then creates tension throughout the play because this old feud branches out into a lot of conflict between individual people.

The prologue is very important in this play because it sets the way for the rest of the play, warning the audience that it is going to be a tragedy. The prologue is written in the form of a sonnet with a strict rhyme scheme and using iambic pentameter. This shows the audience that the play is going to be about love because sonnets are usually associated with love. Straight away the prologue tells you that there is going to be conflict between the two families, “Two households, both alike in dignity”, “From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.” It tells us that it is set in Verona, Italy, “In fair Verona (where we lay our scene),”. It also tells us that the families’ feud is going to result in the death of two lovers, “The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,”.
In act 1, scene 1 a fight breaks out between the Capulet’s and Montague’s and the prince must intervene to stop them fighting. This is the first scene of the play meaning that because you can already see the conflict between the families, this makes it obvious for the audience that the play is going to be full of conflict. At the beginning of the scene Sampson and Gregory, servants of the Capulet’s are insulting each other in a form of playful banter, “I mean, and we be in choler, we’ll draw.” Sampson also says “I will be civil with the maids, I will cut off their heads.” This is a deliberate play on words with maidenheads meaning virginities. Then Abram and Balthasar, servants of the Montague family arrive. Sampson says “I will bite my thumb at them,”. Biting your thumb at someone was a gesture of defiance and was very offensive in the Elizabethan era. Sampson biting his thumb at the Montague’s creates tension because it shows the conflict between the families also it give the audience the idea that there may be a fight about to occur. During the following conversation Sampson and Gregory want to fight Abram and Balthasar but they do not want to start the fight because if they do they will get in to trouble, “Let us take the law of our sides, let them begin.” This creates tension because this tells the audience that there is going to be a fight and the fight will be serious enough to get them in trouble with law. Tybalt arrives and then old Montague and old Capulet. They all join in the fight. This shows that the feud between the families is between all statuses within the family not just the head of the house or the servants.

The prince turns up with his train and tells them to stop fighting, “Throw your mistempere’d weapons to the ground,”. The prince calls the fighting families beasts, “What ho, you men, you beasts!” He also says, “that quench the fire of your pernicious rage With purple fountains issuing from your veins:”. These are all images of hell because in the Elizabethan era people were very religious and the idea of going to hell was the horrible.

In this scene you learn about two main characters; Benvolio and Tybalt. Benvolio arrives and tries to stop the fighting, “Part fools! Put up your swords, you know not what you do.” This presents Benvolio’s character as a character that doesn’t want to fight. Also he understands that the grudge is old and that it is not worth fighting about anymore. Tybalt arrives afterwards and he shows us that his character is aggressive, hates the Montague’s and enjoys fighting, “As I hate hell, all Montagues and thee.”

In act 2, scene 4 you learn that Tybalt is an accurate fighter, “he fights as you sing prick-song, keeps time, distance, and proportion;” and he is an expert in the art of duelling, “captain of compliments”. He is also called a “princox”, insolent young man. Tybault is the name of the Prince of Cats in the popular...
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