The Montague-Capulet Feud in 'Romeo and Juliet'

The Montague-Capulet Feud in 'Romeo and Juliet'

In Shakespeare's tragedy "Romeo and Juliet", two noble families are at war with each other, a state of affairs which ultimately dooms the young lovers. Romeo is of House Montague and Juliet is a Capulet. We never learn the origin of the feud between the two families, but it pervades the play from the very first scene when servants from each house get into a fight.

All of the major events in "Romeo and Juliet" are driven by the Montague-Capulet dispute. But after the tragic death of their children at the end of the play, both families agree to bury their grievances and acknowledge their losses.

Via their tragic deaths, Romeo and Juliet resolve the long-standing conflict between their respective families, but unfortunately, do not live to enjoy the peace. But who's who in the Montague-Capulet feud? The following list divides the play's characters by family:

House of Montague

The House of Montague includes these key players:

  • Montague. Father to Romeo and married to Lady Montague, he's concerned about his son at the start of the play and asks Benvolio to help him figure out what's bothering Romeo.
  • Lady Montague. Romeo's mother is less of a presence in the play than Juliet's mother, but in the few scenes we see her, she appears to love her son deeply. When Romeo is banished, she dies of grief.
  • Romeo. The son, and heir of the Montague house, Romeo is 16 years old and falls in and out of “love” easily, until meeting Juliet. He kills Tybalt after Tybalt kills Romeo's friend Mercutio.
  • Benvolio. He is Montague's nephew and Romeo's cousin. Benvolio tries to be a good influence on Romeo, persuading him to forget about the erstwhile Rosaline. He mainly acts as a peacemaker and friend to Romeo.
  • Balthasar. Romeo's serving man unintentionally tells Romeo of Juliet's “death” (In fact, she's taken poison to appear dead).

House of Capulet

  • Lord Capulet. Juliet's father is the family patriarch and tries to control his daughter by arranging a marriage to Paris. When she refuses, he calls her terrible names and threatens to throw her out:
Hang thee, young baggage! disobedient wretch!
I tell thee what: get thee to church o' Thursday,
Or never after look me in the face
And you be mine, I'll give you to my friend;
And you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets!
  • Lady Capulet. Juliet's mother, while more understanding of her daughter is almost as angered by Juliet's refusal to marry Paris as Lord Capulet is. She dismisses Juliet outright: "Talk not to me, for I'll not speak a word; do as thou wilt, for I am done with thee."
  • Juliet Capulet. At age 13, Juliet is about to be married to Paris and is deeply unhappy about it. But everything changes when she meets Romeo, despite his being from the rival Montague family. The two fall in love and are secretly married, but end up killing themselves when each believes the other to be dead.
  • Juliet's Nurse. She is more of a mother figure to Juliet than Lady Capulet and knows the young woman better than anyone else in her family. The Nurse's sense of humor lends some much-needed levity to the play. She's the only one who helps Juliet in her quest to be with Romeo, even though she doesn't fully understand the intensity of Juliet's feelings.
  • Tybalt. Lady Capulet's nephew and Juliet's cousin is the main antagonist of Romeo and Juliet, owing to his deep hatred of the Montagues. Short-tempered and vindictive, Tybalt is quick to draw his sword in anger. His killing is a pivotal moment in the play.