Every Action Must Have an Equal and Opposite Reaction: Society’s Role in the Outcome of Romeo and Juliet
Newton’s third law states that every action must have an equal and opposite reaction, and while this statement references physics, it is a statement that can be applied to infinite situations and subjects, and rings particularly true in the case of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The passionate teenaged lovers end tragically as a result of an oppressive and controlling society and while the supporting characters’ meddling played a part in their demise, the cause of the couple’s abrupt and premature death is an upper-class society trying to have a far too specific control on the lives of its members, instituting Newton’s third law.
While the plot shows evidence of this filleted and laid upon a plate, Shakespeare laces evidence of it through his writing. For example, while Romeo was purchasing a poison from an impoverished apothecary, he shows how conscious he is of society’s and money’s role in his situation: ‘There is thy gold, worse poison than men’s souls/Doing more murder in this loathsome world/Than these poor compounds that thou mayst not sell/I sell thee poison; thou hast sold me none’ (5.1.84). Money’s prominent role in the society of Romeo and Juliet leads people to do drastic things and the chances are high that money played a role in the beginning of the two family’s feud. This of course leads to the ending of Romeo and Juliet. If the society hadn’t been the way it had, perhaps Romeo and Juliet wouldn’t have fallen in love in the first place, thus rebelling against their families, and if they had, they wouldn’t have to continue it in secret.
This is perhaps the only part of Romeo and Juliet that isn’t applicable to any other time, because while our society, and almost all others, are equally oppressive, it is oppressive in entirely different ways. A reasonably realistic modern interpretation of Romeo and Juliet would feature a homosexual couple, because, partly because of stories like Romeo and Juliet, there is not very much resistance to heterosexual romance the likes of Romeo’s and Juliet’s. Also the largest resistance to homosexuality is within the wealthier society, like that of the Capulets and Montagues. The blame of Romeo and Juliet’s death would still fall on the shoulders of society and the original message could be translated and preserved perfectly.
In conclusion, Romeo and Juliet’s untimely death is a narrative on the consequences of society. The point of the play wasn’t to know what had happened-that was something that is told to the audience before the play even begins. It is to know why what happened happened.