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Factors That Influenced Shakespeare's Writing Of Romeo And Juliet

1138 words - 5 pages

Factors that Influenced Shakespeare's Writing of Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare was clearly influenced by the events of his time, and this
is apparent especially in Romeo and Juliet. To dismiss this play as a
mere fable is to overlook some very important religious and political
changes of the time which are evidently woven into the storyline of
the play.

Shakespeare's religious beliefs are uncertain, but it is known that
his father was Catholic, and that he lived in a time of religious
stratification across both community and family ties. As a result of
the queen's toleration for vagueness in this area, people became
accustomed to "religious tension and confusion at a very personal
level". Many of Shakespeare's works reflect that tension. It is known
that these issues had affect on everyone living in England.

Romeo and Juliet is a play based around conflict; the conflict of two
families in discord with one another. The youth of the play cause
violence and death due to their extreme beliefs and actions.

If the family relationships are considered as a miniature
representation of the greater social structure then the possibility of
specific themes that are integrated into Shakespeare's play arises.

Firstly, consider Religious Extremism versus the Elizabethan
Settlement. Shakespeare is attacking neither the Catholics nor the
Protestants. What he does condemn is the senseless and radical actions
of youth in the play.

In Romeo and Juliet, the older generation has evidently made peace and
learned to live together, which resembles the principles of the
Settlement. The families are still separate entities, but they have
learned to live together, almost in peace, just as Catholics and
Protestants still existed as separate faiths but were brought together
in compromise through the Church of England and the Elizabethan
Settlement.

The youth of England however, were not content with the Settlement.
This applies especially to the Protestant youth who wanted "the
Reformation to be completed on a model provided by Jean Calvin's
Geneva". Otherwise known as Puritans, they viewed the Settlement as a
kind of intermediate state. This extreme version of Protestantism, as
well as the remaining Catholics whose loyalty still belonged only to
the Pope, continued to prevent the nation from reaching religious
stability.

Shakespeare, who was a loyal subject and supporter of the queen,
offers a commentary on this situation in Romeo and Juliet. The Queen's
church reflected her own "likings for the externals of Catholic
worship" and she hated the "religious enthusiasm" of the Puritan
movement. The Settlement also allowed her to stay in control over the
state religion, whereas the Puritan belief in independent church
government undermined her power and the national unity she tried to
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