Historical Context of Romeo and Juliet (Religion and superstition (Most…
Historical Context of Romeo and Juliet
Religion and superstition
Friar Lawrence, who represents religion in the play, repeatedly breaks conduct, believing that he should do so to end the feud in Verona.
'Fate' was a popular notion at the time as opposed to the more pagan concept of random chance.
Religious tradition is ignored by most of the characters in Romeo and Juliet, although religion itself serves an important role in the play.
In the area now called Italy, Catholicism was the most popular religion, while in England there was divide between Catholics and Protestants based on different regions and the nobles controlling them.
Most people were religious in Shakespeare's time and everyone held superstitions.
Most churches had adapted to make the common superstitions fit into their doctrine.
The law, government and authority
The law being violated in the name of honour was not considered highly immoral, and characters do this multiple times in Romeo and Juliet.
The only authority figure outside of the houses, Prince Escales, is responsible for keeping peace and enforcing law within Verona, a station he has due to being a Prince.
Most authority was held by landowners and law enforcing nobles. Landowners and wealthy houses had a lot of influence in their local areas,
Both house Montague and Capulet are wealthy houses, but both are subject to the law in Romeo and Juliet, although how seriously the houses are punished in the end is left unclear.
Neither England nor any Italian state had a regular police force - they were reliant on a few nobles who would represent the law, such as Justices of the Peace.
At the time, central government was weak when it came to every day governing. It mostly controlled things such as taxation, foreign affairs and some military matters.
Family in Shakespeare's time
Family plays an important role in Romeo and Juliet, with even supposedly neutral characters such as the Prince being motivated by familial relations.
Extended family would usually live very close, as transportation was difficult and expensive for all but the wealthiest.
Very few in society, such as orphans and monks, were completely isolated from any family.
Amongst the poorer classes, family may be all someone has, while amongst the wealthier classes families were directly tied to wealth and fortune.
Family was considered the most important aspect of life by many in Shakespeare's time.