By Ellen R. Jewart
“Where be these enemies? Capulet! Montague!
See what a scourge is laid upon your hate,
That heaven find means to kill your joys with love.
And I for winking at your discords too
Have lost a brace of kinsmen. All are punish’d.”
Escalus, Prince of Verona, “Romeo and Juliet” William Shakespeare
I am always saddened when hatred stirs people to continue a feud long after the reason for the feud is gone. It’s so senseless for young lovers…or students at Sandy Hook…or children whose parents have divorced…or people with skin a different color than our own…are sacrificed, sometimes deliberately and sometimes unintentionally, by others. Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” says much about society in his day that is still relevant to our society today.
It is ironic that the name “Escalus” means “Measure for Measure.” In “Romeo and Juliet,” the feuding Capulets and the Montagues both lose their only children, while Escalus loses kinsmen and friends in the continuing feud between the two families.
Escalus’ comment that he is also guilty for not putting a stop to the feud indicates that, in a feud, there are no winners. There are only suffering and death. While suffering and death on the part of the feuding families is a direct result of the feud, those who stand by and watch a feud continue without insisting on measures to bring peace are guilty for failing to intervene—and, thus, also share in the guilt and suffering.
It seems that while the world may have progressed in technology, space exploration and the ability to communicate long distances in real-time, the world has not changed much since Shakespeare wrote “Romeo and Juliet.”
As a society, we often participate in the feuds of our country when we fail to consider how our actions impact society’s most vulnerable citizens – the elderly, the sick, the disabled, children, the mentally ill, and those who, because of their skin or gender preference, have been less able to secure education and work to provide basic food and shelter for themselves and their families.
The question isn’t whether we take part in discrimination and prejudice directly, but how each of us, as individuals and as a collective, work for true peace and equal opportunities. Every step we take for true peace and equal opportunities becomes a step away from the “feuds” that still wrack our society today.
After all, a society is only as good as its citizens’ daily decisions to actively seek peace and equal opportunities.