In the play Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespea
re, the voice of balanced reason is heard at the end. Until the end, however, the reason of some of the characters is overshadowed by the reckless passion of
others. Some of the characters exhibit both balanced reasoning and reckless passion throughout the play.
There are two subplots that exhibit the two types of characters. These two subplots are the feud
between the two families, and the love between the two main characters.
The first act of passion versus reason shown in the play is that of the rivalry of the two houses. The rivalry
of the houses goes on throughout the length of the play, and it eventually leads to the death of both Romeo
and Juliet. In the opening scene in the streets of Verona, there is the passion of those involved in the
fighting, against those who want the fighting to stop. The first person who is seen in the play acting in
reckless passion is Tybalt. He passionately acts for his house of Capulet:
I hate the word
As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee.
Act I, Scene I, Lines 72-73
Tybalt is definitely a character overcome with reckless passion. Often in the play does his temper snap.
Back on the streets of Verona, another character who is reckless at the time is Lord Capulet. As soon as he
sees the brawl, he wants to take part. (See Pg 57) This is obviously reckless thinking, he is not thinking
about the implications of his actions. In the scene on the street it is immediately seen who is acting with
balanced reason: Benvolio and the Prince. The minute the fighting begins, Benvolio is right there trying to
Put up your swords. You know not what you do.
Act I, Scene I, Line 66
Benvolio is the voice of reason, he sees that the brawl could become more than harmless fun. In the play
however, his voice of reasoning loses to Tybalt’s reckless passion. The Prince is the other character in the
scene who shows sound reasoning. He, like Benvolio sees the threat of the feud, and he knows that he must
put an end to the fighting. Being clear headed, he doesn’t just act irrationally, quite the opposite. He gives a
clear warning to both houses about the consequences of fighting in the street. It is in Act 3 again that the
rivalry of the houses comes into significance is when Benvolio and Mercutio are on the streets, and they
run into Tybalt. Mercutio, who is on the side of the Montague house, gets into a fight with Tybalt. Mercutio
is also extremely reckless, he is already ready to fight when he meets Tybalt. It is his recklessness that leads
to his death. Mercutio’s death sets off a spark in Romeo. Now Romeo too becomes recklessly passionate,
not really for the !
house of Montague, but more to avenge his friend’s death:
Either thou or I, or both, must go with him.
Act III, Scene I, Line 129)
In his passionate anger, Romeo just rushes into the fight not thinking the least bit about the consequences.
Luckily for him he kills Tybalt. Benvolio, still showing his clear thinking, rushes Romeo off. Only after
that does Romeo realise that he has acted rashly. (III. I. 137) Benvolio stays to give a fair account of what
has happened. (III. I. 152-175) After the fight the Prince arrives. Again he acts justly, he banishes Romeo
from Verona. It is clear that in the rivalry of the two houses, the reckless passion from those such as Tybalt,
Mercutio and Romeo stands above the clear reasoning of the Prince and Benvolio.
Romeo and Juliet represent two opposites: the voice of reason and the reckless passion. While the rivalry of
the houses goes on, the relationship of Romeo and Juliet represents these two contrasting values. Romeo is
first seen as a brash, reckless character when he sneaks into the Capulet’s party. Another part in the play
where it can be seen where Romeo is showing reckless passion is when he talking to the Friar, and the Friar
With Rosaline, my ghostly father? No.
I have forgotten that name and that name’s woe.