The Ethic of Forgiveness in Romeo and Juliet | Teen Ink

The Ethic of Forgiveness in Romeo and Juliet

April 12, 2013
By shreydesai GOLD, Saratoga, California
shreydesai GOLD, Saratoga, California
13 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes, but in liking what one has to do."

The ethic of forgiveness is one of the most important ethics that we, as human beings, can epistemically access. As kids, we are taught basic applications of morality, but we are also taught to forgive and forget; avoid future harms and consequences. Forgiveness respects human dignity because it allows us to and overcome hatred. Additionally, the ethic of forgiveness is necessary to prevent an unjust application of morality because forgiving someone regards him or her as a member of society, tying into the roots of Kantian ethics and deontology. Though fragile, the ethic of forgiveness can be twisted, used against people, and abused in various ways. British playwright, William Shakespeare, expresses the universal truth in his play, Romeo and Juliet, that the ethic of forgiveness can affect lives in a positive manner. This is shown through Juliet’s act of forgiveness towards Romeo after he kills Tybalt, the peace between Juliet and her father after a quarrel, and the binding of the Montague and Capulet family.
In Romeo and Juliet, the ethic of forgiveness is first introduced when Juliet forgives Romeo after he kills Tybalt. In the middle of the play, almost when the climax is approached, middle-aged hothead, Tybalt, is playing around in the town square, shouting at the nemesis, the Montague family. He draws upon his sword and begins to insult one of the noble persons in the Montague family, named Mercutio. They play around for a while, duel with their swords, but then Tybalt accidentaly stabs Mercutio square in the chest, and the fight escalates. Romeo sees this in real-time, as he is watching the fight proceed. Once Mercutio hits the ground, Romeo is angered. He stands up, runs to Tybalt, and challenges him to a duel to avenge the death of his best friend, of his blood. As the duel proceeds, Romeo kills Tybalt, and flees. Back in the Capulet household, Juliet hears of this news, and doesn’t know what to think. Romeo, her true love, has killed Tybalt, her own family member, and cousin – her own blood. Yet, she doesn’t let violence escalate. She doesn’t have a retributive response and she doesn’t continue the cycle of violence. Instead of abiding by hatred, she forgives Romeo. She forgives Romeo because Romeo is her true love and their love shares a common humanity. Their love shares and respects equal feelings for each other, and they become one in the relationship when this is achieved. The ethic of forgiveness, in this part of Romeo and Juliet, avoided future conflict, did not breed hatred, but ultimately did not create an inherent retributive response to punishment. Thus, one can see how the ethic of forgiveness, as expressed by Juliet, lifted future violence and blood off of Romeo’s soul, even though he killed Tybalt, her own family member.
Later in the play, Capulet, Juliet’s father, gets angry towards Juliet because she denies a marriage proposal from Paris, a nobleman. Yet, the ethic of forgiveness plays its role once again, turning the anger around, giving Capulet a moment of closure. Romeo and Juliet are secretly dating. They have not told their families because their families are in a never-ending war with another. The irony that Shakespeare presents is when Juliet receives a proposal from a nobleman named Paris, but still falls in love with Romeo despite her families’ wishes. One day, Juliet was lying in bed when Capulet came storming up into her room and told her she needed to marry Paris. Juliet wasn’t ready, and she didn’t want to marry Paris because she had one true love and that was Romeo. Capulet raged at Juliet, shouted at her, called her ungrateful, and was truly upset. Juliet sought help from her advisor, Friar Lawrence, and they came up with a plan together. When she came back, she told her Nurse that she wanted forgiveness from Capulet and that she was truly sorry about her behavior. Backstabbed, heartbroken, and depressed, Juliet still asked for forgiveness, so that everything could be back to normal. Once again, the ethic of forgiveness did it’s magic. Capulet forgave Juliet, recognizing her as a member of the Capulet household, ultimately upholding her inner dignity and respecting her soul. As a second time, the ethic of forgiveness stopped short-term violence and did not surge violence – overturning the household. Thus, the ethic of forgiveness allowed a father and daughter, Capulet and Juliet, to respect one another and recognize each other as members of the family, even though there was a nasty quarrel between them almost moments ago.
In the conclusion of Romeo and Juliet, the ethic of forgiveness allows the violence and hatred between the Montague and Capulet families to finally come to an end. From the opening lines of the novel to the saddening deaths of Romeo and Juliet, the hatred and violence between the Montague and Capulet families were everlasting and never seemed to come to an end. Towards the beginning of novel, Tybalt, a Capulet, challenged young Benvolio, a Montague, to a fight – showing that they hated each other. During Capulet’s party, Romeo entered but was spotted by Tybalt. Tybalt asked Capulet if he could go kill him, but Capulet refused to because it was a happy occasion. Despite Capulet’s actions, Tybalt’s feelings towards Romeo showed the tension between the two. The inherent reason Romeo and Juliet didn’t tell their families about their secret love was because they were both from separate families, families that hated each other. They were worried that they would both get punished for simply “loving the enemy”. It was unfortunate, but reality. At the end of the play, when Romeo and Juliet both take their lives, expressing a symbol of their everlasting love, the Montague and Capulet families finally understand that an eye for an eye is going to result into both families dying off, that the thread of violence between them would never come to an end. The play ends with Montague and Capulet, the two directors of the household, carrying the dead bodies of their children, up to the prince, in front of the entire city of Verona. They expressed regret towards each other, but the main value and ethic expressed between the two families was the ethic of forgiveness. They forgave each other and vowed not to spark another fight in the future, because that would ultimately lead to more deaths of innocent family members and unnecessary tension for the entire city. Thus, Shakespare ends the story with his final expression of the ethic of forgiveness, showing readers that it can end everlasting quarrels not only with people, but even with two families, as proven through the binding and forgiving of the Montague and Capulet families.
The ethic of forgiveness is taught to us as kids and is available to everyone who seeks to have a better understanding of the world and also to anyone who seeks to expand their morals and values to become a better person. In the famous play Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare expresses the universal truth that the ethic of forgiveness can positively affect lives, as shown through the examples of Juliet’s forgiveness towards Romeo even though he killed Tybalt, ending the period of anger between Capulet and Juliet, and the legendary forgiveness between the Montague and Capulet families. The ethic of forgiveness goes well beyond our reach because it can be used as a weapon, a tool of abuse, but even as a savior. Yet, the ethic of forgiveness is also capable of uniting individuals, extinguish everlasting conflicts with cliques and groups, and maybe even save the United States of America in the long run.

The author's comments:
I think forgiveness is a key virtue in our society and everyone should experience it.

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This article has 1 comment.

JerryRules said...
on Aug. 26 2014 at 3:47 am
This was a great help .