Capuletism: How Capitalism was the Cause of Romeo and Juliet’s Fate

Capuletism: How Capitalism was the Cause of Romeo and Juliet’s Fate

            Could the tragic fates of Romeo and Juliet have been prevented in a socialist society? Looking at the story through the lens of economic structure, lots of the motivations and actions can be seen as capitalistic. In the story of Romeo and Juliet, lots of the big obstacles and tragedies can be traced back to the same root cause: capitalist greed. In a capitalist society social status is determined by the wealth of a person or household. This means that the rich are treated much better and as more important than those in a blue-collar household. Socialism offers a much more balanced outlook on social status. Rather than segregating people by their wealth, everyone is grouped into one large category and treated as equals. The characters’ capitalist views lead to many problems, such as stratification, greed for money and power, and general inequality.

            The social conditions in which Juliet and Romeo live, restrict lots of what they can do, and as said by S. Wolfson in Rudolf Schlesinger’s 1949 book, Changing Attitudes in Soviet Russia: The Family in the U.S.S.R. “In the conditions of socialism, [the theme of Romeo and Juliet] has outlived itself. Socialist society offers no scope for the tragic collisions which are produced by capitalism where social conditions prevent the union of lovers, their association in marriage and the family”. Socialism would not allow for the same kinds of complications that are caused because of capitalism and would allow for the characters to have a more open and socially accepted relationship.

            The relationship between Romeo and Juliet is endangered when Romeo thinks that Juliet has died. Romeo is devastated and looks for an apothecary to sell him poison. Because of the social differences between the rich Romeo and poor, desperate apothecary, Romeo feels that he has more power and is more important than this other man. Romeo insults the poor apothecary, saying

Art thou so bare and full of wretchedness,/And fear’st to die? Famine is in thy cheeks./Need and oppression starveth in thine eyes./Contempt and beggary hangs upon thy back./The world is not thy friend nor the world’s law./The world affords no law to make thee rich. Then be not poor, but break it, and take this.”

Romeo uses his money to manipulate the apothecary in to selling him the illegal poison. The apothecary is in need of money and Romeo uses his wealth to exploit those needs to get what he wants. This is where stratification comes in to play making it possible for Romeo to purchase the poison that kills him in the end, leading to Juliet and her mother’s deaths as a consequence.

            Another example of capitalist behaviour, is Juliet’s planned marriage with Paris. Initially, Capulet had told Paris to wait until Juliet was older to marry, but when Tybalt dies and Juliet becomes depressed, Capulet arranges a marriage. Lady Capulet and Capulet make this move out of greed. This marriage’s purpose was not to try to cheer Juliet up but was to marry a rich man who has power and is related to the Prince, giving the Capulet’s family much more power.  Lady Capulet uses her new royal connection as a way to suck up to the Prince and make him think that Benvolio was lying and that Romeo should be banished.

 Lady Capulet, in reference to the fate of Romeo, tells the Prince:

He is a kinsman to the Montague.
Affection makes him false. He speaks not true.
Some twenty of them fought in this black strife,
And all those twenty could but kill one life.
I beg for justice, which thou, Prince, must give.
Romeo slew Tybalt. Romeo must not live.

The Prince listens to her and unfairly exiles Romeo from Verona. This goes to show how the more money you have, the more connections you have, the more power you have. These greed seeking ideas are not prevalent in socialist ideals and all of these things could have easily been prevented in that way.

            In conclusion, it seems that lots of the capitalist ideas in Romeo and Juliet led to only bad things. With socialism, there would be more equality, contentedness, simpler relationships, and simpler socialization between everyone. Economy has a greater impact on the world than most people realize. Everything would have been much more simple and easy to accomplish with a different economical structure. If Romeo and Juliet were free and equal citizens, there would never have to be any conflicts or problems.

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