The primary antagonists of the play include the Capulet and Montague families, whose longstanding feud restricts Romeo and Juliet’s freedom and ultimately thwarts their love. Nearly every character in the play is complicit in this family feud, upholding it in some way or another. Even Prince Escalus, who declares no allegiance in the feud, sorrowfully admits to “winking at [the families’] discords” (V.iii.294), meaning that he’s turned a blind eye and let the feud continue to rage unabated.

With nearly everyone either explicitly or implicitly acting against their interests, Romeo and Juliet find themselves caught between terrible choices. For instance, when Tybalt fatally injures Mercutio, Romeo faces an awful decision: does he let his close friend die unavenged, or does he take revenge on the cousin of his new wife? Either way Romeo will suffer, and this suffering will drive a wedge between him and Juliet, making their final union even less possible. The restrictions and suffering created by the feud eventually lead to Romeo and Juliet being driven apart forever through death. But the lovers’ deaths, though tragic, ultimately enable the play to end with Capulet and Montague having a change of heart and making amends.