Power, Knowledge, and Authority in Romeo and Juliet

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Romeo and Juliet-one of William Shakespeare's most celebrated plays and most renowned works-tells a story about two star-crossed lovers whose relatives are locked in a generational conflict.


He also critiqued the foundations of politics. Using his method called deconstruction, which was a way of analyzing text, Derrida was able to navigate a vast array of topics as a major philosophical thinker.

In Romeo and Juliet, the theme of power is central to the play. In fact, "The fundamental powerlessness of the younger generation fuels the tragedyThe older generation has all the power[and] Romeo and Juliet are alternately compelled and manipulated by parents and authority figures into a shrinking and increasingly destructive series of choices."1

Shakespeare himself writes in Act Five, Scene Three, "A greater power than we can contradict/Hath thwarted our intents."2 In analyzing these verse from Romeo and Juliet, we must take into account Derrida's strategies to uncover the differentials within the conversations of Western philosophy that take aim at universal themes which have plagued philosophers since the time of Aristotle:

In Derrida's The Reason of the Strongest, he discusses the United Nations and how democracy and sovereignty are paradoxes which contradict each other. Although Verona is a relatively democratic city where Romeo and Juliet takes place, the families of both the Montagues and the Capulets are sovereign entities.
In essence, they are diametrically opposed because, “…in order to be sovereign, one must wield power oneself, take responsibility for its use by oneself, which means that the use of power, if…sovereign, [is] silent; the sovereign does not have to give reasons; the sovereign must exercise power in secret. In other words, sovereignty attempts to possess power indivisibly…”

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