Machismo rules the day in Verona, the city where Romeo and Juliet takes place. Male honor –and male sexual posturing – are sources of both the play's humor and its final tragedy. The rivalry between Verona's two warring families, the Montagues and the Capulets, is driven by the testosterone-charged fighting between the young men of each family. Romeo Montague, the play's protagonist, is constantly torn between the male bonds he shares with his friends, especially his friend Mercutio, and his love for Juliet, a Capulet. Juliet, the only daughter of a well-to-do family, also faces some gender challenges that are pretty typical for young women in Shakespeare's literature – her parents choose a husband for her and threaten to disown her if she disobeys.
In Romeo and Juliet, the pressure to be a "man" leads Romeo to kill Tybalt in a duel and causes much of the play's tragedy.
Romantic love triumphs over male friendship in Romeo and Juliet – but not before love is seriously threatened by the conflict.