Punishments in the Elizabethan era were a bit more brutal than they are now:
- Theft of anything more than five pence (admittedly worth a little more than it is now) was punishable by hanging.
- Other punishments could include: having hands or ears chopped off; being starved to death in a public place; or even being boiled in oil, water, or lead…
Though most of these were reserved for the lower classes, the point is that the powers that be in those days were not mucking about. So the threat of death, if the two families are caught brawling again, is not an empty one.
Romeo’s banishment, therefore, is surprisingly merciful from Prince Escalus. Banishment was an unusual punishment in those days, except for specific circumstances.