themes from romeo & juliet


Disorder
Fate
Light and darkness
Love and passion
Nature
Time

 

Disorder

The play is full of examples of different kinds of disorder :-

brawls and fights
violence of angry passion
unnaturalness of infatuation

Prince Escalus of Verona threatens death at the beginning of the play; Romeo later dreams about his own death. Death is constantly being predicted and 5 people actually die violently in the entire play.

Dreams seem to be sent to torment the people, as Mercutio says in Act 1, Scene 4 (look at Quotations from the play)

To empathize the danger of disorder, imagery is used throughout the play :-

Images about the sea are used to suggest unpredictable danger
Imagery to do with sickness and disease often associated with plants and the world of nature empathizes disorder of life in Verona (the society is said to be filled with 'cankered hate' , Romeo's sadness at the start of the play is a 'madness' and a 'sickness' , and his later love for Juliet needs the 'holy physic' of the Friar.)

 

fate

Fate is an important theme in the play Romeo and Juliet :-

From the very start, the lovers are described as 'star-crossed', or fated to disaster
Romeo says he feels his future is ' hanging in the stars and that he is 'fortune's fool'

The overall structure of the play and the way the story unfolds produces a feeling of inevitability about the ending. Neither Romeo nor Juliet can ever escape from the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets because as things get better for them, a new disaster strikes.

 

Light and darkness

Light

Images of light, whiteness or paleness in the play are often associated with ideas of love, life and hope:-

Romeo describes Juliet as being like the sun, brighter than the light of a torch or that of the stars
Juliet talks about Romeo's love as pure ---- whiter than snow
Even in the darkness of the tomb at the finale of the play, Romeo says Juliet's beauty makes the darkness light.

Darkness

Images of darkness in the play stand for death, violence, sadness and secrecy:-

In the beginning, Romeo seeks darkness as he is depressed (sadness)
Later the lovers welcome darkness (the night) because then they can safely be alone in secret
At the end of the play, the blackness of the tomb and the dark night empathize the sadness and tragedy of the lovers' death

In the play, the images of light and dark appear to be closely linked to images to do with eyes and to do with looking (eg: seeing)

 

Love and passion

Love

Love is an important theme and comes in many forms in the play. The different characters talk about love in many different points of view: -

In the beginning, Sampsom and Gregory (the servants) see love as crude, bestial and brutish
Romeo's early depression is a kind of intellectual love ---- he is in love with the very idea of being in love
The Nurse and Mercutio talk about love from a very physical and bawdy point of view
Lord and Lady Capulet see love merely as a financial transaction --- securing and retaining their wealth
The lovers' love is deep and passionate, more powerful than hatred and even death

Passion

The play is full of overflowing passions: -

At the beginning of the play, the servants of both households seem to feel that it is their duty to fight each other, and they fight for no other reason
Tybalt is always bursting with aggression and seems determined to pick a fight
Romeo feels obliged to fight too when his friend Mercutio is killed
Both Capulet and Mercutio are violent in langauge, except that in Mercutio's case, violence is a product of wild imagination rather than anger

Violence in the play is set against the peacefulness of Romeo and Juliet when they are together.

 

Nature

During the period in which William Shakespeare wrote this play, language and thought would probably revolve more about plants, animals and the different seasons than the present. The play is full of images drawn from nature, which reinforce ideas about beauty and ugliness, health and sickness, things beneficial or things harmful. Images about plants and animals are used similarly (eg: beautiful or noble animals may represent attractive or honourable people ; worms or reptiles may represent foul things in human life.)

 

Time

Time and the sense of time passing too quickly are ideas that are often repeated in the play. The speed with which different events happen is an important factor in the tragedy: -

At first, time passes slowly, as Romeo frets about Rosaline and complains that the hours are long
Later, Capulet complains that the years rushes by too quickly.
Romeo compares Juliet with a winged massager of heaven, but Juliet worries that their love is too sudden and rash.
Friar Lawrence complains that the lovers are in too much of a hurry.
The message about the Friar's plan (for Juliet to feign death) is delayed, and Friar Lawrence himself arrives at the finale just seconds too late to stop the tragedy from happening.

The entire play seems hurried: -

Characters rush into marriage
Romeo is banished by the Prince for impulsive action
Capulet cannot wait to get his daughter (Juliet) married to Paris

The entire play is filled with speed --- speed to kill whoever who is in the way and speed to commit suicide when life seems empty. Everywhere there is angry feuding, surging passion and sudden death.

 

 

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