Themes in Romeo and Juliet
Everyone is affected by love in his or her own ways. William Shakespeare uses his intelligence to deeply describe the characters and how they make their next decision for one another. In Romeo and Juliet, the three important themes that are used throughout the play are the aspect of love, fate, and time and haste. In this paper I will be showing the three main themes in Romeo and Juliet and how those themes had effect on the characters in the play. The aspect of love is a major theme that can be found in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Throughout the story many characters have relationships between each other. Courtly love, which is a type of love, is presented throughout the play. Courtly love is an old medieval tradition that defined what love was and showed the code of behavior for lovers (Brodwin 493). The lover usually falls in love at first sight and is usually not between husband and wife. Its usually between boyfriend and girlfriend and is a very emotional relationship. Romeos love for Rosaline is based on a courtly relationship only meeting once their love for each other was very strong.
Rosaline never appeared on stage and the distance between Romeo and Rosaline builds an allusion that she soon is unaware of Romeos existence. Romeo suffers through his emotion because he feels that she thinks that he doesn’t exist (Hacht 774). Romeo and Juliet’s love for each other also deals with courtly love. They fall in love at first sights just like Romeo and Rosaline. There challenges only strengthen their love between each other where in most cases it usually weakens (Hacht 774). Romeo takes his love farther than just courtly love as for Rosaline they stopped there.
Romeo and Juliet have great feeling for each other and have a love that has a spiritual quality (Hacht 774). They also have a clandestine relationship with each other. Romeo and Juliet only meeting at night and telling no one but the Nurse and Friar Laurence. Meeting only at night has a special significance on their love for each other. Juliet uses very strong words to describe her love for Juliet when he is on top of the balcony (Shakespeare). Juliet says: “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Juliet is the sun! . .. her eyes in heaven Would through the airy region stream so bright That birds would sing and think it were not night. . . O, Speak again, bright angel! For thou art As Glorious to this night, being o’er my head, As is a winged messenger of heaven” (Shakespeare Act II. ii. 2-3, 20-2, 26-8). What Juliet means by this is she converts the terrors of night to glory. She compares Romeo to a bright angel because Juliet thinks he is the greatest man she has every meet. Juliet is saying that Romeo is filled with lots of aspects and that in her eyes he is almost like a god to her.
When Romeo hears this great, beautiful, long description from Juliet Romeo then say: “I have nights cloak to hide me from their sight; And but thou love me, let me find me here. My life were better ended by their hate Than death prorogued, wanting of thy love” (Shakespeare Act II. Ii. 75-8). Romeo just tells Juliet how she is so beautiful and at the darkness of the night is where their true love is the strongest. In the play there are some characters that have a sexual love and also a contractual love. The Nurse and Mercutio have a love that is not courtly love but sexual love that is shown throughout the play (Hacht 774).
Mercutio in the story just uses the Nurse to satisfy his needs and doesn’t stay long enough with her to find out what she really feels about him (Hacht 774). There is also contractual love that is presented in the story between the main characters. The Capulet’s insists that Juliet must marry Paris. So the Nurse tells Juliet that she has to forget about Romeo and to marry Paris. “This is contractual love-marrying someone for rational reason, whether it be for money, title, or land” (Hacht 774). In Romeo and Juliet fate was a theme that appeared a lot throughout the play.
“From the opening lines in the prologue to the last act, the characters are helpless to do anything other than what fate directs them to do” (Hacht 776). Every event that has happened in the play was turned around by the characters fate. There were some events in the story that played a huge role on how the outcome of the story ended. Fate plays a huge role between the two main characters Romeo and Juliet. When Romeo goes to the Capulet’s party to go meet Rosaline, fate plays a role on Romeo. Instead of falling in love with Rosaline he sees a beautiful young girl named Juliet.
Romeo instantly falls in love with Juliet at first sight of her. If the Capulets had not forced Juliet to marry Paris she would have never had to fake her death. Then Romeo would have not have been so scared form this and would have swallowed the poison (Hacht 776). With Juliet just waking up a few minutes early they would have lived a happy life and they both wouldn’t have died. Fate plays against Friar Lawrence in many ways throughout the story. “While the coming together of Romeo and Juliet ultimately does end the feud it is their deaths and not their love that brings the two families together” (Hacht 776).
When Romeo meets Juliet he instantly falls in love and wants to get married to Juliet. Friar Lawrence hears about Romeo wanting to get married and believes this might end in a feud between the Montague’s and the Capulet’s. Fate puts a switch into the situation with the feud between the two families. Even though Friar Lawrence tried so hard to make their love work for each other it’s him who brings their death (Hacht 776). “I could not send it – here it is again – Nor get a messenger to bring it thee, So fearful were they of infection” (Shakespeare 232).
Fate plays against Friar Lawrence when the letter he sends gets held up and is not delivered to Romeo in time. This causes the whole play to get twisted around and go in a different direction. Romeo does everything that he could to help out Juliet but some obstacle always gets in his way. “Even though Romeo extends the love he has for Juliet to her kinsman, fate again steps into the picture” (Hacht 776). Mercutio is very protective of Romeo and he decides that there should be a battle between him and Tybalt and not Romeo.
If had Mercutio had held his temper, Romeo could have walked away and Tybalt could have put his sword away (Hacht 776). If this was done it could have changed the whole story and Tybalt and Mercutio would have not had died. “Time is the enemy even more than chance; it presses in upon the lovers in countless ways-the dawn brings the threat of discovery; a bare second enables the envious sword of Tybalt to fell Mercutio: the marriage date foreshortened by a capricious Capulet demands swift counterplans and decisions, which bring, in turn, disaster” (Scott 466).
If only Romeo had declared fighting after Mercutio’s death then Romeo and Juliet would have been spared. Juliet wouldn’t have had to fake her death if the Capulet’s hadn’t forced her to marry Paris. Also if Romeo had not acted so quickly after seeing Juliet dead he wouldn’t have taken the poison. Or if Juliet woken up a few minutes early Romeo and Juliet both would have survived (Scott 466). William Shakespeare made the play Romeo and Juliet happen with his one ability. “In Romeo and Juliet the young Shakespeare learned the craft of creating on stage the illusion of passing time” (Driver 487).
Before every act and scene there is a prologue that makes us see something that really happened which helps speed up the time. “Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean” (Shakespeare Prologue, 1-4). This is the first prologue which sets us with were the story takes place and a little about what is going on. Shakespeare made this story be obligated to be as faithful to the clock as possible.
In Romeo and Juliet it contains no less then 103 references to the time of the action that tells the audience what day things take place and some earlier and later things that happen (Driver 487). William Shakespeare used two ways to compress his actions into the play. His first thing was he had to shorten the length of the action from nine months to just around four or five days. The enabled him to account all the “real” time in the story. The second thing Shakespeare did was he made very short scenes on the stage that accounted for very long periods of “real” time.
Shakespeare was a master at doing this effect which is called “double” time (Driver 488). With Shakespeare ability of doing this makes the story so time so accurate. “Two or three days of “real” time are required to pass in order to make sense of the action: Romeo must be exiled, Friar Laurence must put his plan for Juliet’s false death into effect, messengers must travel, family must grieve, and a funeral be held” (Driver 488). This shows how time in Romeo and Juliet had so much effect on the story. The characters in Romeo and Juliet display a theme of haste by their actions that they represent.
The speed in the action that takes place within the characters expresses the haste theme. “Act III, scene I now brings the street fight in which Mercutio is killed, and speed in the action is again accompanied by lines which express the haste theme” (Stirling 492). The decisions that Romeo made after Mercutio’s death, was an example of haste. Another big example that led to the tragic conclusion of the death of both Romeo and Juliet was there decisions that they made (Stirling 492). If Romeo had not made the hasty decisions of killing himself upon seeing the death of Juliet, the ending of the story would have gone differently.
In Romeo and Juliet, the three important themes that are used throughout the play are the aspects of love, fate, and time and haste. William Shakespeare used all three of these themes throughout the story and had great effect on how the story ended. Each theme in the story relates to each character in someway whether it’s through love, hate, or even fate. The decisions made by Romeo and Juliet had the greatest effect on the story. It wasn’t their hate that got them into trouble it was the fate that acted a bond them. Some of the themes even relate to the prologue and the decisions made by the characters.