There are many themes in “Romeo and Juliet,” the main one is love. The play focuses on romantic love, especially on the concentrated passion that comes up at first sight between Romeo and Juliet. In “Romeo and Juliet,” love takes over everything for example families, friends and other loyalties.
“Deft thy father and refuse my name?” this shows us that Juliet is contemplating her name as a Capulet. Love takes over Romeo as after the party Romeo abandons Mercutio and Benvolio to go to Juliet. Also Romeo risks his on life coming back to Verona when the Prince exiles him because he avenged Mercutio’s death. There is also a relationship in the themes of love and death, passion and violence. The connection between hate, violence and death is very obvious in the play. Even in the first scene, we can see the hatred between the Montagues and Capulets. The violence breaks out and one of the Montague servants is hurt. The relationship between love, hate and violence is easily seen in the play as later on in the play, Tybalt and Mercutio fight there is violence, Tybalt hates Romeo and Mercutio is sticking up for him so Tybalt takes it out on him. Mercutio says as he dies
“A plague on both your houses they have made worms meat of me”
Romeo then goes after Tybalt for he has slain one of Romeo’s dearest friends. One last plat is fate. We know that this comes in right from the start “Star- Crosses” this is to say that fate controls them. When Romeo believes that Juliet is dead he cries out “then I defy you, stars” completing the idea that the love between Romeo and Juliet is in opposition with the decrees of destiny.
“From Forth the fatal loins of these two foes a pair of star crossed lovers take their life, whose misadventure piteous overthrows. Doth with their death bury their parents strife.”
“O, I am fortunes Fool!” (ROMEO)
“Then I defy you stars.” (ROMEO)
These quotes show us that the theme of fate as it plays out through the story.
The chorus quote informs the audience that the lovers are destined to die tragically which would build up tension in the audience, as they will contemplate how they will die.
The second quote illustrates the fact that Romeo sees himself as subject to the whims of fate.
The third quote is just after he hears of Juliet’s death he declares himself openly opposed to the destiny that so grieves him.
Shakespeare chooses a sonnet for effect in the prologue; a sonnet is a poem of 14 lines with a fixed rhyme scheme. Shakespeare also used a sonnet because they were very popular in Elizabethan times.
Shakespeare’s prologue carries a message and a sonnet would make it interesting and it was also appropriate for a serious love poem. Also the prologue tells us what’s going to happen in the play. This is a very good idea as it builds up dramatic tension in the audience because the audience now begin to contemplate how the plot comes together.
Shakespeare introduces your imagination into the prologue by saying, “From ancient grudge break new mutiny” this makes us ponder on what the grudge is and would also make the audience ponder what the grudge was.
As I said earlier fate plays a big part in the play as when it says “A pair of star crossed lovers” this means it was predicted in the stars and there was nothing that could have been done to stop it. Elizabethan and modern audiences find this interesting, as they would question again how they would die.
The language would build up tension in this “fatal” “take their life” this shows us that there will be death and destruction in the play. It is also emotional “death Mark’d love” for loving each other they die. It was important that Shakespeare raised tension at the beginning of the play so people wouldn’t be bored and leave the theatre as Shakespeare wanted people to come back and tell their friends to go and see it just like directors now a days want people to go back and tell their friends it was fantastic for example the Lord of the Rings.
We learn about the feud in Verona in the first scene when Sampson and Gregory are talking about the Montague’s men “I will push Montague’s men from the wall and thrust his maids to the wall” in other words he is going to rape the maids of the Montagues because he thinks of them as less powerful and of no importance and also helpless. It is important because we get to know the hatred the Capulets feel towards the Montagues and vice versa. This is important as it builds up tension when Sampson bites his thumb at Abraham “Nay they dare, I will bite my thumb at them which is disgrace to them if they bear it.” He is trying to stand up and be a man as Gregory questioned his bravery earlier in the play:
Sampson: “I strike quickly, once my blood boils”
Gregory: “But it is not easily roused.”
In this we see that not only is Gregory saying he can’t get aroused but it has two meanings (one sexual) he is also talking about fighting but also the audience would laugh, as they would lean towards the side of humour.
Then the tension builds up as they start to argue & quarrel until a fight breaks out. There are many sexual puns used in the play especially between Sampson and Gregory at the beginning. I think Shakespeare did this to question the nature of the action on stage so far. When Abaram enters a tension builds up because they both have hatred for each other but they both don’t want to start the fight because the person or persons who start the fight will be punished by the prince (law). It is important that the audience know what the law is at this point because later on in the play, we learn that, the Prince who sets the laws doesn’t keep his word when he banishes Romeo from Verona instead of killing him.
“if ever you breach the peace again your lives will pay the price.” The Prince then changes this when Romeo kills Tybalt.
“And for that offence, we banish him immediately.” He doesn’t kill him like he says before.
When Benvolio enters, his first reaction is to stop the fight before it breaks out by making all of the men put up their swords
“Part fools put up, your swords you know not what you do” this shows us that Benvolio’s character is a peacemaker. Also Benvolio means ‘good will’ which could reflect on his character for this reason I say he would look weak in front of the men.
When Tybalt enters, his first reaction is to insult Benvolio by calling him a women (female deer).
“What are thou drawn among these heartless hinds?”
He also becomes the most powerful of the group when he orders Benvolio to look at his death.
” Turn Benvolio and look upon thy death”
This shows us that Tybalt immediately becomes dominant in his role and shows how much he hates Montagues. This tells us that Tybalt is not a person to cross as he is like a leader of a gang and he is set on killing the Montagues. This could build up tension in the audience because people wouldn’t know what is about to happen and this would intrigue the audience. This is developed later on in the play when Tybalt sees Romeo at the party and goes to kill him.
Women in Shakespeare’s time had no rights what so ever they were treated as the lower class or suds. They were also thought of as the weaker sex or cowards. We have seen references to women in Act 1 Scene 1 with Sampson and Gregory.
“Tis true and therefore women being the weaker vessels are ever thrust to the wall.” This shows us that not only do they think of women as weaker but also sex toys that they can use whenever they want, basically just rape them.
It is important to the rest of the play that the audience know that women have no respect as Lady Capulet and Lady Montague both break before their husbands. But Shakespeare put Juliet into the play, which contradicts this, as Juliet is a strong, dominant and stubborn character.
When the officers, Lords and Ladies enter the atmosphere would be chaotic as you would have the Lords wanting to join in and the Ladies trying to stop this brawl before anyone gets hurt.
“Thou shalt not stir one foot to seek a foe.”
Prince Escales then enters and immediately tries to stop the fight he is very angry that blood has been spilt again “Throw your mistemper’d weapons to the ground and hear the sentence of your Prince.” He is upset and angry that this has caused old people who cannot fight to go out and try and stop it but will properly get hurt. He orders that the next time the streets are disturbed someone will die for it.
“If you ever disturb our quite streets again your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.”
The Montagues then speak with Benvolio as their concerns over Romeo come out as they never see him as he sleeps during the day and lives during the night. Romeo is a stereotypical Italian as he is a young spurned lover, he also acts before he thinks about his actions. Lord and Lady Montague send Benvolio to speak to him as in the whole of the play we never see a bond between the parents and the children. The parents can connect with other children but not their own, we can see this in a classical example with the Nurse and Lady Capulet.
“Nurse give leave a while, we must talk in secret. Nurse come back again.”
Lady Capulet cannot be in the same room with Juliet on her own and talk to her as we can see the Nurse has to be there. We can only presume that this was because the rich and powerful had servants to look after their children so there was no bond between them.
Lady Montague is concerned with Romeo’s welfare, as it seems to be upset. She also wants Benvolio to convince him to come out of his depression.
“Black and portentous must this humour prove unless good council may the cause remove”
This shows us she can’t do it herself she wants Benvolio to convince him to get out of the mood he is in.
Benvolio is trying to get Romeo out of him depression Benvolio is trying to find out what is wrong with Romeo why is he in this depression. Romeo is feeling unrequited love for Rosaline.
“Out of her favour where I am in love.”
He is out of favour with Rosaline as she will be chaste and will have nothing to do with Romeo. Romeo is feeling in the depths of depression. Romeo is in a mixed up mood and doesn’t know what he is talking about.
This would prepare the audience for the rest of the play as we have already had builds up of tension in the play and the audience would know this and expect it more. I think the audience would find the ending of the play really emotional as the lovers die but many audience members would be left with many why’s? For example “Why didn’t the letter get there in time” I think the audience would find the ending horrible and would want a different ending.