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Romeo & Juliet Themes

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Romeo & Juliet Themes

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  1. Romeo & Juliet Themes

  2. Theme of Destiny • Play categorized as a tragedy. Why? • How much is really in the characters’ control? • "Fate, or Heaven, as the Prince calls it, or the "greater power," as the Friar calls it, works out its purpose without the use of either a human villain or a supernatural agent sent to intervene. • Fate's impact on Romeo and Juliet is made clear from the beginning of the play. The Chorus tells us that the lovers are "star-cross'd", and thus hindered by the influence of the planets. • (note that Renaissance astrologers used the planets to predict plagues and other calamities, and the outcome of lives).

  3. Theme of Destiny • Role of fate sensed by the lovers. • Romeo, just before he attends Capulet's ball, has a premonition: My mind misgives Some consequence, yet hanging in the stars, Shall bitterly begin thisd fearful date. With this night’s revels, and expire the term Of a dispised life, clos’d in my breast, By some vile forfeit of untimely death: But he that hath the steerage of my course Direct my sail! (1.4)

  4. Theme of Destiny • Romeo later cries that he is "fortune's fool" (3.1), and Juliet exclaims that she has an "ill-divining soul" (3.5). • Fate controls Shakespeare's doomed lovers • Does fate control our lives? • Human condition of not knowing—how does this affect the play?

  5. Theme of Individual vs. Society • The lovers’ struggles against public and social institutions that either explicitly or implicitly oppose the existence of their love. Range from the concrete to the abstract: families and the placement of power in the father; law and the desire for public order; religion; and the social importance placed on honor. • Institutions often come into conflict with each other. (example: the importance of honor time and again results in brawls that disturb the public peace) • Each present obstacles for Romeo and Juliet. What are the different obstacles Romeo and Juliet have to go through with this conflict? What do they end up doing about them?

  6. Theme of Individual vs. Society • Patriarchal power structure in Renaissance families: the father controls the action of all other family members, particularly women. (Places Juliet in an extremely vulnerable position. Her heart, in her family’s mind, is not hers to give.) • Religion similarly demands priorities that Romeo and Juliet cannot abide by because of the intensity of their love. (What do they do that goes against their religion?) • Battle between the responsibilities and actions demanded by society and those demanded by the private desires of the individual. • Ex - Romeo cannot cease being a Montague simply because he wants to.

  7. Theme of Family Honor • Kinship is more often a source of danger and battle in the play • Capulets’ vs. Montague's—origin of hatred unknown • Romeo and Juliet’s choice between their families' expectations and their passion for each other • 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. (Prologue)

  8. Theme of Family Honor • 'Tisbut thy name that is my enemy;Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,Nor arm, nor face, nor any other partBelonging to a man. O, be some other name!What's in a name? that which we call a roseBy any other name would smell as sweet;So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,Retain that dear perfection which he owesWithout that title. Romeo, doff thy name,And for that name which is no part of theeTake all myself.(2.2)

  9. Consequence • Many rules and boundaries and obstacles preventing Romeo and Juliet being together • Recap? • Who risks getting hurt if they stay together? • Who risks getting hurt if they don’t? • Other consequences from other character’s actions or decisions in the play? • Cause & Effect– important to keep in mind as we see the progression of events up to the end of the play