What is the overall theme of the final scene in Act 5 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The central theme in the final scene of Act 5 juxtaposes love against hatred, showing us just how much damage hatred can cause.

We first see hatred being displayed and juxtaposed against love when Paris sees Romeo come to Juliet's tomb in the graveyard. Based on prejudice and insufficient knowledge, Paris assumes that grief over Tybalt's murder is the cause of Juliet's death, and hates Romeo for it. Not only that, Paris assumes that Romeo has come to the tomb to damage the corpses of Tybalt and Juliet, as we see in his line, "And here is come to do some villanous shame / To the dead bodies" (V.iii.52-53). Paris even allows himself to be affected by the Capulet-Montague feud and all the hatred surrounding it and decides to exact revenge on Romeo, challenging him to fight, as we see in his lines,

Can vengeance be pursu'd further than death?
Condemned villain, I do apprehend thee.
Obey, and go with me; for thou must die. (55-57)

We see love portrayed and juxtaposed against Paris's hatred when Romeo, guilt ridden with both Tybalt's and Juliet's deaths, begs Paris, "I beseech thee, youth, / Put not another sin upon my head" (61-62). Romeo even proclaims, "I love thee better than myself," meaning that Romeo hates himself and is about to do himself harm, therefore he loves Paris, the stranger, more than he loves himself, whom he does not want to harm.

We also see love juxtaposesd against hatred when we learn through the Prince that the real cause of Romeo's and Juliet's deaths was the feud fueled by the hatred the two families needlessly feel for each other. We learn this when we see Prince Escalus proclaim to Lords Capulet and Montague, "See what a scourge is laid upon your hate...!" (303).

Hence, we see that the main theme in the final scene of Act 5 juxtaposes love against hatred and portrays the damage that hatred can cause.


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