How does the suicidal impulse that both Romeo and Juliet exhibit relate to the overall theme of young love?

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kbrady4030's profile pic

kbrady4030 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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The phrase "young love" when uttered by those who are.. not so young... is often said with an air of dismissal, as if those feelings in a young person are not true feelings and should not be taken seriously.  However, the fates of Romeo and Juliet serve as an important lesson for our time. 

When we are young and in love, as were they, there are physical and psychological changes which occur in our minds and bodies that we cannot alter.  Perhaps this is the "fate" about which the prologue spoke -unalterable, unchangeable fate.  We now know that hormones, pheromones, and endorphins sweep through our systems at the instant of attraction.  Couple these with the normal surges of growth and change already plaguing the young, and we have a recipe for disaster-or for love.

Young love is inexperienced.  It understands nothing of waiting for time to pass, but is urgent in its quest to pull two people together and have them prove to themselves and each other love's sincerity.  That feeling can easily overtake the young and make them feel that not only is this love urgent, it is important.  This importance and urgency can overwhelm young people and lead them to see no alternative but to rebel, ultimately, against the forces which separate them, while bringing themselves together, eternally, with one another through death.

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appletrees | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

The opening monologue of the play, spoken by an observer who may also be a citizen of Verona, describes Romeo and Juliet as "star-cross'd lovers"--this refers to the notion of fate or pre-ordained outcomes. The "stars" are also a reference to astrology which was a very widespread art and science in the Elizabethan era. If the astrological charts of the two lovers were not compatible, as the notion of being "cross'd" suggests, there was very little they could do to change their futures. But this notion of fate is also supported by the fact that Romeo and Juliet meet by chance and fall in love at first sight.

Their attraction is strong, but they aren't allowed to be together because of the family feud between the Montagues and Capulets. Their forbidden love ends an air of urgency and difficulty to their time together. When Tybalt killls Mercutio, and Romeo kills Tybalt, Romeo's banishment makes it even more impossible for the lovers to be together. The air of desperation brought on by these events, as well as the swift and violent deaths of two prominent characters, makes it plausible that Romeo and Juliet will do literally anything to be together, or die trying. Love becomes a matter of life and death, and the injustice felt by the overs at being kept apart convinces them that extreme measures are appropriate.

scarlettohara's profile pic

scarlettohara | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

In a word, extremism. Having been a teenager at one time, I remember becoming excited whenever my favorite movie star's picture was in a magazine or my favorite rock band was on MTV. Young people fall in love very fast and passionately. Everything spoken to each other is a huge deal. Everything done is a huge deal (being given a 'going steady' ring or that first date at the movies).

So heartbreak is taken just as seriously, and extreme, as love. To many young people, that first heartbreak (or even the 10th) feels like the earth is never going to turn again. You feel like you'll never eat again, or never STOP eating. :-D You demand the attention of anyone who will listen to your "...tale of woe..." So for Romeo and Juliet, respectively 17 and 13 years old, it is incredibly sad, but understandable how they would feel that suicide would be the only way for them to be free to be together. They do not have an understanding that those feelings of extreme love, extreme saddness or extreme anger tend to cool and calm down as they grow older and there's more to life than just drama, drama, drama. :-)

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