The most prevailing theme of William Shakespeare's poetic play, Romeo and Juliet, is that of the dangers of impetuosity. For, from the beginning to the end of this drama, the actions of the personages are "too rash, too sudden" as Juliet says in Act II.
In Act I, the servants of the two households, Capulet and Montague, break rashly into arguments and fights. Suddenly, the lords of the families come into the street to engage in their "ancient grudge." Then, Romeo and his friends, recklessly enter uninvited the feast for Juliet Capulet where the lovesick Romeo impetuously switches his love from his unrequited one toward one who is his enemy. And, in spite of Juliet's fears that their fiery attraction
...is too rash, too unadvis'd, too sudden;
Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be (2.2.
and Romeo's sense that
Some consequence, yet hanging in the stars,
Shall bitterly begin his fearful date (1.4.114-115)
they rashly succumb to their passions and get married in spite of the friar's advice,
Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast.(2.3.96)
Ironically, Friar Laurence himself is guilty of impetuous behavior, as well, in consenting to marry Romeo and Juliet without the proper marriage bans and without notifying the parents of the youths' love for one another. Later, he recklessly gives Juliet a vial to drink to make her appear dead so that Lord Capulet, who has impulsively changed his mind about Paris as a husband for Juliet in demanding that Juliet marry after all, will rue his harshness to his daughter and cancel the wedding when he learns she is not dead after all.
This rash plan, unfortunately, is misdirected and Romeo kills himself as he believes his beloved wife is dead. While in the Capulet tomb, Friar Laurence panics as he hears the guards approach the catacomb and impetuously runs out, leaving Juliet alone in the tomb; she regains consciousness and without the friar to prevent her, Juliet commits suicide as she impulsively decides to die rather than live without Romeo.
Mercutio, Tybalt, and Romeo, too, are impetuous in Act III as the choleric Tybalt rushes to slay Mercutio after Mercutio reacts rashly in his disappointment that Romeo will not challenge Tybalt. Tybalt, who quickly takes advantage of Romeo 's blocking his foe, kills Mercutio as he is unable to reach Tybalt. Then, in fierce anger and desiring retribution, Romeo impulsively slays Tybalt.
Clearly, then, as Friar Laurence says in Act II,
These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which, as they kiss, consume. (2.6.9-11)
The impetuous acts of all the major personages in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet cause them to suffer dire consequences--"violent ends"--such as death and tremendous loss for their "violent delights" of passion.