Romeo and Juliet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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In Romeo and Juliet, Act 5, what is the theme?

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Noelle Matteson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One of the most obvious themes of the final act is death, which is often discussed through metaphors of disease and hunger. Romeo and Juliet are not the only characters to die in the conclusion. Romeo threatens Balthasar with death (though he does not fulfill this threat), he fights with and kills Paris, and his father reports that Lady Montague died after Romeo was banished. Romeo and Juliet kill themselves in the Capulet tomb, uniting one another and the families in a single burial space. Paris also wishes to be placed next to Juliet in death, in the tomb. Lady Capulet seems ready to die as well: “this sight of death is as a bell, / That warns my old age to a sepulchre.”

In a sense, disease leads to Romeo’s and Juliet’s suicides. An “infectious pestilence” prevents the crucial letter from being delivered to Romeo, and Friar Laurence attempts to deliver Juliet from her slumber in the tomb: “come from that nest / Of death, contagion, and unnatural sleep.”

Death is several times described as being hungry. Romeo goes to a poor apothecary to buy poison in order to commit suicide. The description of the impoverished man sounds like death: “meagre were his looks, / Sharp misery had worn him to the bones.” Romeo tempts him with money and points out how hungry he looks: “famine is in thy cheeks, / Need and oppression starveth in thine eyes.” He later refers to death as “the lean abhorred monster.” Romeo also considers the graveyard to be “hungry” and describes the tomb as a “detestable maw” which he plans to open and enter.

Death is personified as a ravenous monster and is linked with disease and starvation. Even though Lord Capulet and Lord Montague arrange a treaty and vow to memorialize one another’s children, a number of characters are overwhelmed by the presence of death.

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cbetances eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Act 5 of Romeo and Juliet is the conclusion of a multitude of issues in the play. The main themes are Fate and Irony. Fate because Act 5 contains the events that were predicted in the prologue. Fate is considered "beyond human control and contrary to men’s best intentions" (enotes). The ending is also ironic because Juliet was not really dead, and yet Romeo kills himself for her and then she really kills herself for him. The meddling Friar has caused the ultimate ruin and both families are paying the ultimate price.


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