How does one use a thematic statement to write a literary analysis essay arguing and proving the existence of a particular theme in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet?

Expert Answers
Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A thematic statement will be different from a typical thesis in that with a thematic statement you will be making a broader generalization about the work or play, rather than laying out a concise analytical argument. A thematic statement draws on a theme from a work and identifies the theme in a complete sentence that makes generalizations about "human motivation," the "human condition," or "human ambition" ("English Language Arts"). Your thematic statement will not address specific characters or moments in the play, but rather be applicable to the entire play as a whole. We also want to avoid moralizing in a thematic statement because a theme is not a moral. Also, be sure to avoid words that generalize ideas in an absolute sense, such as "all, everyone, each, none, always, never, etc" ("English Language Arts"). Instead use more general words, like "sometimes, often, we," etc ("English Language Arts"). One example of a thematic statement for Morley Callahan's short story "Two Fishermen" is

Selfish motives and the desire for social approval can lead to betrayal of friendship. ("How to Write a Theme Statement")

If we were to take the theme of fate vs. free will and turn it into a thematic statement, we would first need to show how the play portrays the concepts of fate and free will in a universal perspective. To see how the theme fate vs. free will applies universally and not just in the play, consider asking yourself: Are we all governed purely by fate? or only by our own choices? Can we tell if we are being governed by fate or by our choices? If we decide to state that it is difficult to tell, one possibility for a thematic statement is

It can be difficult to see if we are being controlled by fate or by our own rational choices.

If we decided to take a stronger position on the issue and say that
Shakespeare's work shows that our direct choices play a greater role in consequences than fate, another possible thematic statement is

It is our own personal choices that create consequences rather than our destinies.

Once you have your thematic statement, you would then write a literary analysis essay in the same way one normally would. You would draw on literary devices and techniques that Shakespeare uses to relay his theme and show how these devices and techniques prove your own thematic statement. For example, one literary device authors often use to establish theme is characterization. You could analyze the ways in which Romeo is characterized to prove your thematic statement. For example, Romeo is characterized as being rash, emotionally driven, and by making impetuous decisions. One example is his emotional decision to revenge Mercutio's death by killing Tybalt. This is a rash decision as Tybalt would have been killed by the law regardless. This one rash decision leads to Romeo's death as well as Juliet's death. Hence, this characterization of Romeo's proves that our consequences are governed by our choices and not necessarily predestined.

Read the study guide:
Romeo and Juliet

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question