What are the main themes of “The Highwayman”?

One of the main themes of “The Highwayman” is the astonishing power of love. The eponymous highwayman is so determined to be with his beloved that he's prepared to risk his life, an indication of love's power to inspire people to do remarkable things, even of it leads them to danger.

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The highwayman, as a professional criminal, is used to living a life of danger. If he's caught by the authorities, then he will surely hang. One can imagine, then, that he would go out of his way to avoid capture, refrain from doing anything that might bring his criminal career to a sticky end.

It's all the more surprising to learn, then, that the highwayman is prepared to risk his neck, not for money but for his beloved Bess. Despite all the dangers involved in such an ostensibly harebrained scheme, he resolves to return to her, come what may.

In the event, the king's men are lying in wait for the highwayman when he returns to Bess. In the ensuing chaos, Bess shoots herself dead with a musket. But in doing so, she's managed to prevent her lover from walking straight into a trap.

Although the highwayman duly takes off, he's subsequently shot down “like a dog on the highway.” Both he and his beloved Bess have fallen victim to the power of love. This astonishing force, that most people experience in their lifetime, enticed them into serious danger, which ultimately cost them their lives.

And yet that love, that unbreakable connection, is so strong that it transcends this mortal realm to achieve immortality, and the two lovebirds are able to be together for eternity as spirits.

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