What does Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet teach us about ourselves and the world?

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Noelle Matteson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a big topic, but I will try to keep the answer brief. One reason why the play has endured is because there is so much to learn from it. Many can connect Romeo and Juliet to their lives because they can recognize at least one of the well-drawn characters. A number of people experience Romeo and Juliet’s impetuousness and mad love in their youth. All over the world, countries struggle with warring factions like the Capulets and Montagues, on both greater and lesser scales. Anger and aggression are human qualities that Mercutio, Tybalt, Romeo, and Lord Capulet exhibit. Romeo and Juliet includes a wide breadth of identifiable experiences, ranging from humor to grief.

The play particularly sends messages about the interconnectedness of a community and makes audiences question what roles we play in our world. Romeo and Juliet love one another on a personal level and do not care about societal expectations. This makes us ponder which social rules we follow and why as well as ask which ones are destructive. The prohibition of their desperate love not only hurts them but destroys much of the community. Their parents and friends are left desolate in the face of their suicides. However, their individual love leads to “A glooming peace” that unites the fighting houses under a universal love for mankind. Romeo and Juliet is both an acknowledgment of the connection between passionate love and hate as well as a celebration of love and a warning against senseless feuds.