What are some themes, messages, or morals from "Romeo and Juliet"? What are some themes, messages, or morals from "Romeo and Juliet"? 

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madelynfair's profile pic

madelynfair | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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I agree: the nature of true, romantic love is addressed and questioned as to whether it’s viable. So, if the two lovers don't survive, is Shakespeare saying true love can't last? What do you think? Can we say the end is positive in that those who cannot live the way they wish have the courage to die for their love? To argue this point, you gather details from the end of their lives where the two lovers show their commitment and passion as well as bravery -- willingness to die for ideals.

They are also willing to die due to the fact they are trapped by circumstance. Fate, destiny, providence, their parents -- they can't fight it. Except with free will! How do they both exercise free will and demonstrate themselves to be truly "modern humans”? Critic Harold Bloom says Shakespeare shows us the modern human we believe in today -- a person who can make choices and suffer the consequences, as long as they are free. So while the end is tragic, and the Prince says "All are punished" in Act V, we must realize that the tale of woe was full of choices. If you want to argue this positive theme, track every instance where a character makes an individual decision. Remember when Romeo heads to the Capulet party? "But He that hath the steerage of my course/Direct my sail. On, lusty gentlemen!"  I, v, 112-113) See Romeo speaking of fate yet making a choice?

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Probably the strongest "moral" in the play, if there is one, is related to the dramatic irony that comprises the powerful ending of the play.  Unbeknownst to Romeo, Juliet has faked her own death; the note she sends to alert him of her plan never reaches him.  However, news that she has died does reach him, and he returns to Verona, and breaks in to her family's burial crypt where he grieves for her loss and then commits suicide with his dagger.  Within a short time, Juliet awakes from the potion induced sleep that created her "death,"  sees that Romeo has arrived, but is very recently  dead ("thy lips are warm," she shrieks) and commits suicide for real this time. 

Another theme one can take from this play is the destructive power of hatred.  The hatred that exists between the Montagues and the Capulets ultimately costs Romeo, Juliet, and Romeo's best friend Mercutio, their lives.  Ironically enough, these three young people were relatively uninvolved in, but still deeply affected by the feuding of the rival families.  One might even speculate that it was the forbidden nature of the relationship because of the feud that made Romeo and Juliet not just fall in love, but become immediately obsessed with one another. 

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Another important theme in "Romeo and Juliet" is from the caution motif of Friar Laurence's advice to Romeo in Act II, Scene vi:

These violent delights have violent ends,/And in their triumph die, like fire and powder/Which as they kiss consume.  The sweetest honey/Is loathsome in his own deliciousness,/ And in the taste confounds the appetite./Therefore love moderately, long love doth so,/Too swift arrives, as tardy as too slow (9-15)

It is moderation in acts that produce health and happiness last.  Excess, as Friar Laurence warns Romeo, is dangerous and often has "violent ends."  He urges Romeo to take his time in love and in making decisions.  Impetuous behavior, Friar Laurence is to be avoided.  Careful, thoughtful decisions are always preferable to hasty ones.  Considering the consequences of one's actions always proves safest.

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copelmat | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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What are some themes, messages, or morals from "Romeo and Juliet"? 

What are some themes, messages, or morals from "Romeo and Juliet"? 

I think one of the clearest themes that is easiest to apply to one's life is the idea spoken by Friar Lawrence at the very end of Act II, scene iii. After Romeo has begged and pleaded for Friar Lawrence to marry him and Juliet, Romeo is (as is so often the case) in a great big hurry to make it happen, saying, "O, let us hence; I stand on sudden haste." Friar Lawrence's reply speaks volumes and serves as a kind of moral for the entire play: "Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast."

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gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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For a general discussion of the themes in "Romeo and Juliet," see the Themes section of the eNotes study guide. However, for lessons or morals that can be applied more directly to your own life, you'd need to draw parallels between the play's situations and actions and your own life. Ideally, you'll encounter a true love. Can you draw lessons from this play for that? Here's an easier one. Almost everyone will have a first love. For most people, that love will not be their deepest or truest love. Can you draw lessons from Romeo's affection for Rosalind and how it melts away when he sees Juliet to guide you when thinking about your first love?

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