What are some symbols that represent Romeo and Juliet's love for each other in Romeo and Juliet and why?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are many examples of symbols of Romeo and Juliet’s love for each other in this Shakespearean tragedy.  Let’s explore a couple closely.

The Stars

Shakespeare begins with this one, actually.  He tells us in the prologue about Romeo and Juliet, just in case we had any hope for a happy ending.

A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;

Whose misadventur'd piteous overthrows

Doth, with their death, bury their parents’ strife. (Prologue)

Stars are a perfect symbol for these two, in a way.  They are beautiful, yet distant.  It seems like we can touch them, yet they will always be distant and unattainable.  They are continuously just out of reach, like Romeo and Juliet’s love.  The two young lovers had a very brief hot and heavy romance, but it was not meant to be because their political situation was too dangerous.  The stars represent a very passionate, but very quick, romance that is also doomed.

Hands

When Romeo and Juliet first meet, they have an interesting discussion in which they share a sonnet about pilgrims and hands. 

The measure done, I'll watch her place of stand

And, touching hers, make blessed my rude hand.

Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! (Act 1, Scene 5)

Romeo later obsesses about Juliet’s hand when he makes his famous speech in the orchard? (“O that I were a glove upon that hand” (Act 2, Scene 1).  Why are we so obsessed with hands?  They represent physical attraction, of course!  Romeo and Juliet seem to have a love at first sight kind of thing going on, and Shakespeare represents that with lots of references to hands.  Go figure.  He has plenty of bawdy jokes elsewhere, but where the young lovers are concerned, we get mostly the poetic references to hands and cheeks.  It shows their innocence and the purity of their love.

Romeo and Juliet are doomed, because they did not look closely at the larger situation around them.  If they had, they might have made their choices more carefully and thought before they acted or at least acted more carefully.  Instead, they acted out of attraction and youthful vigor, or possibly lust (let’s face it), and the feeling that youth seem to have that things have to happen right now.  They paid for that impatience with their life.

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