What are the themes involving Romeo and Juliet? Please elaborate.

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Noelle Matteson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Romeo and Juliet explores a number of rich themes. It is most famous for being a love story, so of course one of its most prominent subjects is love. Romeo and Juliet feel an intense passion for one another, and Romeo describes his previous love for Rosaline as “too rough, / Too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn.” Romantic affection can be dangerous, sending the young lovers into violent mood swings and eventually despair and suicide.

There is also love between friends and family. Mercutio, Tybalt, and Benvolio enjoy one another’s company, and Juliet’s and Romeo’s families keenly mourn their losses. Friar Lawrence and the prince display yet another kind of love, a socially conscious devotion to their society. The friar plots to wed Romeo and Juliet in order “To turn your households' rancour to pure love,” and the prince bans fighting in the streets and partially blames himself for the continued violence.

The flipside of love is hate. Verona suffers from a feud that fosters hatred and violence. Romeo and Juliet’s love somehow emerges from this atmosphere, as Juliet observes: “My only love sprung from my only hate!” In a sense, that love cannot live and is suffocated by rancor. However, it is reborn in the reconciliation between the Capulets and Montagues. These are only a couple of themes in the play, which also meditates on death, sex, parenthood, and beauty.