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Think of Romeo and Juliet and immediately you think of lovers - The play has come to represent all that young love exemplifies - It almost goes without saying then that the major theme of the play is love.

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Introduction

Think of Romeo and Juliet and immediately you think of lovers. The play has come to represent all that young love exemplifies. It almost goes without saying then that the major theme of the play is love. However, the theme is dealt with in far more depth than might first appear. Let's look at the various types of love Shakespeare explores in the play. This section deals with the love of material possessions and power The story takes place in mostly affluent settings. The two families are of the upper class, both being Lords. So it is to be expected that there is a fair amount of wealth about. For example, the Capulet ball (and subsequent plans for the marriage) is an indication of wealth and the ability to entertain on a lavish scale. Thus Shakespeare creates an atmosphere of ease and opulence. The Montague family features less prominently in the story, appearing mostly in the opening act, then reappearing to defend Romeo after the fight and finally again at the end when we also learn of Lady Montague's untimely death. On the other hand, the Capulets are very involved in the action, not least because of the immediate marriage of their daughter to Paris. Shakespeare makes it clear that this is not a marriage of love but rather one arranged for economic reasons. Paris is quite a catch for the family. He is a Count, not without status and presumably the wealth that goes with the title. When Juliet refuses to marry Paris it becomes increasingly obvious that what concerns her father is not so much his daughter's happiness as what the family stands to gain. Juliet becomes no more than another possession with which to barter. At the end of the play Shakespeare makes the point that no amount of wealth and power, no statues erected in pure gold, can replace the lives that are lost. By pursuing wealth and status, the Capulets sacrifice the irreplaceable life of their only daughter. ...read more.

Middle

Although not of the house of Montague (he is in fact the Prince's kinsman), Mercutio sides with his friend Romeo. Mercutio is one of the 'helpers' in the play. As best friend and confidant to Romeo, he plays much the same role as does the Nurse in the Capulet family. He is supportive, defending the self-esteem of his friend when Tybalt chooses so rudely to insult Romeo, his as yet unrevealed, newly married kinsman. We come to know Mercutio early on in the play. Just before the Montagues gatecrash the Capulet party, Mercutio delivers his 'Queen Mab' speech. This is obviously a set piece, often criticised for holding up the action. Yet it is undoubtedly a great moment for the playwright to show off his skill, writing an involved and almost mystical piece for the character. However, it does also show Mecutio as somewhat jaded and world-weary. This is how he answers Romeo at the end of the Queen Mab speech: Romeo Peace, peace, Mercutio, peace! Thou talk'st of nothing. Mercutio True, I talk of dreams, Which are the children of an idle brain ... (Act 1, scene 4, lines 97-100) He is obviously a very intelligent, bright and quick-witted young man, but there is a basic pessimism about what he has to say - particularly about love. He appears cynical and suspicious of love. This is in contrast to the stubborn and perverse devotion Romeo shows for Rosaline early on in the play. However, his natural wit is mostly evident. We see a high-spirited young man, quick with words, ready to enjoy life and joke about love and commitment. Later in the play these characteristics are again evident as he jests with the Nurse, and also in his interaction with Tybalt before the fatal duel. His death brings a moment of truth and misfortune to the play as we see yet another young life sacrificed for the archaic feud between the Montagues and Capulets. ...read more.

Conclusion

Increasingly mature, once Romeo kills Tybalt she is forced to choose between her love for her husband and her responsibility to her family. She opts for love and her husband, staying true to him, even in the face of the threat of being cut off from her family. Here is her response to the Nurse who wishes shame on Romeo: "Blistered be thy tongue / for such a wish! He was not born to shame..." (Act 3, scene 2, lines 90-1). Although her modesty remains, she is forced into pretence and trickery in order to remain true to her ideals and commitments. The scene in which she apparently agrees to her father's proposal that she marry Paris shows great control and self-assurance: "Pardon, I beseech you! / Henceforth I am ever ruled by you" (Act 4, scene 2, lines 20-1). Juliet displays remarkable courage and commitment when Friar Lawrence agrees to help her re-establish contact with her husband - even to the extent of taking the potion while accepting the reality of regaining consciousness in the Capulet tomb. We cannot help but sympathise with Juliet, fellow victim with Romeo, of fate and circumstance. We feel compassion for her as she prepares for the inevitability of sharing death with Romeo, rather than enduring life with Paris: "Then I'll be brief. O happy dagger, / this is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die" (Act 5, scene 3, lines 169-70). The quickness with which she commits suicide shows again what might be interpreted as an irrational and headstrong nature. However, in terms of the play as a whole and the themes associated with love as a healing and redemptive influence, it is a necessary and inevitable end - and we cannot but sympathise with the character. During the period of a few short days Juliet matures into a committed and reliable woman and wife, capable of taking decisions without the help of others. Her death, unavoidable and inevitable, is sad and tragic - the result of being outwitted and defeated by the vengeful influence of fate and circumstance. ...read more.

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