Though Romeo and Juliet is arguably the most archetypal love story in the English language, it portrays only a very specific type of love: young, irrational, passionate love. In the play, Shakespeare ultimately suggests that the kind of love that Romeo and Juliet feel leads lovers to enact a selfish isolation from the world around them. Romeo and Juliet eschew their commitments to anyone else, choosing to act selflessly only towards one another. Sexuality does pervade the play, both through bawdy jokes and in the way that Romeo and Juliet anticipate consummating their marriage, but it does not define their love. Instead, their youthful lust is one of many reasons why their relationship grows so intense so quickly. Throughout the play, Shakespeare only describes Romeo and Juliet's love as a short-term burst of youthful passion. In most of his work, Shakespeare was more interested in exploring the sparks of infatuation than long-term commitment. Considering that no other relationships in the play are as pure as that between Romeo and Juliet, though, it is easy to see that Shakespeare respects the power of such a youthful, passionate love but also laments the transience of it.
In Romeo and Juliet, death is everywhere. Even before the play shifts in tone after Mercutio's death, Shakespeare makes several references to death being Juliet's bridegroom. The threat of violence that pervades the first acts manifests itself in the latter half of the play, when key characters die and the titular lovers approach their terrible end. There are several ways in which the characters in Romeo and Juliet consider death. Romeo attempts suicide in Act III as an act of cowardice, but when he seeks out the Apothecary in Act V, it is a sign of strength and solidarity. The Chorus establishes the story's tragic end at the beginning of the play, which colors the audience's experience from the start - we know that this youthful, innocent love will end in tragedy. The structure of the play as a tragedy from the beginning makes Romeo and Juliet's love even more heartbreaking because the audience is aware of their impending deaths. The journey of the play is the cycle from love to death - and that is what makes Romeo and Julie so lasting and powerful.
Throughout Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare establishes the ideological divide that often separates youths from adults. The characters in the play can all be categorized as either young, passionate characters or older, more functional characters. The youthful characters are almost exclusively defined by their energy and impulsiveness – like Romeo, Juliet, Mercutio, and Tybalt. Meanwhile, the older characters all view the world in terms of politics and expediency. The Capulet and Montague patriarchs are certainly feisty competitors, but think in terms of victory as a concept, ignoring the potential emotional toll of their feud. Friar Laurence, who ostensibly represents Romeo and Juliet's interests, sees their union in terms of its political outcome, while the young lovers are only concerned with satisfying their rapidly beating hearts. While Shakespeare does not posit a moral to the divide between young and old, it appears throughout the play, suggesting that the cynicism that comes with age is one of the many reasons that humans inevitably breed strife amongst themselves. It also implicitly provides a reason for young lovers to seek to separate themselves from an 'adult' world of political violence and bartering.
Romeo and Juliet suggests that individuals are often hamstrung by the identities forced upon them from outside. Most notably, this theme is manifest in Juliet's balcony soliloquy, in which she asks, "Oh Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" (2.1.75). The central obstacle of the play is that the two passionate lovers are separated by a feud based on their family names. The fact that their love has little to do with their given identities means nothing to the world around them, and so they must choose to eschew those identities while they are together. Unfortunately, this act of rejection also means Romeo and Juliet must ignore the world outside their comfortable cocoon, and, as a result, the violent forces ultimately crash down upon them. A strong sense of identity can certainly be a boon in life, but in this play, it only forces separation between the characters. Even Mercutio, who is not actually a Montague, is killed for his association with that family. The liveliest characters in Romeo and Juliet die not because of who they are, but because of the labels that the outside world has foisted upon them.
In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare upends certain gender expectations while simultaneously reminding his audience that these defined roles do exist. Romeo arguably displays feminine characteristics, at least as defined by his peers. He ignores all calls to action, and has little use for the aggression that most males around him exhibit. His pensive nature is cause for his friends' mockery. Even after he falls in love, Romeo is far less prone to action than Juliet, who in fact shows a tendency towards efficient maneuvering that is otherwise exhibited by male characters in the play. She makes quick decisions, like her idea that she and Romeo should wed, and is not easily discouraged by bad news. In these two protagonists, Shakespeare is certainly reversing what his Elizabethan audience would have expected, as he frequently did with his heroines. However, the pressures on Juliet to get married – especially from Lord Capulet, who is interested only in a good match and uninterested in love – remind the audience that such atypical strength in a woman can be threatening to a patriarchal society. Juliet's individualism is quickly quashed by her father's insistence on a marriage to Paris, and though she ultimately outwits him, his demands are a reminder that the world of Romeo and Juliet did not value reversals of gender roles as much as the audience might have.
Romeo and Juliet suggests that the desire for revenge is both a natural and a devastating human quality. From the moment that the play spirals towards disaster in Act III, most of the terrible events are initiated by revenge. Tybalt seeks out Romeo and kills Mercutio from a half-cooked desire for revenge over Romeo's attendance at the masquerade ball, and Romeo kills Tybalt to avenge Mercutio. Romeo's desire for revenge is so overpowering that he does not pause to think about how his attack on Tybalt will compromise his recent marriage to Juliet. Of course, the basic set-up of the play is contingent on a long-standing feud between the Montagues and Capulets, the cause of which no longer matters. All that matters is that these families have continued to avenge forgotten slights for generations. Though Shakespare rarely, if ever, moralizes, Romeo and Juliet certainly presents revenge as a senseless action that always causes more harm than good.
In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare does not paint an attractive picture of the institution of marriage. The only positive portrayal of matrimony – between the titular lovers – can only be conducted in secret, and even Friar Laurence slightly disapproves because Romeo and Juliet have decided to wed so quickly. Shakespeare seems to be suggesting that marriage based on pure love does not belong in a world that abuses the sacred union. The manner in which Lord Capulet insists upon Juliet's marriage to Paris suggests both the way he views his daughter as object and the way in which marriage can serve as a weapon against a rebellious young woman. Even the religious figure, Friar Laurence, sees marriage as political; he marries Romeo and Juliet to gain the political power end the feud between their families, and not because he necessarily approves of their love. Ultimately, the central marriage in Romeo and Juliet ends in death, showing that this kind of passionate, irrational union cannot exist in a world fueled by hate and revenge.
Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in Romeo and Juliet and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from Romeo and Juliet at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1 : The Use of Foreshadowing in Romeo and Juliet
Shakespeare uses foreshadowing in Romeo and Juliet to warn the reader that danger or a perilous situation is near. As the play opens in the city of Verona, and the audience settles down to hear the tale of the star-crossed lovers, it is evident that things are not going to turn out well for the pair. The story of Romeo and Juliet progresses and the foreshadowing becomes heavier. The witty word play that Shakespeare so often employs serves as a double entendre for the impending events, such as Mercutio’s admittance that the next day will find him a “grave man". In what scenes of the play is the foreshadowing the strongest, and what is the event being foreshadowed? What does Shakespeare hope to accomplish with the foreshadowing, and what does use does foreshadowing deliver to the audience? For this essay on Romeo and Juliet, consider the overall importance and role of foreshadowing using the questions listed here as a guide.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Power of Destiny in Romeo and Juliet
The powerful concept of fate and destiny has intrigued many writers, including William Shakespeare. Although Romeo and Juliet scheme up many ways to be together, it is almost certain that they have no hand in their fate; they are merely being pushed along by fate. As Juliet prepares to leave everything she loves, Romeo is caught up in the cosmic warfare between his family and the Capulet’s, fighting for his life against her cousins and is eventually banished by the King. Using these examples, as well as Shakespeare’s own textual hints, describe how destiny controls the end result Romeo and Juliet’s ill-fated union. Did they ever have a chance together? Why or why not?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3 : The Role of Religion in Romeo & Juliet
The theme of religion appears quite frequently throughout the text of Romeo and Juliet. In what ways does religion in Romeo and Juliet allude to the feelings that the lovers have for each other? Romeo compares Juliet to a saint as he kisses her hand, saying that he is unworthy to do so, and at several moments, the duo declare their love as divined by God. What is the connection between their affair and the heavens, and do they perhaps overestimate God’s favor? If God really approves of their love, why is it that the one religious figure in the play causes their deaths? Also, in what way does the language used between Romeo and Juliet add to the consecration of their relationship?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4 : The Depiction of Romantic Love in Romeo and Juliet
Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is, at its core, a story about the undeniable power of love. Before Romeo and Juliet meet, both of them are involved with another. Romeo is infatuated with Rosaline, who does not return his feelings, and Juliet is betrothed to Paris by her father, but shows no true feelings towards him. However, once Romeo meets Juliet, their prospective romances fall apart as their feelings for one another eclipse their respective feelings towards Rosaline and Paris. In what instances is their love for one another different from their feelings towards Rosaline and Paris? How do their interactions vary, and in what ways do the people around them notice these changes?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #5 : Romeo & Juliet and the Role of the Feuding Families
The role of the family in Romeo & Juliet is perhaps the most important, as the feuding families end up being the ultimate downfall for Romeo and Juliet. Were it not for the battle between the Capulets and Montagues, the ending of Romeo and Juliet would have turned out far differently. The feuding causes Romeo’s banishment, the death of Tybalt, and the ultimate suicide of the lovers. In what ways are Romeo and Juliet driven to destruction by the wars of their families? Do the lovers underestimate the hatred between their fathers and overestimate the power of their love to overcome the family feud?
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This list of important quotations from Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from Romeo and Juliet listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements above, these quotes from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes from Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text they are referring to.
Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night." (I.v.52-53)
“But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Juliet is the sun! Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, Who is already sick and pale with grief That thou her maid are far more fair than she." (II.2. 2-6)
“O, find him! Give this ring to my true knight And bid him come to take his last farewell." (III.ii.142-143)
“I dreamt my lady came and found me dead” (V.i.6).
“Then I defy you, stars!" (V.i.24)
“Oh! I am fortune’s fool" (III.i.131)
“God joined my heart and Romeo's, thou our hands" (IV.i.55)
“Or if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self,/Which is the god of my idolatry,/ And I'll believe thee." (II.ii.113-115)
“O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name, Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, And I’ll no longer be a Capulet." (II.i.74–78)
“From forth the fatal loins of these two foes A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life, Whose misadventured piteous overthrows, Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife" (Prologue. 5-8)