Written between 1594 and 1595, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is the most famous and well known Shakespearian love tragedy ever told. The story revolves around the two young, star-crossed lovers, who cannot understand the hatred of an older generation. This eventually leads to the untimely death of our heroes, whose love was so strong that they choose to die together than live their lives apart. Although ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a play that does in fact celebrate young love, it is not the central theme of this timeless story.
‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a cautionary tale as it shows us that ‘love can be dangerous’. It is a story of young love and its perils. Capturing the minds of all its viewers this tragedy concerns major themes such as destiny, pain and hatred which all show the problems that can arise from young love. One of the foremost themes in the play of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is destiny or the ‘greater power’, as the Friar calls it. The predetermined, usually inevitable, course of events is ‘destiny’. This theme runs throughout the entire story and plays a large role in showing the perils of young love.
In its first address to the audience, the Prologue states that Romeo and Juliet are ‘star-crossed’, that is to say that fate controls them. One major example is the scene just before Romeo leaves for the Capulet Ball, where he meets and falls in love with the fair Juliet. He quotes: ‘Some consequence yet hanging in the starts…. By some vile forfeit of untimely death. But he hath the steerage of my course, Direct my sail! ’ In this scene, Romeo fears that something yet ‘hanging in the stars’, something destined to happen, will set in motion that night.
His premonition seems to keep with what the Prologue tells us and adds to the sense of foreboding. Romeo believes that going to the Capulet Ball will lead him to his end. He then uses the analogy of a ship sailing, the wind sent by God. He believes that if God wants this to happen he will leave it up to God to direct him through his life. The film made in 1996 by Luhrmann shows during this quote, of Romeo having a prediction of himself walking down an aisle of the dead. This is the same place, in chapel where he later goes to see Juliet’s assumed dead body.
Film techniques such as the use of mid-way shot and dramatic music are played in the background, to make it seem more intense and to highlight the mood of the scene. Romeo is acknowledging and cautioning the audience that fate or destiny, God directed things, cannot or should not try to be changed. Romeos’ perspective of leaving everything up to God changes throughout the play, from the scene shown after Romeo hears from Balthasar that Juliet is dead. Romeo says: ‘Is it e’en so? Then I defy you stars’. Romeo is suggesting that Juliets’ death was destined to happen, but he rejects the stars that have decided to separate Juliet and him.
He will be with Juliet despite Gods plans. He is telling the ‘stars’ that he will be the master of his own destiny, not God and asks the rhetorical question ‘Is it e’en so? ’ meaning ‘is it really true? ’. In the 1996 film, Balthasar tries to comfort Romeo but he just pushes him away, showing that he does not want to be comforted. Luhrmann shows Romeo shouting ‘Juliet, Juliet! ’, as he kneels down in hay and cries intensely. An eye-sight shot is then done from Balthasar’s perspective, showing Romeo still kneeling and a bright sun shining.
In the sky, some colours used are bright red and orange, symbolising the anger Romeo feels towards God. Little did Romeo know that Juliet was not dead, but had drank the potion made by Friar Laurence that only temporarily stops her pulse, making it look as if she had died. Although Friar Lawrence had sent a letter to Romeo notifying him about the truth of Juliet’s death, it had not reached Romeo in time. This then leads to the death of the star-crossed lovers. The play warns us not to tamper with destiny, because like in the tale of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, everything will go wrong and cause trouble.
Romeo later cries that he is ‘fortune’s fool’ and Juliet exclaims that she has an ‘ill-divining soul’. Moreover, their predictions extend into their dreams, as Romeo says ‘I dreamt my lady came and found me dead. ’ It is already clear that fate controls the doomed lovers from the beginning to the end. This theme shows us the perils of young love and ascertains us that ‘love can be dangerous’ as it leads to the death of our heroes. ‘Where there is love, there is pain’ is a Spanish proverb meaning that love is not always a good thing because sometimes love can cause pain.
Mental or emotional suffering or torment is ‘pain’. The theme of pain is prevalent throughout the play, one strong example being when Romeo is first introduced. Romeo’s speech in this scene, consists of many oxymorons such as ‘brawling love’, which all describe his love for Rosaline. Another major example is just before the couple are about to get married and Friar Lawrence narrates some useful advice: ‘These violent delights have violent ends, And in their triumph die, like fire and powder…Therefore love moderately, long love doth so, Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow. ’
By this time, Friar Lawrence is worried about the long-term consequences of Romeo and Juliets’ marriage. Quoted before by Friar Lawrence: ‘To turn your households’ rancour to pure love’. Proves that he only agreed to marry them as it may restore peace between the Capulets and the Montagues. He warns Romeo that his and Juliets’ intense passion may end suddenly and violently, through the simile ‘And in their triumph die, like fire and powder’. He is saying that love is as dangerous as fire ’kissing’ gunpowder, it can destroy and cause pain. Luhrmann shows in his film, this quote just before Romeo and Juliet are about to get married.
Techniques like a mid-way shot is used to capture the expression of Friar Lawrence. He says the quote with a stern face showing that the concept of the quote is vital. Tybalt’s speech at the start, where he quotes: ‘What, drawn and talk of peace? I hate the word, As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee’, supports what the Prologue already tells us that this play is about the feud between the Capulets and Monatgues and how it all will destroy Romeo and Juliet. Although Friar Lawrence was correct in that Romeo and Juliet’s love was poisonous, as their love for each other led them to meet their ends.
Ultimately at the end, the death of these two lovers brought back what was already destroyed. They brought together the friendship of the Capulets and Montagues. Therefore the death of Romeo and Juliet was worth it. The theme of pain is also shown throughout the entire play and shows the audience in various ways that Romeo and Juliet is not a play celebrates young love, but mourns it instead. The quote from the tale said by Friar Lawrence informs us about the dangers of young love and describes how too much passion may destroy everything. But sometimes if you can endure the pain it can bring more important things alive.
Love and hate are usually thought of as opposites, but in Romeo and Juliet, love and hate are two sides of the same straw, as two children from opposing families turn their hatred into an insatiable passion. Ultimately, the hatred between the two families propels the lovers towards their tragic deaths. The hatred between the two households have a large impact on the play of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, proven in the speech the Prince gives near the end. He says: ‘See, what a scourge is laid upon your hate, That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love, And I for winking at your discords too, Have lost a brace of kinsmen: all are punish’d.
’ The Prince is saying that the hatred between both the Montague and Capulet household has punished them because now their children are dead. The feuding families are punished when they realise that their hatred caused the death of a pair of innocent lovers. Luhrmann shows this scene, after the bodies of our heroes are lifted into the paramedics van. A close-up shot of his expression, which is disappointment, is also a film technique used in this scene. The colours used in the background are like, greys, blacks and deep blues highlighting the mood of the scene, which is sorrow.
He later repeats ‘all are punish’d’, showing the intensity the words carry. The theme of hate also shows the audience that the perils and mishaps love can cause. Which supports the statement ‘love can be dangerous’. This specific theme plays a major role in the entire play of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and informs the audience that you should never hate too much, because it may harm others and lead to larger problems. When their parents discover Romeo and Juliet dead in each other’s arms, they vow to end the feud between the two families.
In the last quote in the play of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, the Prince says: ‘A glooming peace this morning with it brings’. This quote states that the death of their children brought the two families together. ‘Glooming peace’ is an oxymoron used to show that even though they brought both households together, Juliet and her Romeo are still dead. Film Director, Luhrmann shows this tragic scene, while the voice-over of the news reporter is in the background. A close-up shot of both Capulet and Montague faces are shown, which are mutually filled with guilt and regret.
This finally proves that love can be overpowering and deceptive. Love, in ‘Romeo and Juliet’, is a grand passion, and as such it is blinding, it can overwhelm a person as powerfully and completely as hate can. After all, unlike many of the other tragedies, this play does not have a villain, but rather people whose good qualities are turned to poison by the world in which they live. Therefore ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a play that does not celebrate young love but mourns it. The story of Romeo and Juliet is a tribute and a cautionary tale of young love and its mishaps.