The story of Icarus is one of the most commonly known myths. Daedalus, a skilled Greek craftsman, fashioned two pairs of wings out of wax and feathers; one was for him, the other for his son, Icarus. Before the two of them took flight, Daedalus warned his son not to fly too high for the wax would melt and Icarus would fall. Once they started to fly, Icarus was overwhelmed with joy and excitement, and flew too close to the sun. His wings melted and sent him tumbling down into the ocean, where he drowned. Icarus’ tale demonstrates a common theme in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: acting impulsively will only lead to tragedy.
Romeo and Juliet shared an extremely passionate love, but their relationship was too rushed to be wise. When Romeo speaks with Friar Lawrence, the Friar warns him, “Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast” (II.IV.101). He is telling Romeo that hurrying leads to mistakes. Romeo should think before he acts because acting without thinking leads to disaster. The Friar also says to Romeo, “These violent delights have violent ends/And in their triumph die, like fire and powder” (II.VI.9-10). With such a passionate joy comes the inevitable crash because one cannot maintain such a powerful feeling for extended amounts of time.
Juliet is aware that she and Romeo are rushing in too quickly, but she doesn’t want to stop because she has already fallen in love with him. The joy of love that she experiences is similar to the exhilaration of flying, and just like Icarus, the consequences do not seem worth restraining the passion she is feeling. During the balcony scene, she says to Romeo, “It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden, /Too like the lightning which doth cease to be” (II.II.125-126). The comparison she makes between their love and lightning shows that just as the lightning flashes bright for a second, it fades to nothing afterwards, similar to how Romeo and Juliet love passionately for several days before tragedy strikes.
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