Themes in Romeo and Juliet

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Themes in Romeo and Juliet

The story of Romeo and Juliet continues to interest and engage viewers and readers to the present day. One of the reasons for this may be that it explores universal themes which are still of interest and concern to everyday people. The play makes us think about issues, such as love, loyalty to one’s family and friends, authority, and fate. Each of these themes is discussed below in relation to the play.

Loyalty
Romeo and Juliet contains many examples of loyalty of one person or group to another person or group. Loyal actions in the play do not always have positive results and cannot always be seen to have been the best course of action. At times, as we see in the opening of the play, loyalty can lead to violence and people behaving dishonestly or wrongly.

Student Tasks
1. In your groups, discuss and decide on a definition of loyalty. In your answer consider the following: What is loyalty and how does a loyal person behave? Where does loyalty start and stop?

2. Think of at least three examples of when a person or group shows loyalty in Romeo and Juliet. Write down: a. Who was loyal to whom?
b. How they were loyal—what did they do that showed loyalty? c. What the result of their actions—did their loyalty have positive or negative outcomes in the end?

3. Using the scenes of Romeo and Juliet that we have studied in class, find three quotations that show that a character is feeling torn or pulled in two directions by their loyalties. Write down the quotation and explain what it shows about the character and to whom they are loyal.

Authority
Authority is illustrated and explored in Romeo and Juliet. In Shakespeare’s time, authority was very closely linked in people’s minds to the natural order of the world and to the will of God. For example, the authority of the king or queen was believed to be given to them by God. Therefore, anyone who went against the authority of the king or...
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