Romeo and Juliet


Story Symbols and Themes

In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare reexamines a number of universal themes, motifs, and symbols, many of which had already been explored in earlier versions of the tale. While Romeo and Juliet may symbolize the star-crossed lovers to many, that is but one of the universal elements that reappears throughout the play.

Themes are the central topics or messages that the author is trying to convey.

Star-Crossed Lovers and Fate

Love is an important theme of Romeo and Juliet, but it is even more important to keep in mind that Romeo and Juliet are star-crossed lovers. They come from two feuding houses, so that a relationship between the two of them seems highly improbable, if not impossible. In fact, the very idea that they have met each other and been given the opportunity to fall in love is something that is left to fate, as the animosity between their households would make it unlikely for them ever to meet one another on peaceful terms. Thus, the idea that fate plays a role in their romance figures heavily in the play’s plot.

Even at the beginning of the play, the audience knows that there will be no happily-ever-after for Romeo and Juliet. Therefore, as soon as Capulet’s servant asks Romeo and Benvolio to read the guest list to them, one sees the hand of fate intervening to bring Romeo and Juliet together. Without being asked to read that guest list, they would have been unaware that Capulet was throwing a masquerade—and, more importantly, unaware that Rosaline was invited—so Romeo would have had no motivation to crash the masquerade. This intervening twist of fate ensures that the two lovers will get the chance to meet.

Likewise, fate intervenes to ensure that Romeo will be exiled from Verona, driving the plot toward its deadly ending. Romeo has no intention to continue the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues. When Tybalt tries to get him to duel, he refuses. However, his hotheaded friend Mercutio jumps into the fight. Romeo tries to stop the two men from fighting, but...

Sign up to continue reading Story Symbols and Themes >

Essays About Romeo and Juliet