This essay argues that the true meaning of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ written by William Shakespeare is not ‘that young people should obey their parents’. Rather, this essay argues that ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a complex love story and to say that the true meaning of the play is that young people should obey their parents is an excessive simplification of the many complex themes in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ that does not consider the messages in the play. These include the inevitability of fate, that things may have turned for the worse had Romeo and Juliet obeyed their parents, and the often overpowering nature of love.
Citing the text, this essay explores these themes under the headings Fate is inevitable, Events that took place were for the Greater Good and What People do for Love. Fate, no matter what, would bring Romeo and Juliet together; regardless of their parents feud, opinions or wishes. Throughout the story, fate is the justification for many events that occur and makes it seem as if these circumstances were inevitable. In the text, fate is referred to many times as something “in the stars”. Before the story even begins to unfold, it is suggested in the prologue that fate will play a large role in Romeo and Juliet's tragedy.
It states that “A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life”, meaning that their love is “death-mark’d” (also stated in the prologue). Fate is also mentioned before Romeo enters the Capulet mansion to attend the feast. He mentions “Some consequence yet hanging in the stars shall bitterly begin his fearful date”. It is also made apparent when Juliet says to her nurse “Go ask his name: if he be married. My grave is like to be my wedding bed”, and is essentially fore-telling her own death. Had Romeo and Juliet obeyed their parents things may have turned for the worse.
Obeying their parents would have continued the feud as it was only after the deaths of their children did the parents make peace, as stated in the prologue; “And the continuance of their parents' rage, Which, but their children's end, nought could remove”. The continuation of the feud could potentially have caused more deaths than it did, and the deaths of Romeo, Juliet, Mercutio, Tybalt and Paris were ultimately for the greater good. As this event did not actually take place, no quotes are in the text that support this theory.
However, it is made apparent that the on-going feud is getting worse in the prologue; “Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean”, and that the only solution is for the fighting to stop; “Quench the fire of your pernicious rage”, as stated by Prince Escalas. In the play, love is the dominating theme and Romeo and Juliet do romantic, desperate and reckless things in order to be together. Their love turns them against their families (Juliet says “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”) and friends (Romeo deserts Benvolio and Mercutio to meet Juliet in her garden), clouding their judgement which causes them to make rash decisions. Out of love for Juliet, Romeo disregards past conflict between his family and the Capulets, as demonstrated when he refuses to duel Tybalt. He responds to Tybalt’s many insults with “I do protest, I never injured thee, But love thee better than thou canst devise, Till thou shalt know the reason of my love: And so, good Capulet,--which name I tender As dearly as my own,--be satisfied”.
Even after Tybalt and Mercutio start fighting, Romeo; out of love for Juliet, continues to try and make peace between the two, hate-driven families, resulting in Mercutio’s death. Even the death of his best friend could not hinder Romeo’s love for Juliet even though it caused Mercutio’s death as he realizes when he says “My very friend, hath got his mortal hurt In my behalf; my reputation stain'd With Tybalt's slander,--Tybalt, that an hour Hath been my kinsman!
O sweet Juliet, Thy beauty hath made me effeminate And in my temper soften'd valour's steel! ”. In light of Romeo’s banishment, Juliet goes to desperate measures to make things right. She does the extreme and takes a potion that makes her appear dead for 42 hours. The original plan was that after she awoke, her family; who would be filled with grief, would be ecstatic and would not care about the fact that she had married Romeo. A message was to be sent to Romeo to inform him of the plan but unfortunately, he did not receive it.
This shows that Juliet was prepared to abandoned her life and everything she knew for the sake of her relationship with Romeo. These rash decisions were done in the name of love, whether they were right or wrong, and depicts the often forceful and reckless nature of love. In conclusion, the true meaning of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is ‘what people do for love’. As outlined previously, fate played a substantial role in the events of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and the two lovers were destined to meet despite any obstacle.
Had Romeo and Juliet obeyed their parents, things may have turned out worse then they did. If the families’ feud had continued, it would have caused further, even greater damage; if anything, the deaths of Romeo and Juliet ended the feud and potentially saved many lives. These two points therefore arguably disprove the statement that the true meaning of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is ‘that young people should obey their parents’ and suggest that the true meaning of the story is actually about the often overwhelming and reckless nature of love and what people may do in loves name.