Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (c. 1595) | Play 

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (c. 1595)

William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet (c. 1595) is a tragedy.  The tragic heroes in this play are the young aristocrats, Romeo and Juliet.  Their fatal flaw is that the intensity of their romantic love clouded their judgement so they made rushed or impetuous decisions that led to their downfall, when that need not have been the case.

A tragedy usually tells the story of a great man or hero who falls from grace due to a flaw or flaws in his character.  This in turn provides a lesson to the audience to guard against similar flaws in their character.  While tragedies usually deal with men, in this play the romantic heroine Juliet is as equally tragic as her lover Romeo.

The love between Romeo and Juliet is presented as simultaneously poetically magnificent in its intensity and sincerity while also being worryingly dangerous for the same reasons.  It is a love to be admired and dreaded. It is a love that can exalt and also destroy those who experience it.  The play teaches its audience that it is better to love in moderation and to deliberate without haste.

In this play, Shakespeare is also concerned with the futility and needless destructiveness of family feuds and gang warfare.  This can see people maimed and killed for trivial reasons in disputes with long-forgotten causes.

Shakespeare explored the social pressures on young men to appear brave and to not shirk a challenge or fight.  This can see them too proud to avoid brawls that could easily get out of hand and result in injuries or deaths that were not intended.  The play argues that this kind of civil disobedience should not be tolerated by authorities because if this behaviour is not stamped out it can result in the needless loss of precious young lives.  While the play shows that romantic love can transcend the boundaries set by gang violence, it also shows that it will fall short of generating reconciliation between the factions.  Sadly, what creates peace is a realisation reached mutually by the feuding parties that too many have died so needlessly.

References to fate in the ‘Prologue’ and elsewhere are common features in  tragedies as a literary form and they serve to give this story a mythic instructional quality by suggesting that people who have these fatal flaws are doomed because of these qualities.

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

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The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students  seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.)

Subject: Romeo and Juliet meaning, Romeo and Juliet themes, Romeo and Juliet analysis, Romeo and Juliet notes

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Student Resources by Dr Mark Lopez

More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my Melbourne private tutoring business.