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Romeo and Juliet Motif Seminar
Transcript of Romeo and Juliet Motif Seminar
These objects, in turn, become motifs.
Motif - a distinctive feature or dominant idea in an artistic or literary composition.
In Romeo and Juliet motifs such as plants, poison, swords/daggers, blood, power/gold/money are quite prominent in the play.
This particular literary device throws a light upon different themes of Romeo and Juliet. Plants Poison Swords & Daggers Blood Power/ Money/Gold In common, plants convey the idea of love, beauty and healing.But this imagery is opposed in Friar Lawrence's first appearance in the play Romeo and Juliet.He links plants with poison and indicates that plants can be healing but at the same time they can be venomous.This idea is directly concatenated with the death of Romeo and Juliet. Poison first appears in Friar Lawrence's soliloquy in Act II scene II.
He explains that poison is not naturally evil, but is instead a natural substance made lethal by human hands.
Poison symbolizes the theme of death.
It foreshadows the death of the young couple, Romeo and Juliet.
In a way it also acts as a source of liberty for young Romeo. Swords & daggers can be considered as weapons of death.
They suggest the idea of violence and rage.
The frequent clashes between the Montagues and Capulets shows the rampant feelings and the nature of various characters in the play such as, Mercutio, Tybalt, Romeo, and Paris.
This particular motif also depicts the idea of revenge. The motif of blood is a representation of the delicacy of life and the suddenness of death.
In several moments in the play, blood is used as a motive to take revenge.
Indirectly, the motif of blood foreshadows the idea of demise.
This also illustrates the family ties and relations. This particular motif was used to show two different features of the characters of the play; good and bad.
Good - Describes the people who use their power for good, such as the Prince of Verona.
Bad - Describes the men who have become corrupted by power and wealth. Plants, flowers and herbs are often used to convey love, beauty and healing.
However, the meaning of plants is contradicted in Friar Lawrence's first soliloquy (II. III. 1-30).
Here, Friar Lawrence connects plant life and poison.
In other words, Friar shows us that plants can either heal or intoxicate. An example of this is in the Prologue of Romeo and Juliet: “From forth the fatal loins of these two foes a pair of star cross’d lovers take their life” (Prologue. 5-6).
Here, Romeo and Juliet are described as being the fruit of their families' loins.
As the plot progresses, Romeo is tempted by the Capulet fruit and pursues her in love. Nearing the end of the play, Romeo commits suicide but before death, he kisses Juliet.
This presents the audience with a comparison to the story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden.
The tragedies that unfolded in the play also present an image of how plants can become deadly. On the other hand, according to Friar Lawrence, plants also have the power to heal.
Though the deaths of Romeo and Juliet were unfortunate, they produced a good result.
After seeing the deceased lovers, Capulet and Montague realized their feud as a factor to their children's deaths.
As a result, they mutually agreed to mend their bond. We are first introduced to poison in Friar Lawrence's soliloquy: "Poison hath residence, and medicine power: Being tasted, stays all senses in the heart." (II. III. 24-25).In this particular soliloquy, Friar Lawrence shows his deep understanding of the things he is collecting.He speaks of poison, which can be found in flowers, thus giving the audience a message that "things are not always as they seem."Also, the lines above foreshadow the things that are yet to come in the play. Poison is the key factor to the death of the tragic heroes of Romeo and Juliet, and thus plays a key role in the theme of "death".
Having been engaged to Paris, Juliet seeks Friar Lawrence's advice to avoid the wedding.
He, in turn, offers her a poison that will cause her to fall into a deep sleep; as if she was dead. After her "death" and Friar John's failure to deliver the letter, Romeo hears of Juliet's death from Balthazar.
He then buys a toxin from the Apothecary, intending to use it on himself.
To be with his wife, Romeo drinks the poison, not knowing that Juliet is still alive. Juliet wakes to find her dead husband.
Hearing the approach of the officers, she quickly grabs Romeo's dagger and kills herself.
Although she did not die from a toxin, her death was a result of the Apothecary's toxin, as Romeo's death was a result of Friar Lawrence's poison. In Romeo and Juliet, swords and daggers are meant to symbolize violence, anger and revenge.
The many fights between the Capulets and Montagues were all quarrels where violence and anger were the key factors. In Act III, Mercutio fights Tybalt because of his hatred towards Capulets and his irritation towards Tybalt.
However, Mercutio is killed, and as a response, Romeo angrily takes his revenge for his lost friend's life. Also, nearing the end of the play, Romeo visits the Capulet tomb to be with his wife.
Assuming that Romeo was there to defile the tomb; an assumption that would cost him his life, Paris steps in to stop him.
Romeo insists that Paris leave and live, "Good gentle youth, tempt not a desp'rate man, fly hence and leave me. Think upon these gone" (V. III. 59-60).
Enraged by his refusal to leave, Romeo slays Paris by the sword and ends his life. On the other hand, swords and daggers were used by Shakespeare to represent a "solution", or suicide.
Juliet awakes in the tomb to find several corpses, including her lover Romeo.
As the officers approach, Juliet grabs Romeo's dagger, and as a way to escape a love gone wrong, kills herself.
Therefore, swords and daggers were meant to characterize anger, violence and vengeance, and also, emphasize the subject of "suicide". The use of blood offers a physical enhancement in the experience of Romeo and Juliet, but also a figurative representation of several things.
Throughout the play, blood is shed in nearly every fight between Montagues and Capulets.
Blood gives the audience a perspective of how important and valuable, yet so fragile life is.
When blood is shed in the play, it usually marks the end someone's life. In Act III, blood was cleverly used to to give the dramatic significance of foreshadowing.
When Benvolio tells Mercutio that they should leave "for mad blood is stirring" (III. I. 1-4), he uses blood to explain that lives could be lost if they stay outside.
Here, Benvolio foreshadows Mercutio's untimely death.
Aside from lives being lost, Benvolio also meant that everyone is angry in the warm climate. Other than the representation of life, blood is used as a reason to take vengeance.
Mercutio's death was a reason for Romeo to shed more blood; end Tybalt's life.
Even at the end of the play, blood spills, ending the lives of Romeo, Juliet and Paris. Blood also plays a key role in terms of the family bloodlines.
The family bond between all Capulets and all Montagues created the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet in the first place.
The many lives lost and the forbidden love between a Capulet and a Montague were all a result of the two bloodlines.
Therefore, in Romeo and Juliet, blood creates the imagery of life and death, presents the dramatic significance of foreshadowing, and finally emphasizes the themes of "family rivalry" and "forbidden love". Shakespeare also used the motifs of money, power and gold.
The primary example of power can be seen in the Prince of Verona.
The Prince's role in the play is devoted to perserving the peace in the city he rules over, and ending any conflicts that arise; specifically the rivalry between the Montagues and Capulets. After the first quarrel in Act I, as an effort to sustain peace, the Prince declares that anyone who disturbs the city will be put to death, "If ever you disturb our streets again, you lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace." (I. I. 90-91).
Later in the play, however, the Prince does not keep his word and instead uses his power to perserve Romeo's life.
Romeo is banished by the Prince rather than sentenced to death.
Because of the Prince's power and authority, Romeo is alive, but due to his recklessness, it is only for a short period of time. Moreover, money makes its only a single appearance in the play in Act V Scene I.
Here, Romeo purchases poison from the Apothecary.
As Romeo hands the gold to the Apothecary, he says, "There is thy gold, worse poison to men's souls" (V. I. 80).
This portrays Romeo's perspective on gold, that it is a poison to men, causing them to become greedy and selfish. Therefore, in the use of power and money, Shakespeare implies that they could both lead to good, as shown in the virtuous Prince of Verona, or bad, as portrayed in the avaricious men described by Romeo. Conclusion Motifs play an important role in Romeo and Juliet.
Motifs have proven their worth, in a sense that they are needed to understand the various themes in Romeo and Juliet.
Motifs have also revealed the innermost characteristics and personalities of each character, while enhancing the reader's knowledge of any inner meanings to the specific themes of the play. Plants are compared from a delicate beauty to an unknown hand of death.
Swords and daggers give the audience a clearer view of the raging emotions of the characters despite being angry or sad, characters will vent out their emotions either using a sword or a dagger possibly leading to death.
Blood gives the audience the viewpoint of how fragile and valuable life is, yet it always must come to end. Power/gold/money is a motif that has the ability to tempt the hearts of the characters into believing that wealth is everything, but to righteous characters, such as the Prince, power and money can be something used for good.
In conclusion, motifs are literary devices which reveal the nature of the play and the characters, and also help to develop and elucidate the play’s major themes.