(Click the themes infographic to download.)
Romeo and Juliet marry for love. Duh, right? Not so much. In the world of Romeo and Juliet, marriage for love, rather than money or social position, is a radical and dangerous choice—particularly for kids from wealthy and influential families. (Poor people could pretty much marry whoever they wanted, since they didn't have much to gain—or lose.) Romeo and Juliet's love-based union shows us a new focus on individual passion and inner conviction, a focus that was just starting to bubble up in Shakespeare's time. In the play, it comes dangerously in conflict with social and familial expectations. Romeo and Juliet pay a heavy price for marrying for love—their clandestine union propels the lovers towards their tragic deaths. And maybe one of the play's lessons is that adults should let their kids have a say in their marriages. Shocking!
Questions About Marriage
- How does Juliet's dad (Capulet) first react when Paris asks to marry Juliet at the beginning of Act 1, Scene 2?
- When and why does Lord Capulet decide Juliet should marry Paris?
- Friar Laurence doesn't think Romeo's love for Juliet is any more genuine than his former crush on Rosaline but he agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet anyway (2.3.9). What explanation does the Friar offer? What does this suggest about his character?
- Why do Romeo and Juliet marry in secret? What are the consequences of such secrecy?
- How would you characterize the Capulets' marriage?
Chew on This
Juliet's conflict with her parents about whether or not she should marry Paris reveals that, for Juliet, marriage is a way of formally recognizing a shared emotional bond (love). For her parents, however, marriage is a means of securing wealth, status, and stability.
When Romeo and Juliet marry for love, they redefine what marriage is all about in the 16th century (social status, economic security, and pedigree).