The theme of sacrifice plays a large part in William Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Juliet is a story of “star cross’d lovers” entangled in a love story destined in tragedy. Set in the Italian city of Verona, the streets are ablaze with conflict and terror. Right from the beginning we are shown this when members of the Capulet and Montague family are fighting: “Part fools. Put up your swords, you know not what to do. ” This shows the violence and distaste between these two families. This is why Romeo and Juliet must sacrifice so much for their love, because they are members of opposing families.
The dramatist shows this through many dramatic techniques and uses their sacrifices to make this apparent to the audience. Juliet asks Romeo to sacrifice his family name and his identity for their love. Romeo is not keen on the idea: “Deny thy father, and refuse they name” This shows Juliet’s degree of love for Romeo. She loves him so much that she is willing to make him change his name and deny his whole family name and inheritance. Upon hearing that he will not forget his name, Juliet agrees to partake in a secret marriage. This causes her to sacrifice a lot in the process.
A wedding is usually an exciting event that is shared with family and friends and most women would involve their parents deeply with the wedding, like picking dresses and such. Juliet sacrificed all this through agreeing to a secret marriage with Romeo: “Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow,” Through agreeing to this secret marriage it shows how much Juliet is willing to risk and sacrifice for Romeo and for them to be together. In the process of doing so she is losing the family support from her mother and father, to help her through such a thing as marriage.
If they were to find out that she had married a Montague then she would be in a more problematic predicament than she is now. To give up your family, who you have known and loved for your whole life, for a man that you have only just met shows the intensity of the love between Romeo and Juliet and it is one step closer to the perfection that they wish to have. Which is to be with each other forever, but as mentioned in the prologue we know they are destined to be apart, unknown to Romeo and Juliet.
In giving up this parental support, when Romeo is banished from Verona after killing Tybalt, Juliet is subjected to the idea of marrying Paris. This sparks two sacrifices that are evident in this part of the play. One of which is Capulet’s sacrifice of his daughter for his political and social status. This shows the power of males in these days and the dominance they had over women: “Marry my child… The county Paris” This shows Capulet’s desperation for Juliet to marry someone who he deems to be appropriate and if she were to marry Paris this would increase his political powers.
Obviously Juliet was against this idea completely, for two reasons. The first being that if she were to marry Paris she would in fact be breaking the law and committing a sin which would damn her to hell. Since she did not share her marriage to Romeo with her parents it puts her in the position of having to choose between hell, or tell her parents and be completely separated from Romeo altogether. The other more obvious reason that she does not want to marry Paris is that she does not love him and she only loves Romeo, so she would be betraying him if she were to marry Paris.
This distresses her greatly so she takes the last sacrifice she can take; sacrificing her life. When Juliet realises that she cannot tell her parents about Romeo and does not want to marry Paris, she goes to Friar Lawrence. Upon speaking to Friar Lawrence they come up with a plan to reunite Romeo with Juliet in Mantua without having to tell her parents of the situation. “Tomorrow night look that thou lie alone” Friar Lawrence comes up with the idea that Juliet should take a sleeping draft to fool her family that she is dead. The Friar vows to tell Romeo of this plan so he can come back to Verona and rescue her from the tomb.
This plan does not work as Romeo is not informed and hears that Juliet is dead. Romeo comes to the tomb to find Juliet in her sleep but assumes that she is dead. This is too much for Romeo and he kills himself at her side. Juliet sacrificed herself to Friar Lawrence and trusted that he would enlighten Romeo correctly of the plan which he did not. When Juliet awoke from sleep to see Romeo dead she too took her life. This is the final sacrifice she takes to be with Romeo. In death is the only place where they can really be together. This shows the audience how significant sacrifice is in the play.
It causes the death of two main characters in the play and highlights significant points to the audience. For example the way in which women were treated in the time of Shakespeare highlighting an issue that is broadly debated these days. This gives the reader something to relate to, hence increasing their enjoyment of the play as a whole. Sacrifice is something which people must do every day and think about also. This fact makes the poem relevant for everyone and makes it a valid source of guidance for every day life in the modern age.