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The Unreachable Ideal As The Theme In Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet

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What if we change the ending of Romeo and Juliet into a happy ending, that Romeo and Juliet successfully end up with each other? It is ideal that we can change the ending of the tragedy into comedy and that we believe that every story in the world ends happily, every effort we paid will result in our success. But in reality, both Romeo and Juliet died for their love, and nothing can change their fate. One of the features in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is that it expresses such kind of contrast by the character of Romeo. Romeo is a pure man, with passion and love in his mind, while the world in mundane, filled with code for honor and bloody rite of duel. As the story proceeds Romeo gradually degraded from his ideal, pure man into a firm, emotionless avenger, filled with hate. The sacrifice of Romeo is an excellent example to show that although fancy and sweet the ideal is, the reality is cruel and unavoidable.

Drenched in sweetness of love, Romeo, at the beginning of the play, is a man of such passionate soul, never tainted by hatred, that when he first appeared in ACT1 before the duel scene, he is still thinking about Rosaline, saying: 'Alas that love, whose view is muffled still, Should without eyes see pathways to his will.'(ACT1.1.164-165)

The 'll' rhymes used here augmented the degree to which Romeo is intoxicated with love that when he saw the fighting scene. His first action is to interpret it in terms of love: 'O me! What fray was here?... Here is much to do with hate, but more with love. Why then, o brawling love, O loving hate....'(ACT1.1.166-170).

His reaction is not anger or hatred, but rather lament why the result of love is such a tragedy and hate. He virtually allayed the crime of the enemy of his opponent. There is no such hate and the sense of enemy in his head and he pursues Juliet as if she doesn't belong to Capulet. Right now he is pure, passionate, without any trace of mundane hatred. He is an ideal who is innocent, a perfect man.

However, just like the ideal thing is so weak against reality, such a pure figure like Romeo is completely transformed in Act 3. When Romeo saw Tybalt and Mercutio is about to duel, he wants to stop the meaningless fight by using love as a weapon, hoping it would eliminate hate. 'Tybalt, the reason why I have to love thee Doth much excuse the appertaining rage To such a greeting...'(ACT3.1.57-60).

Instead of taking Romeo's words as a peace treaty, Tybalt considers this as an insult. Despite Romeo's re-clarification, saying: 'I do protest I never injured thee, but love thee better than thou canst devise till thou shalt know the reason of my love'(ACT3.1.63-65). It doesn't stop them from fighting. Romeo then tries to stop them by using his own body, risking himself, but the result of his bravery did the opposite, that Tybalt seeks this as an opportunity and fatally wounded Mercutio.

He wants to stop the fight, with such a good purpose, but the reality is that he gives the opponent the chance to kill his friend. It is now that he first realized that ideal is just ideal, not the reality, and if he doesn't act according to the game rule of reality, he will end up miserably even his intention is good. What is the game rule of reality? Revenge. Romeo learned it so well that he tore himself apart, saying:

'This gentleman, the Prince's near ally, my very friend, hath got this mortal hurt on my behalf...O sweet Juliet, Thy beauty hath made me effeminate...'(ACT3.1.104-110). Experiencing the grief, he referred to Juliet as the reason for his cowardliness. The old Romeo, that Romeo who is filled with love and passion dies, and new Romeo, who is desperate but firm, comes to living. 'Away to heaven, respective lenity, and fire-eyed fury be my conduct now. Now, Tybalt, take the 'villain' back again...Either thou, or I, or both must go with him'(ACT3.1.118-124).

His vocabulary transformed, 'lenity' and 'fury' substitutes Romeo's original creed 'love', creating a contrast between love and hate, old Romeo and new Romeo. Dealt with sympathy and equipped with a cold rationale of reality, He succeeded in his revenge. His last dialogue with Juliet before escaping Verona in ACT3.5 is filmed by depression and sadness: Romeo says: 'Look, love what envious streaks do lace the serving clouds in yonder east...and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops...'. (ACT3.5.8-10)

His vocabulary and mood are completely changed, referring to the sun as envious, while in ACT2.2 he says 'it is the east and Juliet is the sun'. and the day as 'misty', adding a sense of uncertainty. And then he says, 'Let me be ta'en, let me be put to death. I am content, so thou wilt have it so...Come, death, and welcome; Juliet wills it so...'(ACT3.5.17-18)(ACT3.5.24)

This is the first time that Romeo is so calm when referring to death so many times, and it reflects the hate, that the cruel society treats him so badly even though he is innocent. He wants to die and leave the mundane world as long as Juliet wishes. There is still one thing that pushes Romeo to live, and that is his love, Juliet. His least reason to live dies in ACT5.1. The beginning of the act is when Romeo waked up after his dream.

'If I may trust the flattering truth of sleep, my dream presage some joyful news at hand...I dreamt my lady came and found me dead–Strange dream, that gives a dead man leave to think!'(ACT5.1.1-11).

His dream is a mixture of happiness and grievance: feeling like that he was filled with such joy of love that he felt meeting with Juliet in the dream, very sweet and delightful. And then happiness disappeared in a flash: her lover found him dead, the whole dream is turned into a much gloomy tone, creating a huge difference between the happiness of love and the horror of death. The usage of here foreshadowing serves as a good way to imply the final fate of Romeo and Juliet since by using a dream as a convoy, a sense of suspension and uncertainty is created, which can lead the audience to wonder what will happen next. Also, the author contrasts ideal and reality inside a dream: happiness and sweetness of love at first while desperation and lament the at the end, representing both ideal endings, that Romeo and Juliet end up with each other, and the reality, that Romeo and Juliet die. So that the weakness of the ideal when facing reality is emphasized. Plus, the plot of the dream is what happened. Just like the Mid-Summer Night's Dream, when lovers finally got rid of themselves from the juice of intoxication, they felt that the dream is so real. Such a method of using a dream helps to model the seemly lofty and unrealistic dream of Romeo into a sideline of the whole story, adding the sense of the depth of the whole play.

In spite of the usage of dream, the language used is precise and accurate, like: 'my bosom's lord sits lightly in his throne'(Act5.1.3) 'throne', 'spirit', 'lift me above' conveys an aloft, happiness and self-fulfilling experience, while in 'I dreamt my lady came and found me dead'(Act5.1.6), 'dead man' conveys a much heavy theme that sweet love will face. These two sentences creating conflict and complexity, by contrast, helping to illustrate the lofty ideal and august reality. Besides, 'breathed such life', 'kisses in my lips' vividly depicted the closeness of the dream and the virtual world, adding accountability of the experience in the dream.

When he is completely sober. Romeo was so willing to hear new from Verona that after his servant came in, he asked five questions consecutively. The response of the servant starts with 'Then she is well, and nothing can be ill. Her body sleeps in Capel's monument, And her immortal part with angel lives...'(ACT5.1.17-19) the oxymoron of soothing the situation deliberately by saying that Juliet is 'fine' while she is dead emphasized grief and sadness while expressing sadness by simply crying aloud won't have much effect.

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After hearing this, Romeo decided to go to Verona with haste, despite his servants telling him not to do so, 'pale' and 'wild' expresses the mood of Romeo right now accurately. 'Well, Juliet, I will lie with thee tonight'(ACT5.1.34) serves as another implication of Romeo's fate, pushing Romeo to the edge of death further, the description of the ugly apothecary helps to make the final death of Romeo reasonable: 'I do remember an apothecary...which I late I noted, in tattered weeds, with overwhelming brows, Culling of simples. Meagre were his looks.' (ACT5.1.37-40) , and 'And in his needy shop a tortoise hung, an alligator stuffed, and other skins of ill-shaped earthen pots, bladders, and musty seeds...'(ACT5.1.42-46).

In these two sentences, 'tattered weeds', 'overwhelming brows', 'culling of simples', 'Meagre', giving us an image just like a poor survivor of the famine, 'alligator', 'dead tortoise', 'bladders' helps depicted the shaggy but daunting dwelling. the reason why Romeo would spend so many words on these seemly irrelevant content is that it implies how strong the drug will be, and Romeo will not live if he drinks it. The drug also symbolized death as the final ending of Romeo. All of these words will eventually make the final death more reasonable and real.

The rhyme and iambs used in the same sentence strengthened the mood of Romeo in the play. 'skins', 'fishes', 'shelves', 'boxes', 'pots' ... 'cakes of roses'. The beginning of the word is all 's' family or 'b/p' family consonant. At the end of each double rhymes of 'es' are also used. In addition, these sentences also utilizes iambic pentameter, the meter in the first sentence are 'alli' 'gator', 'stuffed', 'other','skins' and 'beggar', 'account', 'empty','boxes' in the second. These rhyme creating devices here pushes the sentence forward, making it faster and much stronger when reads it, reflecting the stressed and desperate mood of Romeo and implies that he is preparing to die for his love, with no regret. Meanwhile leaving the audience the image of Romeo as firm and decisive.

''An if a man did..... Whose sale is present in Mantua, Here lives a caitiff wretch would sell it to him''(ACT5.1.50) These sentences also utilize the word 'needy', just like 'penury' 'noting this penury, to my self I said',(ACT5.1.49) that Romeo here is also repeatedly using these words to show that Romeo believes that the apothecary will sell the drug to him since he is so poor. Introducing the conflict afterward.

The conversation between Romeo and apothecary starts like this: 'Hold, there is forty ducats. Let me have a dram of poison–such soon-speeding gear'(ACT5.1.59-60) Romeo lures him by using the weakness of ideal because ideally speaking he will not sell the drug, in reality, he has to sell to earn a living. The word 'such soon-speeding gear' also uses alliteration here to emphasis how poisonous the drug is.

The highlight of the following sentences is the consecutive iambic pentameter: 'Let me have a dram of poison– such soon-speeding gear.....fatal canon's womb' 'dram', 'poison', 'soon', 'speeding', 'gear', up until the last sentence, is a sequence of iamb rhymed sentence non-stop, it demonstrates to us that how desperate Romeo is towards the death of his love that he declaimed to the drug dealer about the forbidden drugs outright, fear not the government. Plus, 'As violently as hasty powder fired'(ACT5.1.64), the metaphor 'hasty powder fired' depicts vividly that what drug Romeo wants to buy is an extremely fast poison that is so quick just like the gun powder in canon.

The apothecary is hesitant. To force him to do so, Romeo's response towards him was adamant and cruel: 'art thou so bare and full of wretchedness, And fear'st to die'(ACT5.1.68-69) irritating the apothecary. 'bare', 'wretchedness', 'fear'st to die', mocking him about his condition and no guts. 'Famine is in thy cheeks, Need and oppression starveth in thy eyes, Contempt and beggary hangs upon thy back'.(ACT5.1.69-71)

Besides the iambic pentameter usage, instead of saying 'you are hungry because your skin is thin', 'famine is in thy chicks' is much better since the word usage 'famine' makes me reminds of the actual famine happened and it makes the audience remind about their direct or indirect experience, while the sentence 'you are hungry...' is merely a depiction, not to mention it can create sympathy. Therefore the image of apothecary as a poor man is much more fulfilled and enriched.

The reality of the apothecary is no stricter than Romeo's: Selling drugs to him may perhaps give you enough money to fill the stomach, even if he can be prosecuted by the state, it is better than just died in streets. 'The world is not thy friend, nor the world's law. The world affords no law to make thee rich, then be not poor, but break it, and take this'(ACT5.1.72-75)

So why biding law? since the law itself is not ideal anymore, it doesn't serve as the protector of the citizens but the oppressor of reality, hurting Romeo hard even though Romeo is innocent and he wants peace between Capulet and Montague. He hates the world extremely, for it is the code of duel that let Mercutio died, and let him kill Tyablt as a revenge. It is the law that decreases Romeo to such low status, and it is the hatred between Capulet and Montague that resulted in the tragedy of Both Juliet and Romeo. The hatred of Romeo towards the world, the code of duel and honor as a product of patriarchy, is unraveled completely.

The apothecary has no choice: 'My poverty but not my will consents. I pay thy poverty and not thy will.'(ACT5.1.75-76) It creates another contrast between reality and ideal. 'poverty' and 'will', the former represents reality, which he must deal with to survive, and the latter one represents ideal, something he wants to do. Romeo ideally can live a happy life with Juliet. Ideally, there will not be a conflict between Capulet and Montague. Ideally, the bloody tradition of duel should not exist since it consumed so many lives. However, Romeo must face reality. The conflict between reality and ideal is the reason why both of them downgraded into such a lamentable position and also the reason why these two people interact despite the huge social level between them. and so did Romeo utilized such pressure of reality, the need to survive, to force apothecary to do what Romeo wants.

There is an interesting oxymoron in the last sentence: 'There is thy gold–worse poison to men's souls, Doing more murder in this loathsome world, Than these poor compounds that thou mayest not sell. I sell thee poison; thou hast sold me none'(ACT5.1.79-83).

Why Romeo believes that gold is much more poisonous than the actual poison, plus why Romeo starts to say about the poison of money, which is a quite irrelevant theme since the main plot of the play is love. Because there is another theme: This is another incarnation of Romeo's hate towards reality. Why Romeo refers to money as poison while the actual poison as none, because the greed of money is the cause of hatred, and hatred is the source of this tragedy, causing the everlasting conflict and death. However, instead of extinguishing hate, society criminalizes the poison while cherish the real poison. All these above illustrates of the society, as the last condemnation of Romeo towards the injustice and cruelty of the reality.

After declaring his final word to the world, he is prepared to die: 'Come, cordial and not poison, go with me To Juliet's grave, for there must I use thee.'(ACT5.1.85-86) So warm that Romeo depicts the quick and poisonous drug. it makes me tremble, that if a person no longer fears death. He is invincible and his desperation and sadness are at peak. The final intention of Romeo to die beside Juliet's grave is determined and there are no more foreshadowing, implication, and circumlocutions. The final sentence tells the audience that the most lamentable tragedy is about to come and that the story is about to end.

Although innocent and pure Romeo is at the beginning of the play, he doesn't succeed in facing the harsh reality of society. He wants to stop the violence and end this bloody code of duel, but he instead let his friend died. He has to betray his innocence by spilling his hand with Tybalt's blood, He is so eager to know how Juliet is and find out his ideal lover has gone west, his only reason for staying in such a cruel world is gone and he is determined to become the martyr of love. The reason behind this is that although sweet the ideal is, the reality turns out to be much crueler and unavoidable. However, does it mean that we don't need to fight for our ideal and accept what the reality is? It is not since it is such an effort to reach the ideal although harsh and cruel the reality is, that let this play stand of from its colleagues, and made the love between Juliet and Romeo beautiful and meaningful. Just as the saying goes: 'Man proposes, God disposes'. Cruel the reality is, but as long as there is hope towards ideal, the whole process is always more valuable than the result.he Unreachable IdealAn Analysis of Shakespeare’sRomeo and Juliet

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The Unreachable Ideal As The Theme In Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 6, 2023, from
“The Unreachable Ideal As The Theme In Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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