Romeo and Juliet (Film 1996)

Romeo and Juliet (Film 1996) Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Misunderstanding (Motif)

Misunderstandings structure almost the whole plot of Romeo and Juliet. The two lovers do not know each other's motives when it comes to acquiring lasting love together. Juliet's family does not understand her situation when they make plans for her future. The man who sells Romeo poison does not know why he plans to take it. Throughout the movie, main characters do not comprehend the motives of others or how they plan to carry out their actions. Not only does this prevent reconciliation between the families, but the slight disjunctions in thought cause divides which strengthen until the strongest force in the movie—the love between Romeo and Juliet—is shattered.

Sacrifice (Motif)

Sacrifice also recurs as a frequent motif in the film. Members of each of the two families are willing to sacrifice anything, including their lives, for the sake of the family. Both Romeo and Juliet sacrifice the stability of their life for love together, and Father Laurence sacrifices his neutrality in the feud to harbor them and protect their unity.

Couple (Allegory)

Romeo and Juliet are one of the strongest, most enduring images our culture has of the unity of two separate beings. As a couple, they represent anything with two components that seems to work until fractures from within ruin the unity. The Christian imagery throughout the film suggests that Romeo and Juliet's love can be read as an allegory to the connection of people with God or Christ; the allegory is also naturally applied to the connections within the families themselves, as shown by an initial picture of Capulet and Montague buildings divided by one street.

Loyalty (Motif)

The concept of loyalty is dealt with in many ways throughout the film, particularly in the way conflicting loyalties challenge individuals to act according to what they believe is best. The loyalty Romeo and Juliet feel toward their respective families is superseded by the loyalty they feel to their love. Juliet's willingness to fake death to her family shows her break with her loyalty to them, and Romeo's gap in loyalty to his family is shown in his reluctance to fight.

Poison (Symbol)

Romeo chooses to take a poison known to be so strong it could kill twenty men his size; in doing so, he gives up any power he has to affect his destiny. The symbol of something to ingest and give up any choice is dealt with heavily in the film. In particular, Juliet chooses to drink a liquid that makes her seem dead in every way. Her choice to do so is the final choice she makes until choosing to end her life upon finding out Romeo ended his. Through taking a poison or seeming-poison, both Romeo and Juliet seal the rest of their stories in a way they would not if their choice existed in a vacuum.