Archetypes in Romeo and Juliet

In this article you will learn about the archetypes in Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, a play containing various archetypes commonly seen in literature throughout the ages.

What are the Archetypes in Romeo and Juliet?

The most apparent archetype in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is that of the star-crossed lovers, in this case the eponymous pairing of Romeo and Juliet.

The couple destined to be together and yet their fate is written in the stars – they are doomed by forces outside their own control and will ultimately not be able to be together.

Their relationship is ‘forbidden fruit’ due to the will of others, making them all the more determined to be together and all the less likely to succeed.

Both characters are also archetypal hopeless romantics, who believe in the power of their love to conquer all obstacles. They embody qualities such as hope and belief in the ultimate goodness and decency of their fellow man despite all evidence to the contrary, even when it makes them seem naive or ridiculous in the eyes of others.

However, these are not the only archetypes in the play.

In Friar Lawrence we see an archetypal mentor, a wise old man to whom many characters go for guidance and support as he is the most trusted man in Verona.

In the parents of Romeo and Juliet we see the archetypal controlling parents, single-mindedly determined to make their children bend to will whatever the cost.

In Benvolio we see the archetypal voice of reason, who tries to help others see that fighting will not resolve their problems and does his best to help his friend Romeo navigate the situation in which he has found himself.

Tybalt acts as the archetypal catalyst, instigating conflict and moving the plot forward due to his hotheaded reaction to the situation.

Mercutio acts as the archetypal wise-cracking friend who jokes about every situation in which Romeo finds himself and the nurse is the archetypal fool who’s humour comes from her uneducated ways and low social status.

Romeo and Juliet Book Summary

  • Two wealthy families in the city of Verona, the Montagues and the Capulets, have a long history of feuding to the point where the Prince has declared that the next person to break the peace will be killed.
  • The Montagues crash a Capulet party, where Romeo meets Juliet Capulet and falls in love with her.
  • Despite their shock at discovering they each come from rival families, the pair are married in secret by Friar Lawrence.
  • Romeo celebrates the marriage with friends Benvolio and Mercutio but fights Juliet’s cousin Tybalt, who kills Mercutio.
  • Romeo then kills Tybalt in revenge.
  • The Prince banishes Romeo, leaving the young couple heartbroken.
  • Juliet’s father decides she should marry Paris, leading her to refuse and seek help from Friar Lawrence, who concocts a plan to allow the couple to reunite.
  • Juliet fakes her death and lies in a tomb awaiting Romeo to come for her.
  • However, Romeo does not receive the message and believes she is actually dead.
  • On arriving he poisons himself and dies.
  • On waking and finding Romeo dead Juliet commits suicide with a dagger.
  • The two feuding families unite and vow never to fight again.

Romeo and Juliet Archetype Examples

  • Star crossed lovers
  • Hopeless romantic
  • Mentor
  • Controlling parents
  • Voice of reason
  • Catalyst
  • The fool
  • The sidekick

Want more literary archetypes?

Go check out our extensive list of archetypes in literature to find out more about the characters seen in literature throughout the ages.

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