A Moral Interpretation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet


  • Kitty Porterfield


Though William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is most often read as a tragic love story, the setting in which it takes place, as well as the ideals of people in Elizabethan England, support a moral-focused reading of the play, rather than a fateful or romantic reading. The impassioned, reckless actions of the star crossed lovers and the lack of guidance in their trusted mentor, Friar Laurence, combine to form a tale of caution, warning Elizabethan audience members of what happens when faith and logic are set aside and impulse and emotion take over. The possibility of Romeo and Juliet being a warning to readers and audience members rather than a romance is reinforced by the explicitly sinful thoughts and actions of the characters, who knowingly and continually go against their Catholic faith, ultimately resulting in their deaths. Shakespeare’s iconic love story is, in actuality, saturated with moral reproach toward the actions of the adolescent, impressionable lovers and their misguided but well-meaning advisor and priest, whose naivety led to the demise of young Romeo and Juliet.

Key words: Romeo, Juliet, Friar Laurence, Catholicism, Morality.