Once you have understood how to use the plot and the characters, you should move onto the themes, which are the basic ideas in Romeo and Juliet. The subject of love dominates the play, but there are many others, such as death, time, fate and loyalty.
Perhaps the most obvious subject or theme in Romeo and Juliet is love. However, Shakespeare presents love in different ways. There is Romeo's early love for Rosaline. This is like a puppy love, which the Friar calls 'doting' and not 'loving', because it was only really Romeo who believed he was in love.
Paris' love for Juliet is quite similar. He wants to marry her, but approaches her father rather than Juliet (as was the tradition). He does not really show any deep feelings for her, and even says he has 'little talked of love". This seems to indicate he wants a good marriage and has chosen her, rather than the two of them falling in love.
There is another view of love - as something spiritual and between friends. This is shown with the love Juliet shares with her Nurse, the Friar and Romeo, and the friendships between Mercutio, Benvolio and Romeo. Each of these shows a close understanding. They might make fun of each other and criticise one another's choices, but they respect and care for each other. They will also take great risks for one another: Mercutio dies to protect Romeo's honour.
The love between Romeo and Juliet is our classic idea of romantic love - they will do anything for each other and their language and behaviour reflect this.
Finally, Shakespeare deals with yet another view of love - as something purely sexual. A number of characters, especially Mercutio and the Nurse, make repeated references to sex. This is very different to the idealistic love shown by Romeo and Juliet.
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