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The Origins Of The Archetypal Themes Present In Shakespeare's "Romeo And Juliet"

844 words - 4 pages

Ben Weissler8/15/07The origins of Shakespeare's play "Romeo and Juliet" are relatively unknown. It's hard to believe, but this archetypal theme of ill-fated love predates Shakespeare by more than a thousand years. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "archetype" as: the original pattern or model of which all things of the same type are representations or copies. One of the first pieces of written work to include this common archetype of ill-fated love was Ovid's "Pyramus and Thisbe." Written around A.D eight, and published in Ovid's Metamorphoses, this poem recounts the story of two forbidden lovers who come to a tragic end, a theme recurring in literature. Shakespeare and Ovid both employ ...view middle of the document...

Ovid's poem starts out with a description of the mulberry tree, informing the reader that once upon a time the red berries of the mulberry tree were actually as white as snow. Like all of the other tales in Ovid's Metamorphoses, this poem is focused around change, in this particular case, the change in color of the berries of the mulberry tree. Ovid tells us that the berries were stained red by the blood of Pyramus as he committed suicide upon finding Thisbe's blood-stained cloak. Another archetypal symbol of death, similar to the mulberry tree, is the lion used by Ovid, the harbinger of death. In fact one can view death itself as another "wall" that separates Pyramus from Thisbe, until she joins him in death. Archetypal symbols of death, such as the mulberry tree and the lion, appear in numerous works of literature, and can be identified in Shakespeare's plays.Up until this point, I have been analyzing Ovid's and Shakespeare's use of archetypal symbols, but it is also important to point out some similarities and differences between both authors. "Romeo and Juliet" and "A Midsummer's Night Dream" both incorporate elements from "Pyramus and Thisbe". However, the parallels between"Romeo and Juliet" and "Pyramus and Thisbe" are more authentic, given that "A...

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