“Think before you act” is a common phrase told to youth in today’s society. Impulsively deciding on an option before thinking about the consequences of choosing it is a bad thing to do. Over the course of time, many myths and stories have been created to show this piece of advice. Notably, stories of mythology and stories from the bible show how not thinking before acting can come back and badly hurt someone. In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare’s theme that young lovers, and ultimately all youth, are often impulsive and make illogical decisions that end up hurting them is supported with allusions to Roman mythology and Christianity.
First, Shakespeare uses allusions to the Roman goddess Fortune and Phoebus’ son, Phaeton. The Roman goddess Fortune is the goddess of good and bad luck. Immediately after Tybalt kills Mercutio, Romeo feels he should have been able to stop their fight, though he feels his love for Juliet has made him weak. He acts out of impulse and goes back to fight Tybalt, and kills him. Romeo, realizing what he has done, says “O, I am Fortune’s fool” (III.i.142). The allusion to Fortune is how Romeo expresses how much bad luck he has gotten, which shows how he would be Fortune’s fool. Romeo kills Tybalt out of impulse, without thinking of what could happen to him or remembering that he would be killed if he fought. He could have avoided making the quick decision, but his actions without thinking have put him in a tough situation. He must leave Verona, which is what ends up causing the untimely death of both himself and Juliet.
Therefore, his decision ended up hurting him greatly, and if he had thought about what he was doing before he killed Tybalt, he would have most certainly ended up with a different fate. The bad luck Romeo receives from Fortune is a direct consequence for his impulsivity that ends up hurting him largely. Another allusion Shakespeare uses is to the god Phoebus and his son Phaeton. Phoebus is the sun god in Roman mythology, and every day he would drive the sun across the sky in his chariot. His son Phaeton desperately wants to drive the chariot, but his father would not let him. Phaeton wants this so bad that he goes behind his father’s back, and drives the chariot.
He loses control of it and the chariot whips all around, with Phaeton dying. In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet is waiting for the night to come so the nurse can bring her news from Romeo. While she is waiting for the night to come, she alludes to Phoebus and says “such a wagoner/as Phaeton would whip you to the west/ and bring in cloudy night immediately”(III.ii.2-4). The comparison to Phaeton losing control of the chariot conveys how badly Juliet wanted to see Romeo, with him being the only thing she cares about.
Phaeton never thought of the consequences of his quick actions, much like Juliet. Her impulse to see Romeo causes her to make bad decisions, shown many times throughout the play. When her parents turn on her, Juliet runs impetuously to Friar Lawrence and gets a sleeping potion because she will do whatever possible to see Romeo. She never really thinks about how it could affect Romeo, as he ends up killing himself because he thought she was dead. Again, Juliet’s impulsive decisions, personified by Phaeton, are made out of her love for Romeo and end up hurting her and also Romeo and others, which supports Shakespeare’s theme that young lovers are impulsive and make decisions that end up hurting them.
Also, Shakespeare supports his theme by using allusions to Christianity which include baptism and worshipping God. On the first night Romeo sees Juliet at the Capulet’s party, he jumps the wall and speaks to her from under her balcony. Juliet is upset that Romeo is from her enemy family, and Romeo tells her to “call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized/Henceforth I never will be Romeo” (II.ii.54-55). In Christianity, baptism is usually done on young children and accompanies a “new life” and also naming (Source 2). On the first night Romeo meets Juliet, he is spontaneously willing to throw away his family name, as well as his old love Rosaline, for Juliet.
This is the start of when things move fast and quick for Romeo and Juliet. They fall so deep in love that they are willing to make imprudent actions for each other just out of love. Once both of them found out they were from enemy families, they should have stopped where they were, but instead went on to go against the rules and build a relationship. They never thought about how the fact that they were supposed to be enemies could hurt them and quickly decided to love, something that hurts them both at the end of the story. Additionally, Shakespeare alludes to the worship of God.
On the same night that they meet, Romeo wants to swear his love for Juliet upon something. Juliet tells him she does not want him to, or if he must swear than “swear by thy gracious self, which is the god of my idolatry” (II.ii.119-120). Idolatry is the “worship of something as a god,” which means Juliet says Romeo is her God (Source 2). Juliet, in addition to Romeo, is jumping the boat on the night that they first meet and swears to love him forever and worship him as if he was her god. If Juliet had taken it slower and gotten to know Romeo first, many of their problems could have been avoided. If Juliet was not as attached to Romeo when he was exiled, she wouldn’t have taken the sleeping potion. But again, her impulsive decisions she makes because she loves Romeo end up causing her more harm than making her love better.
In conclusion, Shakespeare’s allusions to Roman mythology and Christianity support his theme that young lovers and all youth make impulsive decisions that will come back to hurt them. He alludes Fortune to show how quick thinking can turn bad and Phoebus’ son Phaeton to show how impulsive decisions can lead to harm. The allusions to Christianity convey how love took over Romeo and Juliet’s lives and caused them to make spontaneous decisions which hurt them both. As Friar Lawrence said, “they stumble that run fast” (II.iv.101). Avoiding impulsive decisions is a simple strategy that could solve many problems in today’s society. Many people think stopping and thinking before actions could take hours, when in reality it can be done in a matter of seconds or minutes.