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DThorn's avatar

What are some ideas for symbolism that relate to suicide prevention that I could use in a project about Romeo and Juliet?

Asked by DThorn (168points) May 12th, 2011

For my honors English class we have a Romeo and Juliet project to do. We have to pick an underline message and support it using a shirt by drawing (putting) symbolism on it that supports it.

I picked Suicide Prevention as my underline message.

Along with it we had to choose a quote that shows this underline message in the play. I picked

“O happy dagger!
This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die.”
Romeo and Juliet ( Act 5, Scene 3, Lines 169–170)

This quote showing Juliet committing suicide. Now I have to explain (with symbolism) why this quote is the BEST quote that could be used for my underline message (Suicide Prevention).

To do that I have to quote other parts of the play along with symbolism of some sort that relates to it in a creative way. (Essentially quote other suicide parts of the play and combine that with some symbol to convey it’s meaning while I explain the quote)

So far here’s what I have

Front of the shirt:

A big white chalkboard with numerous names on it and the words “1st love, 2nd love, 3rd love etc 100th love” all around it. In a big section of it I have the words “101th love Rosaline!...I must have her she’s my life I would die withou——-JULIET! (Her name taking up a giant portion of the chalkboard after cutting off the sentence)

To explain this I would say that in the beginning of the play Romeo was highly indecisive about his love for Rosaline, at first he was completely for it and just because she wouldn’t sleep with him…he wanted to die…until he saw Juliet. This would represent a suicidal person’s nature of constantly changing their view on things and being dangerous to themselves. (Problem here being I’m not sure which quotes EXACTLY I should use for this symbol, any help here would be appreciated)

Below him I have a river running across the bottom of the shirt leading to the back (looping around the entire thing). This would represent the constant flow of life and how it’s oblivious to a person’s woes and wishes etc. Such as what Romeo says and wants. (Once again don’t have exact quote to help explain this, could use help)

For the back of the shirt:

This is where I shall put my quote in a big box but the box itself will be a movie screen and there will be people watching it as if they were in a theater with popcorn/coke/ candy and such. They’ll be laughing and in speech bubbles saying “Hahah lies, bet you anything she’s….!” and one farther back saying “Wait..she…”, as well as others saying “But she joked all those times…she did…it”, along with random “hahas” that die out slowly.

This would represent how throughout the play no one would listen to Juliet when she said that she’d kill her self and that she would and the grave would be her wedding bed and such. Problem again being…I’m not sure where the quotes to support this are exactly, could use help finding them.

Along the bottom half of the shirt I will have a giant wall that is sprouting hands. On the outside will be Juliet looking into the drive in theater with a microphone saying “I WILL I WILL WIlegj09tg4” and other random jumble near the end because her microphone itself is broken.

I was thinking this would symbolism how she would always say she’d kill her self and die but no one ever heard her voice (thus the microphone being broken). The wall would be society holding her back in their disbelief. And again not sure which quotes exactly go with this.

On the sleeves of the shirt:

I’m thinking of putting the Coat of Arms of the Capulets and Montagues on either side of the shirt. They will be torn up and stiched together. There will be a ribbon connecting it to a dove at the top of the shirt flying over the theater/wall. The dove will be blood red and be carrying a scythe.

For this the Coat of Arms would symbolism the families and the stitching would represent that the death (suicide or cause of suicide) of someone dear is what fixed their problems, or mended. The ribbon would show that they are both connected in terms of the suicides affects on them (both causing wounds and some healing). The dove represents peace that is now between the families but it’s blood red and has a scythe to symbolize that it was only after someone’s life had to be give up. Only after someone gave their life would anyone listen and put aside differences and problems. And again the quotes for this I’ll need.

That’s what I have so far planned for this T-Shirt project, in general I’m asking you guys of this.

1. Help me find the quotes that I’m looking for to help support my symbolism ideas.

2. Provide advice on symbolism I could add along with quotes to the shirt that relate to the underline message of Suicide Prevention.

3. Advice me on what I have so far and if I should improve in some places/ change some things or if I should note something important from the story for Suicide Prevention.

Remember it has to support my central quote:

“O happy dagger!
This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die.”
Romeo and Juliet ( Act 5, Scene 3, Lines 169–170)

and my theme/underline message of Suicide Prevention.

You guys would be helping me out incredibly if you could help me out with this. I’m great at symbolism ideas but not so much when it comes to supporting it with facts (in this case quotes). As always you may also talk about suicide prevention and it’s use in society and affects and such. This is a highly open topic as well as a highly open play after all.

Thank you in advance.

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13 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

The obvious conclusion is that nothing is what it seems.

Jeruba's avatar

I think you mean ”underlying message”: a message that is beneath the obvious surface ideas and actions (it lies under what you can see).

And I am sorry to tell you that suicide prevention is not a message running beneath the story in Romeo and Juliet.

I see that you have a very creative approach and you have given this a lot of thought. I hope you won’t be discouraged by the prospect of having to take another tack, but it sounds like your assignment really does mean for you to find themes that are actually in the play and not outside ideas that you bring to it.

That will also give you a chance, perhaps, to come up with a simpler T-shirt design, one that can be made larger so it won’t require close examination and a lot of explanation.

DThorn's avatar

I thought of that originally as well. But according to my teacher suicide is a part of the story and an extension would be suicide prevention (similar to how social hierarchy and teen angst are also in the story). I still don’t understand why it would be an underlying message but it is according to my teacher who believes that Shakespeare had dozens of meanings in his plays. And she told us to make sure there were no literal things on our shirts, the shirts must have symbolism that a person has to look at for a while to understand (or until you explain it).

cazzie's avatar

I think you are making this WAY too complicated and the message is going to be completely lost. I agree with @Jeruba in that it is going to be difficult to make a message of Anti-suicide from a play which has suicide as its punchline.

I like that you picked up on ‘teen love fickleness’ as part of the theme, but there isn’t a teen on this planet that wants to hear what they are feeling is ‘fickle’ or transitional. Every teen’s feelings are of the utmost gravitas to them and don’t want to hear that they are being frivolous, when indeed, they probably are.

A simple tshirt with three hearts drawn on a tree. In the first heart, there is written, Rosalind + Romeo, and that heart is crossed out. The second one is Juliet + Romeo, and that one is crossed out, and the third heart has the letters R.I.P. written in it. and below it could be the vary last line of the play;
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.
Shakespeare’s stories are based on good, old fashioned misunderstandings. The message that doesn’t get delivered, the girl that dress up as a boy, The fairies that wreak havoc by playing tricks on the humans.
Remember that Romeo kills himself not because he was so in love with Juliet but because a message didn’t get through. Perhaps you can find a way to tie this in. They both killed themselves because they didn’t know what was really going on.

Jeruba's avatar

One underlying message that it does have—and that leads directly to the tragedy—is parents, don’t expect your kids to carry on with your battles. Show your children how to make peace and not to perpetuate old wars. The lesson that the prince and the feuding families pronounce at the end is the high cost of their hatred.

BarnacleBill's avatar

I keep coming back to an analogy to something that happened in real life here. A friend of my daughters was a really great guy – 4.0, full college ride, worked after school, the whole nine yards. Had a really cute girlfriend that he dated all senior year, who, for some reason, his mother didn’t like. The parents were sticklers for curfew being kept – 12:00, no exceptions. He and his girlfriend were watching a movie at a friend’s house, and the boy called at 11:45 to ask if he could stay out until the end of the movie. The mom said no, that if he wasn’t in the door at 12:00, he wouldn’t be able to go to prom in two weeks. As the kid just finished paying out $500 for prom stuff, he made a mad dash to get his girlfriend home and get himself within 15 minutes. He took a curve too fast, plunged down a 100 foot drop, and killed both himself and his girlfriend.

The underlying expectation of blind obedience and poor communication resulted in the death of two teens. There was no reason on the face of the earth for that young man to be in the door at 12:00 instead of 12:15 except that the parent wanted to exercise control and felt that having a child who made curfew made her a “good parent.” Wanting to please the parents and go to prom created heightened emotion and drama that overrode the common sense of, “I need to drive carefully as the road is curvy, and there are no guardrails.” My friend has to live with the fact that her unreasonableness over 15 minutes ultimately killed her son.

Heightened emotions mark teen years, and sense that no adult fully understands or will listen to what’s going on. There’s lots of drama, usually due to poor communication, either in the form of not being able to clearly articulate what’s going on, or by poor listening, which compounds emotions. If the happiness of their children was a primary concern to the Capulets and Montagues, we wouldn’t have a story. Perhaps the suicide prevention extension is that most drama is arbitrary and imposed by the will of others, and therefore artificial.

cazzie's avatar

I don’t agree that a message blaming the parents is going to be viable where suicide prevention is concerned. Perhaps if this was the Israeli/Palestinian issue or any learned prejudice or hate…. what @Jeruba could be used, but if you’re committed to the suicide prevention thing I’m not sure that is the element you’re going to want to use.

Perhaps something like a message along the lines of looking for a different answer. Like… if you think suicide is the answer, you’re not asking the right question, or something like that.

mazingerz88's avatar

I haven’t read Romeo and Juliet and the only clear understanding I have of it is that they ended up commiting suicides since they were from different worlds so to speak. A lingering theme in a lot of romantic dramas, tragedies and even comedies. After reading the answers on this board, I am inclined to agree that it is clearer if you focus on the parents as the primary reason for possible suicides amongst teens.

( There are other reasons why R & J ended up dead but there is always a root cause to any mishap, one domino that initiates the toppling of the rest. )

For sure it is tough to be a parent and they just want the best for their kids yet where and how do you draw the line between control and love, causing and preventing your children from falling into more tragic trappings? Your idea centers on suicide prevention and I suggest you should go to the heart of how these train wrecks really get started.

Jeruba's avatar

@mazingerz88, no, @cazzie is right about the precipitating event:
Remember that Romeo kills himself not because he was so in love with Juliet but because a message didn’t get through.

The family feud is the reason why they marry in secret. It’s not the reason for the suicide. There’s a fake suicide: Juliet takes a potion to pretend to be dead so she won’t have to marry the man her father has picked out (not knowing she’s already married to Romeo). Meanwhile a message is sent to Romeo to tell him she’s okay and where and when to meet her. But he doesn’t get it because he first receives word that she’s dead, and he leaves at once. He buys poison, rushes to the crypt and finds her looking dead, and drinks the poison . . . whereupon she awakens, finds him dead, and takes the dagger to herself.

mazingerz88's avatar

@Jeruba I’m so poor at this but Romeo not getting the message, shouldn’t that be beside the point since the end result was he killed himself anyway believing she was truly dead? All along in my subconcious this was the reason why their love was made immortal and tragic at best, apart from the fact they were pitiful victims of miscommunication.

Ah, Shakespeare, to tweeter or not to tweeter, such thy question t’will never be asked…

Jeruba's avatar

@mazingerz88, I don’t see how it can be beside the point. The cause-and-effect sequence of events in a story is the plot. The plot is not beside the point.

Romeo doesn’t want to live without her, true, but he thinks he is without her only because the plan went wrong. This is a story about love transcending the boundaries set by hate and not a story of suicide.

SavoirFaire's avatar

The underlying message of Romeo’s and Juliet’s deaths is “teenagers are idiots.” The two think they are in love even though they hardly know each other, and go so far as to kill themselves over something that might have ended in a week or two. This is the same message as its source material, Pyramus and Thisbe. We interpret it differently today due to changes in culture.

DThorn's avatar

Wonderful stuff, thanks guys. I’m going to incorporate some of what you guys provided into the shirt. Time to Photoshop it all, print it, iron it on my shirt, and write up about 20 or so index cards for explanations.

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