Now that we’ve finished Romeo & Juliet (poor Paris!), there’s plenty to talk about when it comes to themes of the play. The one that’s most interesting to me has to do with dreams. Romeo has dreams, Mercutio has hallucinations, Juliet has visions — and catastrophe comes for each one of them.
The author believes it’s dangerous to ignore dreams. Those dreams can warn characters people about the future, reveal inner problems, and show delusions (give voice to fears).
Dreams can warn people about the future, if they’re heeded. Even early in the tragedy, Romeo ignores the warnings of his dreams: “[M]y mind misgives / Some consequence yet hanging in the stars / Shall bitterly begin his fearful date / With this night’s revels, and expire the term / Of a despised life closed in my breast” (Shakespeare I.iv.108-12). Before ever meeting Juliet, he has a dream that attending the Capulet’s party will lead to his death. Instead of listening to this dream (or even considering it as he attends the party), Romeo gives up all responsibility for his own actions and gives the direction of his life over to “he that hath the steerage of my course” (I.iv.114). Giving his dream a second thought when he meets Juliet — or missing the party altogether — could have saved his life, but ignoring it leads to tragedy.
The visions of characters in the play can reveal inner problems as well. The first time he appears in the play, Mercutio shares his dreams of Queen Mab with Romeo. Those dreams begin with the fun of “the fairies’ midwife, and she comes / In shape no bigger than an agate stone,” but quickly move to the terrors “[o]f breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades” and “maids [lying] on their backs, / [pressing] them and learns them first to bear” (Shakespeare I.iv.57-58, 86, 94-95). This dream unsettles the audience and Mercutio’s friends because it shows his moody nature and his quickness to violence. By paying attention to this dream, the characters could …
Methinks I see my cousin’s ghost / Seeking out Romeo, that did spit his body / Upon a rapier’s point. Stay, Tybalt, stay!” (Shakespeare IV.iii.55-57)