Romeo and Juliet: A statue of liberty

Olivia Coulomb
Blaise Pascal University, Clermont-Ferrand, IHRIM (Institut d’Histoire des Représentations et des Idées dans les Modernités), France email:


If Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet remains legendary for its love story, it is much less renowned for its embodiment of liberty. Indeed, as both Romeo and Juliet try to find a way to love each other freely versus their families’ enmity, their actions and reactions turn them more and more into still characters resembling lifeless sculptures. Besides, Friar Laurence explains the effect of his potion to Juliet in quite deadly and sculptural terms: “No warmth, no breath shall testify thou livest. / The rose in thy lips and cheeks shall fade / To wanny ashes, thy eyes’ windows fall / Like death when he shuts up the day of life. / Each part, deprived of supple government, / Shall, stiff and stark and cold, appear like death” (4.1.98-102). As for Romeo, in his quest for freedom and love, he gradually becomes the statue of himself, cold, colourless and still.
Thus, in this paper, I propose to explore first the complexity of family ties in 16th century England through the title characters of Romeo and Juliet. Then, I will study the protagonists’ paralysis as a way to reach freedom, codified by opposed aesthetic vision. This will eventually lead me to analyse and to reassess the vision of freedom and sculpture in early modern England, so as to demonstrate that with the ultimate statue of the star-crossed lovers, a truly original conception of art is actually revealed.

Keywords: Art, Shakespeare, Freedom, Romeo and Juliet, Early Modern England

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