Theme is the universal idea that is explored
in any given work. A universal idea is one that
is known in all cultures. Some examples are
corruption, compassion, fear, victory, conflict,
ambition, pride, etc.
There are recurring themes throughout all
literature in all cultures, making them
universal. No matter where we go or what we
may read, there is a theme in the story, a
lesson to be learned, some wisdom to be
For example, the themes in Romeo & Juliet
are love and passion and how love can
promote violence or division.
Motif is different from theme because they
help to support the theme.They are recurring
structures, contrasts or literary devices that
help support, explain and develop the text’s
For instance, the motifs in Romeo & Juliet are
light & dark and opposite points of view.
You learned a long time ago that a symbol is
something that usually represents something
else. More specifically, symbols are people,
objects, figures, or colors that represent
abstract ideas. For example, a red rose
usually symbolizes love, a white rose, purity.
Likewise, as in Hamlet, rosemary represents
remembrance, as Ophelia declared.
As you read through both Sir Gawain & the
Green Knight and Macbeth, make note of the
themes, motifs, symbols so you can evaluate,
compare and contrast the two stories.