Saturday, May 5, 2012

Romeo and Juliet – Examine the Different Views of Love Presented in “Romeo and Juliet”. In What Way is the Play about Love in a Richer Sense than we May at First Suppose

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Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is initially perceived as a tragic love story between “a pair of star-cross’d lovers”. I will show how Shakespeare portrays the different types of love with different characters. I will also explain how Shakespeare influences the audience in believing in the first impression of the character; this then changes since the character’s true feelings are forced out from within them because of how some of the extreme situations of the feud have affected them. This will show how the play is about love in a richer sense than we may at first suppose.


In Act 1, Scene 1 Romeo and Benvolio talk about Rosaline, Romeo describes her as if he knows who she is, the truth is that he has only ever met her once before. From this, the audience understands that the so called ‘love’ which Romeo expresses for Rosaline will not last, “She is too fair, too wise, wisely too fair”. Romeo idolises Rosaline describing her as being untouchable giving the audience the same impression. Romeo’s love towards Rosaline is typical of courtly love. Courtly love is an idealised form of love which was popular in medieval times in particular. This is shown in the play as Romeo worships a high status woman, Rosaline. Romeo is hurt by the female object of affection as his love for her was unrequited.


In Act 1, Scene 5 when Romeo first describes Juliet for the very first time, the audience can tell that there is a different kind of love and maybe even be a stronger or truer love between Romeo and Juliet rather than the love Romeo thought he had for Rosaline. Romeo describes Rosaline to Benvolio as, “A right good mark-man! And she’s fair I love”. Romeo is basically saying that Rosaline was a good shot, meaning she is a good pick. Romeo is also saying that he loves Rosaline because she is beautiful, “she’s fair I love”. This shows the audience that he does not truly love Rosaline since he only finds her attractive. Romeo is more in love with the idea of love itself.


Juliet on the other hand is described by Romeo with a lot more emotion and compassion, “o she doth teach the torches to burn bright!” This is the first phrase Romeo uses to describe Juliet. Romeo’s depiction of Juliet makes Rosaline seem inferior to her. Romeo’s words describe what seems to be a love far more zealous and romantic than the love he had for Rosaline, “Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear”. Later on, Romeo realises how dramatically his views of love has changed from one woman to another, “Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight! / For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.” Romeo is asking himself if he really did love Rosaline. He now believes that he never truly loved anyone until he identifies Juliet. The love between Romeo and Juliet is not just displayed as being romantic but also being “holy”. This is shown in Act 1, Scene 5


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“If I profane with my unworthiest hand


This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this,


My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand


To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss”


Shakespeare’s use of religious imagery shows that the love between Romeo and Juliet is something more than just a little romance or a sexual desire; it is also a holy love.


In the first act the audience can distinguish how the theme of love in this play has different elements. It starts with Romeo thinking he was truly in love with Rosaline, instead we learn that he possessed more of a courtly love for her. Romeo’s emotions and feelings for Rosaline then become nonexistent from the moment Romeo lays his eyes on Juliet. The theme of love changes from being a courtly love at the beginning of the act to a romantic, holy love.


As much as some people may first think, the play is not just based around the love of Romeo and Juliet but also on other characters, in particular, the Montague’s and Capulet’s love for their sons and daughter. There is also the love of Friar Lawrence for Romeo and the nurse for Juliet. The love which bounds these characters together is familial love.


The familial love of Lady Capulet and Old Capulet is not really shown in the play until the end when Juliet kills herself. It seems as if Old Capulet and Lady Capulet are only concerned about their family’s name, however, when Old and Lady Capulet see their dead daughter their true feelings are shown, “O heavens! O wife, look how our daughter bleeds!”


Montague and Lady Montague show signs of familial love towards Romeo much earlier than the Capulet family. This is shown by the Montague family being concerned about Romeo’s unusual behaviour caused by having fallen hopelessly in love with Rosaline. After that the story mainly focuses on the Capulet family as well as Romeo. The Montague family are not really heard from until closer to the end of the play when Romeo drinks the poison on Juliet’s death bed. Lady Montague shows how much she cherished and loved Romeo after Romeo is banished, “My wife is dead tonight; / Grief of her son’s exile hath stopp’d her breath”. For Lady Montague, banishment of her son is enough to inflict such pain and suffering to her to die. Montague shows how much he loves Romeo at the end of the play when he suggests to “raise [Juliet’s] statue in pure gold”. He wishes to honour the woman Romeo would die with rather than live without. This shows that there is a feeling that his intentions are true and virtuous. These things are shown at the end, only allowing the audience to assume during the beginning, and middle of the play that the two lovers’ families do not really care for anything more than themselves.


Fraternal love is another love type that Shakespeare uses in this play. The bond between Romeo and Mercutio is a good example of this; Mercutio makes the ultimate sacrifice to help his friend. This selfless act made by Mercutio for Romeo takes place in Act , Scene 1, however, before this scene Mercutio is only seen by the audience as a good friend of Romeo who has a fiery nature. As Mercutio is killed by Tybalt in front of Romeo’s eyes he takes back all his mercy and consideration he had for Tybalt, “Away to heaven, respective lenity, / And fire-ey’d fury be my conduct now”. This shows how strong the bond is between Romeo and Mercutio. Romeo’s strong love for Mercutio soon turns into a blinding hatred of Tybalt, love of Juliet’s family does not exist in this hatred of Tybalt which shows the audience how much Romeo has been upset by Tybalt’s actions. Romeo’s only will at this point of the story is revenge with Tybalt for what he has done, “Staying for thine to keep him company / Either thou or I, or both, must go with him”. Romeo is telling Tybalt that he will not let the matter be without one or both of them dying first. Fraternal love in this part of the play is shown to have great strength.


In ‘Romeo and Juliet’ there is one more type of love which is expressed in the play. This is healing love; this love is not put in appearance anywhere else other than at the end of the play after Romeo and Juliet have killed themselves. It is the true love which the Capulet family and Montague family finally learn Romeo and Juliet posses for each other which puts an end to the feud and bring the two families together, “Poor sacrifices of our enmity”. Romeo and Juliet are portrayed as sacrifices of the feud. Not sacrifices for love, they are sacrifices of a lack of love.


The different types of love and how they are expressed by the different characters in the play demonstrates how the first impression of some of the characters does not always show how much love there truly is between them. A good example of this is the love Old Capulet has for his daughter (Juliet) and the love Mercutio has for Romeo. The fate of Romeo and Juliet is due to the family feud rather than any moral weakness which leads to the death of the lovers. This shows how the topic of love in the initial perception of the play is far more complex and broad than one my have expected.





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