Exploring the different ways that Shakespeare presents the theme of love in the play ‘Romeo and Juliet’
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare in the late 16th century. The play was set in romantic Italy and has various different themes explored by Shakespeare which portray his views on different aspects of life. The main theme that this essay will be focusing on is exploring the different types of love and how they run throughout the play.
Some of the other themes that run alongside love in the play are parental control, arranged marriages, revenge and prejudice. Shakespeare obviously thought that these were important issues in society in his era and was in a way very ahead of his time. Through this play he puts across his views on sexism not yet openly expressed in the community through Juliet, making her express what most women only thought about their marriage and lives being controlled by their parents.
“I look to like, if looking liking move;
But no more deep will I endart mine eye
Than your consent gives strength to make it fly.” Act 1 scene 3 Here she is completely obedient and willing only to go as far as her mother wants her to in a relationship. However meeting Romeo gives her the strength to disobey her parents because they arranged a marriage against her newly found feelings of love. “Now by Saint Peter’s Church and peter too,
He shall not make me there a joyful bride,”
“I will not marry yet, and when I do, I swear
It shall be Romeo,” act 3 scene 5
After this outburst she was disowned by her parents. Speaking like this was unheard of in Juliet’s time, a patriarchal society, where daughters were expected to obey their parent’s commands, whereas today, teenagers generally have more control over their lives and opinions. They often express themselves more openly, and as a result arguments between parents and their children are far more common.
Focusing on the theme of love, it is divided into categories, all of which are demonstrated between the characters of the play:
The first and most obvious type is Romantic love, explored by Romeo and Juliet. “This bud of love, by summer’s ripening breath,
May prove a beauteous flower when we next meet”
From act 2 scene 2 (p59) - the ‘balcony scene’ where Romeo and Juliet exchange vows of their undying love for each other. This quote shows Romeo and Juliet discovered love at first sight when they first met at Capulet’s party and they are determined that their love for each other will grow, comparing their love in a metaphor to a bud which will open in time into a beautiful flower. This is a classic example of Romeo and Juliet’s first real experience if romantic love enriched and made even more special with Shakespeare’s use of rhyming and metaphors and most famously, sonnets, which altogether give a more powerful and passionate description of love than when he describes his love for Rosaline (see courtly love).
The second most occurring type of love is the love between friends and family. Platonic love is especially portrayed by Romeo at the scene of Mercutio’s death. But Mercutio will have nothing of it and even in his dying words he curses both of the houses for hating each other. “A plague a’ both houses!” act 3 scene 1 (page 95) “Either thou or I, or both, must go with him.” (Act three scene 1. Page 97)
This is a perfect example of strong platonic love between Romeo and Mercutio, as ironically, Romeo, usually a gentle loving character is willing to kill Tybalt, a fighter by nature to do justice to the death of his friend.
One of the messages that Shakespeare was trying to put across with Romeo and his feelings for Mercutio, Juliet and her love for Romeo, the nurse and her love for Juliet is something that most of the characters have in common- their suffering because of love. The most extreme case being Romeo and Juliet dying for each other...
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