Romeo and Juliet is a well known tragedy by the great 16-17th century playwright William Shakespeare. Various dramatisations and films have been made of this famous text such as Franco Zeffirelli’s classic historical version, and Baz Luhrmann’s modern spin on the story, but each of these still retain the original words written by the Bard. This play was one of Shakespeare’s earlier texts – written in about 1595, and is very firmly themed around love. This essay will explore the different areas of this theme and discuss how Shakespeare presents love in different ways.
Romeo and Juliet: the classic love story. But one has to explore what types of love this refers to. Romantic love is the most obvious; indeed this love is communicated between the two main characters throughout the majority of the play. The first sign of Romeo’s feelings towards Juliet is in the first act, scene five so it’s quite near the beginning of the play. “Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!
For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.”
Act 1, scene 5, lines 51-52
This implies that Romeo’s short-lived courtly obsession with Rosaline was nothing in comparison to the emotions he was now feeling. It is, to be clichéd, love at first sight. However Romeo is describing Juliet more as an object a “true beauty” implying that any other woman he has seen before this was not a beauty – not really. This does seem to be rather exaggerated and conflicts with how Romeo was earlier describing Rosaline: as “rich in beauty”. Romeo becomes more devoted and passionate as he moves further into his relationship with Juliet. After the wedding night, although Romeo must leave before dawn he is so consumed by true love that he tells Juliet he will risk death just to stay with her a little while longer. “I have more care to stay than will to go;
Come, death, and welcome! Juliet wills it so.
How is’t, my soul? Let’s talk it is not day.”
Act 3, scene 5, lines 23-25
The two top lines are a lovely example of the language feature; a sonnet. When Romeo and Juliet first meet they speak mainly in sonnets, as this was not only poetry symbolising love, but it also shows the connection between the couple – when they can finish each other’s sentences in rhyme, there truly is a chemistry. In the above quote, Romeo is no longer using the fickle, poetic language of the infatuated lover as before when he described his “love” for Rosaline: “Why then, O brawling love, O loving hate,
O any thing of nothing first create!”
Act 1, scene 1, lines 176-177
These two quotes, although they both refer to romantic love, differ greatly. Romeo is describing how he feels in both quotes but because he is more to the point when he speaks to Juliet about how he feels. It seems as if Romeo is hiding the fact he feels only Courtly love for Rosaline behind long elaborate wordplay and oxymorons – it implies that it is not sincere, and is quite childish in a way. One would expect that Romeo has read of noble knights speaking of their love interests in this manner, and is simply copying their style and idolising these great warriors. However, his passion for Juliet causes him to tell her the strength of his love in a much more realistically and truthfully – from the heart, and he really seems to grow up. Here, Shakespeare is cleverly creating a contrast of the “artificial” love and obsession with Rosaline that makes Romeo act in a very effeminate way, with the true heartfelt adoration Romeo has for Juliet, even though it is only young love. This particular technique may be less effective with a more modern audience; who is more used to true love lasting over a period before marriage, but with an Elizabethan audience, they are more accustomed to “rushing into things” perhaps even because the lack of stability they have regarding their life expectancy. Therefore when Romeo and Juliet marry, it pans out as much more like true love, than a modern audience would see. However there is still a...
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