Debate: Better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all - Using Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
Everyone can agree that love is wonderful, but is it worth everything? Should one sacrifice their all for love? Scholars conclude that the central theme of Romeo and Juliet is love. Love drives the play, as the prologue introduces the audience to "a pair of star-crossed lovers." (Prologue, l.6) The definition of love is established as: eros, a union that brings self-fulfilment; philia, brotherly and sisterly love; and agape, wholly selfless love. Saint Augustine once said that, "It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all." Truly, the experience of love is unlike any other and every human should experience it. However, whether or not humans should experience love is not the topic at hand; rather, it is whether it is better to have loved and lost or to never have loved at all. In William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, it is evident that the star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, would have been better not to have loved at all. Particularly, love has caused Romeo and Juliet to be myopic, death is the ultimate outcome of their love, and love is the reason for tragedy - not only for Romeo and Juliet, but for every character surrounding them.
Firstly, love blinds Romeo and Juliet - all Romeo sees and cares about is Juliet, and all Juliet sees and cares about is Romeo. Being with each other is the only thing that matters. Love is supposed to be a union that brings self-fulfilment, but in Romeo and Juliet, it brings violence. This play opens with Romeo being depressed because Rosaline does not return his love. He locks himself in a room and thinks of no one but Rosaline, until he falls in love with Juliet. At the Capulet party, Romeo says, "Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight, / for I ne'er saw true beauty till this night." (I, v, l.69-60) On the other hand, Juliet is only 13 and has not even considered marriage or love: "It is an honor that I dream not of." (I, iii, l.71) She does not care for Paris or any other man, but in less than forty-eight hours, everything changes dramatically. Following their encounter, there is a manifestation of myopia. Romeo and Juliet, both innocent teenagers, are plagued with thoughts of suicide and a willingness to experience it. Romeo draws out a knife in Friar Lawrence's cell and threatens to kill himself after he has been banished from Verona. (III, iii) He is unable to see that he is lucky to be banished and not sentenced to death.
"Thy fault our law calls death, but the kind prince, /Taking thy part, hath rushed aside the law/ And turned that black word 'death' to 'banishment.'/ This is dear mercy, and thou seest it not." (III, iii, l.26-30)
Just two scenes later, Juliet says, "Give me some present counsel, or, behold, / 'twixt my extremes and me this bloody knife shall play the umpire/... Be not so long to speak, I long to die." (IV, I, l.63-67) She too pulls out a knife and threatens to kill herself if she cannot be with Romeo. These acts disprove morality and good judgment. Education is no longer present, contributing to further rash and imprudent decisions. Juliet selfishly wishes to end her life when she finds out she is to be wed to Paris. Her immature inability to rationalize her situation prevents her from seeing options. She would rather die than to sacrifice the cost of upsetting her parents and risk being thrown out of the Capulet house. Love destroyed all moral values and led to destruction.
Secondly, the lives of Romeo and Juliet cannot be worth a single experience. Both Romeo and Juliet commit suicide because of love. What good can result from suicide? Furthermore, how can experiencing love be the price tag of a thirteen and sixteen year old? Love is supposed to be "patient and kind. It does not boast, it is not proud. It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered." (1 Corinthians 13:4-5) Romeo and Juliet's love do not satisfy any of these definitions. The double suicide ironically ends both families' generations. There is no evidence that Juliet would have been unhappy marrying Paris, in fact, Juliet was content with Paris until she met Romeo. Paris was a "man of wax" (I, iii, l.82) and Juliet was considering giving Paris her consent: "I'll look to like, if looking liking move." (I, iii, l.103) Only until after she meets Romeo is she despondent and chooses to die. Some may argue that their love (which led to suicide) has ended the feud between both families, but they both lost their only children. Life is sacred and perhaps the most valuable gift humans are gifted with. Ending a silly feud is surely not worth two lives - neither are two gold statues. Optimists may also argue that their deaths were good because they will be together after death. This shows belief in an afterlife; suicide is a grave sin, and to believe they will be "together after death," one must believe that they will go to hell. Nothing can be worth eternal suffering, not even love. Simply, if they never loved, they never would have died.
Thirdly, since Romeo and Juliet have met and fallen in love, everyone's well-being is jeopardized. Romeo and Juliet live only for each other and ironically commit suicide, Lady Montague dies from grief over Romeo death - leaving Montague with nobody, Mercutio, Tybalt, and Paris dies, the Nurse is forced to be dishonest to her master, and the Friar is forced to be a mastermind behind plan that suffers massive failure. Juliet comes to a point where she does not even care for her family. For example, when Tybalt is murdered and Juliet is asked to comfort her parents, she replies, "Wash they his wounds with tears? Mine shall be spent,/ when theirs are dry, for Romeo's banishment." (III, ii, l.141-143) A second occasion comes when Juliet asks Romeo to "Deny thy father and refuse thy name, or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, / and I'll no longer be a Capulet." (II, ii, l.37-39) Juliet's love for Romeo exceeds her love for her family. Paris, who only desires to please Juliet, is treated horribly and dies for no reason. He is repeatedly lied to and dies saying, "O, I am Slain! If thou be merciful, / Open the tomb; lay me with Juliet." (V, iii, l.72-73) He shows as much love for Juliet as Romeo does, but because of Romeo and Juliet's affair, he is hopeless and left with nothing. Benvolio, the peacemaker of the play, also suffers though he does not die. He loses two of his best friends because of Romeo and Juliet's love. One emotion resulted in so many negative consequences; surely they never should have loved at all.
As love is defined as eros, philia, and agape, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet refutes the idea that it is better to have loved and lost. Eros is countered because the double suicide ends any sort of union and surely, there is no self-fulfillment in death; philia is disproved because of all the negative effects and dishonesty; and agape is negated because of both Romeo and Juliet's myopic views. From Romeo and Juliet's willingness to experience suicide to the deaths of five characters, love seems to promote violence. Though it was better off for Romeo and Juliet not to love, "love in Romeo and Juliet is nevertheless a brutal, yet powerful emotion that captures individuals and catapults them against their world, and, at times, against themselves."