Romeo and Juliet
One of the many themes of Romeo and Juliet is the strength of love. In the play, different types of love form between the characters. Shakespeare uses these types of love in the play to not only keep the audience on their toes, wanting more, but also to develop a tragedy, and something unexpected. Shakespeare used true romantic, community, misplaced, and caring but conflicting love, not only between Romeo and Juliet, but between Friar Lawrence and the city of Verona, the Nurse and Juliet, and Lady Capulet and Capulet with Juliet. Collectively, the different types of love, all of which are strong in their own right, allow Shakespeare to explore the tensions even something desirable and sought after, love, can cause in peoples’ lives.
The love between Romeo and Juliet helped to develop the theme of the play. Romeo and Juliet’s love for one another was the only example of true romantic love in the play. In the beginning of the play, Romeo had an obsession or one sided lust for Rosaline, which he believed to be love. Romeo’s lust for Rosaline was only physical, the readers realize when he stated, ‘Nor ope her lap to saint-seducing gold” (I. i. 215). At this point in the play, Romeo admitted, but did not realize, that he wanted Rosaline only physically, and that he had no true emotional attraction to her. The readers of the play also realize that the love between Romeo and Juliet is not just a lust during the balcony scene when Juliet said, “Deny thy father and refuse thy name” (II. Ii. 34). At this moment Juliet admitted that she was willing to give up her name as Capulet and change it to Montague, the name her parents had hated for so long, just so she could marry Romeo. In the midst of saying this, readers learn that her love was true because she was willing to do what ever it took to marry Romeo, even if it meant leaving her parents behind. This was surprising because Juliet had extreme loyalty to her parents, she had always done anything they asked of her, but the very moment she found out that Romeo was a Montague she was willing to cast aside her parents and run off with Romeo. As it was stated earlier the love between Romeo and Juliet was the only true love in the entire play. As written by Franklin M. Dickey, “Romeo and Juliet are all in all to one another, the radiance of their shared love illumines them with growing beauty, but casts little light on the world around them” (Dickey 467), signifying that Romeo and Juliet’s love was strong enough to last even in secrecy when it could not be shared with anyone around them. It was obvious that the two lovers were happier when they met, especially Romeo who was able to get over his obsession of Rosaline. Furthermore, the lovers were upset when the future looked unpromising. Juliet grieved for days on end for what was thought to be the death of her cousin Tybalt which was truly the grieving of the exiled Romeo. Herman Ulrici wrote of the lovers, “Their love retains its rights, for, in death the lovers are united with the sanction of their parents; …” (Ulrici 431) demonstrating that the lovers’ bond was so strong it was even able to rid their parents hatred for each other, even if it was after Romeo and Juliet’s death. This statement is just one of many examples of how true and strong Romeo and Juliet’s love was. Not only was their love strong, it was innocent. Their love was the only love not corrupt like every other relationship around them, as this statement by Franklin M. Dickey illustrates, “Indeed one of the marks of the lovers’ innocence is that they remained untouched by the experience of disillusionment…” (Dickey 467). Romeo and Juliet’s love was also innocent. It was not a love for wealth and power like the relationship between Lady Capulet and Capulet, nor was it a give and take relationship like the Nurses and Juliet’s.
Friar Laurence loved for the greater good of people. He did not particularly love Romeo and Juliet as he loved the fair city of Verona. Thus, Friar Laurence’s love with Verona is about love for peace, the common good, and a fair and just world. Friar Laurence loved all people in Verona, but he also wanted to see peace between the Capulets and Montagues. It is obvious that he was willing to sacrifice two young lives if it meant ending the long feud between the two families. Friar Laurence knew right from wrong but still chose wrong knowing that he could end the feuding in the final scheme of events when he agreed to marry Romeo and Juliet and said, “To turn your households’ rancor into pure love.” (II. iii. 92). Friar Laurence knew marrying Romeo and Juliet was not a good idea because he had previously witnessed Romeo’s obsession over Rosaline and thought this new situation was no different except for the fact that this time, the girl he was pursuing also had a lust for Romeo. Not to mistake Friar Laurence though, he knew that good would come from the situation while being aware that bad consequences might also occur. He did everything he possibly could to join Romeo and Juliet together and save them from their parents pointless arguments. Throughout the events of the play he realized that Romeo and Juliet really were in love and that if their love was brought public it had a good chance of resolving the issues between the two families because of the love’s strength. As written by Paul Siegel, “We have seen the prophetic force of Friar Laurence…” (507), meaning that Friar Laurence knew the two lovers would not end well but they could be used to create good, and that is exactly what he did. Friar Laurence decided as long as the two children were in love, he could use their relationship to create a bond between the Capulets and the Montagues. In the end, although the two lovers did end their lives, they created a whole knew life for Verona. They created a life without violence and hate walking the streets ready to strike at any time. Thus Friar Laurence’s love for Verona, while not romantic, was very strong and impactful.
Nurse cared for Juliet ever since her birth. Although, she did not really love Juliet, instead she tried to replace her daughter that died at birth with Juliet. Nurse showed many times in the play that she did not truly love Juliet. Shakespeare uses Nurse to show false or misplaced love, that can also affect people’s lives, in this case, Juliet’s. Nurse was working at the Capulet’s to care for Juliet but often showed she knew very little about the girl. One example early on in the play was when she said, “Now, by my maidenhead at twelve year old” (I. iii. 2), suggesting that she did not really know Juliet’s true age. Nurse had taken care of Juliet since the day she was born yet she did not even know the maiden’s age. Nurse’s relationship with Juliet was a win-win situation. Nurse had a job caring after a child and Juliet had someone to look after her. In this situation, the nurse cared for Juliet at what seemed to be distance. Nurse knew about Juliet’s secret love with Romeo, she knew that Juliet’s love for Romeo was true, yet she pushed Paris on her multiple times with a simple explanation of, “…Why he is a man of wax” (I. iii. 76). Later on Juliet realized that she could not trust Nurse and no longer wanted anything to do with her when she said, “Ancient damnation! O most wicked fiend!” (III. v. 237), again proving that if there was love between Juliet and Nurse that it was false, and Juliet could not trust someone who she thought would support her without question.
Juliet had great respect for her parents but did not agree with their choice of her husband. Lady Capulet and Capulet cared for their daughter but often overlooked what she truly wished for. This type of love, one of caring but conflicting with other ideals and relationships, is shown by Shakespeare to also be strong and powerful. There is no doubt that Capulet and Lady Capulet loved Juliet. This was proven early on in the play when Paris came to Capulet to ask for Juliet’s hand and Capulet responded, “My child is yet a stranger to the world, ...” (I. ii. 7). Capulet cared for his only daughter and did not want her to be married yet because he thought she was too young. Throughout the play the reader can see that Capulet and Lady Capulet are often looking out for their daughter and trying to make decisions that are best for her. While making these decisions they often overlooked the importance of how their daughter felt about the decisions that were being made. During the play the love for Juliet faded because she was losing the respect that she once had for her parents. When she was younger she did everything that her parents asked for. As she grew older and developed her own feelings, the situations grew more important. Juliet came to realize that she did not approve of the decisions her parents were making for her especially when it came to her marriage and the man with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life. Juliet wished for true love, a love that she could only have with Romeo. At the time Juliet was living in there were rarely marriages of true love, instead people married for money and wealth. Juliet’s parents married for money and wealth, therefore, they saw nothing wrong with doing so and wanted her to do the same. That was how Juliet lost her respect for her parents, making her parents lose some of their love for her. When Juliet finally refused to marry Paris, her mother wanted nothing to do with her disrespectful daughter. This is why when Juliet threatened to commit suicide Lady Capulet responded with, “Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee.” (III. v. 205). It is at this point in the play that the reader can tell Lady Capulet and Capulet’s love for Juliet is false and is of little meaning. This shows that even the love between Juliet and her parents is not enduring true; but none the less affects their lives in a great way.
In conclusion, Shakespeare uses many types of loves in the play to develop the theme of the strength of love. Shakespeare did not only use the romantic love of Romeo and Juliet in his play, The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, for his examples of love. He also used the love of peace Friar Laurence had with the city of Verona, Nurse’s false love to Juliet, and Lady Capulet and Capulet’s conflicting love with Juliet. Shakespeare used these loves to prove the true strength of Romeo and Juliet’s love to show the power all different types of love can have over so many people.
Dickey, Franklin. “Not Wisely but Too Well: Shakespeare’s Love Tragedies.” The Huntington Library, (1957). 161; excerpted and reprinted in Shakespeare for Students. Vol. 1. ed. Mark w. Scott (Detroit: Gale Research, 1992). pp. 467.
Lee, Michelle. "Romeo and Juliet." Shakespearean Criticism. 106. (2007): n. page. Web. 12 Feb. 2012.
Shakespeare, William. "The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet." Literature. Evanston: McDougal Littell, 2009. 941-1049. Print.
Ulrici, Herman. “Romeo and Juliet.” Shakespeare’s Dramatic Art: History and Character of Shakespeare’s Plays (1876). 381-97; excerpted and reprinted in Shakespeare Criticism. Vol. 5. Mark W. Scott (Kansas City: Gale Research, 1987). pp.431.