Romeo and Juliet and Pride and Prejudice are two of the most admirable and exquisite works ever written about the struggling love of two opposing forces. The novels have had a great literary importance and give us a sense of love and marriage on its most bewildered journey during the Elizabethan Era and the Napoleonic wars. Even though these two novels are from two different eras and are quite divergent as a result of it, this essay will argue that both Romeo and Juliet and Pride and Prejudice are indubitable similar in the concern of love and marriage. Firstly, this essay will present a short amount of background regarding love and marriage during the Elizabethan era and in the turn of the nineteenth century. Secondly, the essay will talk about the comparison and distinction in love and marriage present in the novels. Thirdly, this essay will discuss and hopefully conclude with the chosen thesis.
During the Elizabethan era women were subservient to men and they were raised not to consider otherwise. They were expected to marry whomever the father would hold appropriate. The Scottish protestant leader John Knox wrote “”Women in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man.”( Alchin, L.K. “Elizabethan Women.) The marriages were arranged to create alliances with other powerful families which becomes the obvious environment in the play about Romeo and Juliet. Love was not significant between a man and a woman. Instead the importance of financial security and a life in everlastingly safety was prioritized through the marriage of a wealthy suitor. In the play by Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet, Juliet is being arranged to marry Paris, a kinsman of the prince, a well suited husband for her despite of her disapproval. As Paris speaks “God shield I should disturb devotion!—Juliet, on Thursday early will I rouse ye.(kisses her) Till then, adieu, and keep this holy kiss.” ( Romeo and Juliet, 4.1 William Shakespeare) This is not a marriage for love and this typical prejudice of marriage is also highly present in Jane Austen’s book Pride and Prejudice. One of the characters Charlotte amongst other, is utterly convinced of a socially ideal marriage which was the most common way to unite in the turn of the nineteenth century.
“I am not romantic, you know; I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins’s character, connection, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state.” (Chapter 22. Page 193.” Pride and Prejudice. N.p.: Planet Pdf). Most women decided to marry rather than depend on other family members for financial support. Due to this choice or lack thereof, love and passion were presumed to be less essential in people’s lives. Charlotte’s quote expresses more or less the plight woman had throughout the turn of the nineteenth century. It’s very likely that the Author of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen intentionally tried to reveal woman’s position in love and marriage as they were. Shakespeare on the other hand probably had a slightly different agenda which was mainly to please the audiences. All though it is important to note that Shakespeare presumably wrote about this social decay because he did not approve of what was going on at the time. We might say that this includes the social condition of women and their meager rights in love and marriage. “Get thee a good husband, and use him as he uses thee.”(All’s Well That Ends Well 1.1.212-13) In Romeo and Juliet the matter of love dominates the play.” My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love as deep; the more I give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite. (Romeo and Juliet 2.2, William Shakespeare).
Love in this play is simply not one-sided. There is puppy love or shallow love which is the love Romeo has for Rosalie, merely drawn to her appearances’. This view of love is also present in the novel Pride and Prejudice. One of the main characters Mr. Darcy speaks of the woman who later becomes his wife “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me;” (Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice,Planet Pdf p.14 Ch. 3) Romeo and Juliet and Pride and Prejudice are both acclaimed love stories which center around a man and a woman and their love for each other. The other characters seem to play their important role converging upon these lovers or lovers to be. In both stories we see a strong opposing love due to a distinctness of social class as occurring in Pride and Prejudice between the middle class, the Bennett’s and the Aristocrats Darcy’s and new money the Bingley’s. In Romeo and Juliet the antagonistic love is more defined as a feud between two powerful families who will not by any circumstances find peace with each other. “Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.” (Romeo and Juliet, Prologue p.7 William Shakespeare). The House of Montegue and the House of Capulet are the two families who are sworn enemies, never to reconcile until Romeo and Juliet’s deaths. Nevertheless both the novel and the play have in common the opposing forces set in the story.
These two main characters should not be together in love as a result of society’s rules. They both defy society’s instructions and give in to love rather than reason. This way of writing was probably intentional by Shakespeare considering the Renaissance period was also about universal order as in Humanism which was a significant factor in general in Shakespeare’s plays.( “Renaissance Humanism and Shakespeare”.) Both Romeo and Juliet and Pride and Prejudice paint marriage as one of life’s most important choices. Even though this is the case, it is considerably important to envision that Pride and Prejudice has a slightly closer focus on family over husband whereas Romeo and Juliet leans more toward love for husband over family in my opinion. The reason for this is the personalities of the women in the Novel and the Play. Both Juliet and Elizabeth are strong female characters who are being presented as very respectable human beings despite their flaws. In a way we can say that both authors, Jane Austen and William Shakespeare speak for the women at that time and their difficult situations in love and marriage. Passion, love and hate is also a common denominator in these stories. These three words as a whole provide us with an overall understanding of these books. Passion as source of consistency, love as a diversity present in different elements, and hate as an opposition to love to create balance.
All though there are quite a few similarities between the novel and the play, there are also a few contrasts present in the books which are important to consider in an analysis of love and marriage. The play Romeo and Juliet has an overwhelming amount of overpowering force of love in it which supersedes everything. The love Romeo and Juliet has for each other is almost obsessive, and self-destructive as a result of it. (“Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs; Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes; Being vex’d a sea nourish’d with lovers’ tears: What is it else? a madness most discreet, A choking gall and a preserving sweet.” ( Romeo and Juliet, 1.1, William Shakespeare.) Romeo speaks of love as he has read in books, but unlikely experienced. Romeo’s passionate feelings develop into a deadly love at the end of the play when the couple’s tragic destiny prevails and they both die by their own hands. Pride and Prejudice do not have this uncontrollable intense love. The novel focuses more on the achievement of marriage and stability in life, financial and the image of respectability rather than the passionate lusty love. It is important to remember that love is also one of the themes of Pride and Prejudice and that the love in which the main characters Darcy and Elizabeth have for each other at the end of the novel is some of the reasons why this book is so successful.
Even though the excessive love is more present in the play about Romeo and Juliet as a result of their lawless passion as archetypal lovers, it is relatively different than what we see in Pride and Prejudice. Both stories have a background of society’s expectation in love and marriage such as Juliet’s arranged marriage to Paris and Elizabeth’s friend Charlotte’s marriage to Mr. Collins an overbearing, and ridiculous heir to the entailed Bennett’s estate. In the play about Romeo and Juliet they are being referred to as star-crossed lovers “Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes .A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life; Whose misadventur’d piteous overthrows. Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife.( Romeo and Juliet, the Prologue. p.7, William Shakespeare,) The stars functions as an opposition to Romeo and Juliet’s destiny and is there-for an indication of a not intended universal love as we can see clearly at the tragic end of the play followed by the death of the two young lovers. Pride and Prejudice have a slightly different ending. It has lot more satisfying completion where the two main characters finally can live a fulfilled life together despite the society’s heavy burden of commandment which the reader of the novel was most likely able to anticipate through-out the novel. We see that Romeo and Juliet and Pride and Prejudice have an evident distinction at the end of the two books towards the consideration of meaning. Clearly Romeo and Juliet is a forced equation whereas Darcy and Elisabeth are more likely to be predestined.
By analyzing some of the similarities and contrasts in love and marriage in the two books I find the similarities no more substantial than the contrasts. This might be a result of the underlying elements that keep on grasping the connections as we see it. Some of the leading aspects of this influence are the love against all odds in Romeo and Juliet versus the more predestined version in Pride and Prejudice. Another important element is shallow love which presents it-self in both books through the ignorance of the characters. We see similarities in the society’s established rules of marriage and the characters capability to oppose to these “decrees”. Then again there is an over-powering and obsessive force of love in Romeo and Juliet which is not accounted for in Pride and Prejudice. Due to these almost completely balanced analogies and divergences I cannot conclude with the chosen thesis and instead I accept the equity of exceptional authorship.
Alchin, L.K. “Elizabethan Women.” Elizabethan Women. Www.elizabethan-era.org.uk, 16 May 2012. Web. 13 Feb. 2014. Shakespeare, William, Barbara A. Mowat, and Paul Werstine. The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2011. Print. Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. N.p.: Planet Pdf, n.d. Http://www.planetpdf.com/. Planet Pdf. Web. 13 Feb. 2014. “All’s Well That Ends Well: Entire Play.” All’s Well That Ends Well: Entire Play. Http://shakespeare.mit.edu/allswell/full.html, n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2014. “Renaissance Humanism and Shakespeare.” Http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/SAYLOR.ORG-ENGL401-RENAISSANCE-HUMANISM-SHAKESPEARE.pdf. The Sailor Foundation, n.d. Web.