How does Shakespeare present Romeo’s love for Rosaline in Act 1 Scene 1?
Shakespeare’s first portrayal of the theme of love is in the first act when Romeo is talking of his love for Rosaline with Benvolio. Here Romeo is very confused as he uses oxymorons such as ‘o brawling love, o loving hate,’ which shows how he is confused by his relationship with Rosaline as she does not return his love because she wants to be a nun and don’t want to love any man. Shakespeare presents the pain of Romeo’s love as ‘being vexed, a sea nourished with lovers tears.’
This shows how Romeo feels that he is being tormented by his love and he also, in this line speaks of all the lovers who have shed tears over their love and says how this is keeping the sea levels high by saying that the tears nourish the sea. Romeo can be identified as a Pertrarchan lover. He describes his love for Rosaline in this way, as he says he is sick and sad. Shakespeare of course deliberately set up Romeo as a Petrarchan lover in this way to highlight his love for Rosaline with his love for Juliet. Rosaline never actually appears on stage and never says anything.
The audience don’t know much about her, only that Romeo loves her but she doesn’t love him back. One can argue that Rosaline exists in the play only to demonstrate Romeo’s passionate nature, his love of love. For example, he shows his love for Rosaline: “Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health”. It seems that Romeo’s love for Rosaline, then, seems an immature love, more a statement that he is ready to be in love than actual love.