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Bearing in mind that ‘Romeo and Julietï¿½ is one of the most famous love stories ever written, examine Shakespeareï¿½s presentation of ‘loveï¿½ referring closely to the language used by different characters.
The play ‘Romeo and Julietï¿½ presents true love in the form of ‘star-crossed loversï¿½ and just as their love is depicted as eternal, the play itself has endured for years. There have been many adaptations of the play in the forms of books, films, ballets and plays. Several books have been loosely based on the story, involving young lovers of different religion or different race who are not permitted to be together.
These are always very popular because people want to find true love. The words ‘Romeo and Julietï¿½ conjure up images associated with true love; but the play explores many views of ‘loveï¿½. Each character in the play has a different personality and view on life, therefore they perceive ‘loveï¿½ in their own distinct way, adding a clear contrast to Romeo and Julietï¿½s first love, which is true and pure.
The play ‘Romeo and Julietï¿½ is the story of true love and devotion and it is therefore unexpected that the first reference to relationships in the play is all about sex. The first two characters that the audience is introduced to are Sampson and Gregory. They are vulgar and crude, making many sexual references and innuendoes. They do not see love as involving emotions or desires, but as a purely physical thing, sexual not emotional. Sampson refers to women as “weaker vessels” and tells of how he will rape the maids of the Montague household;
“Women being the weaker vessels are ever thrust to the wall”,
“I will push Montagueï¿½s men from the wall, and thrust his maids to the wall”.
Both Sampson and Gregory have petty and narrow perceptions of ‘loveï¿½. Neither of them appears to have ever experienced true love. They talk in a crude and coarse manner, brag about their own ‘attributesï¿½ and see women as objects not people. They are typical of ‘yobsï¿½ in society today, the type of people who fight because they think they should because society expects them to or because of feuding that spans generations.
Other contrasts to Romeo and Juliet in the play are the nurse and Mercutio. Mercutio is volatile and lively with an amazing imagination. He loves life and makes the most of each day. His love for words and puns is shown to its full in his speech about Queen Mab. The speech starts off being very idealistic and fantastical
“She gallops night by night
Through loversï¿½ brains, and then they dream of love,”
As it continues, the speech becomes vulgar and moves from the image of a beautiful fairy to ideas of war and suffering,
“Sometime she driveth oï¿½er a soldiers neck,
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats.”
Mercutio is the kind of person who gets restless very easily. He thinks that Romeo is wasting his time with Rosaline, and mocks him. In general Mercutio has a clouded view of ‘loveï¿½. Like Sampson and Gregory he considers ‘loveï¿½ only in sexual terms rather than emotions, shown in his crude language,
The nurse is similar to Mercutio in her use of vulgar language. The nurse is the equivalent of Julietï¿½s mother, she raised and looked after her and is very close to Juliet. Juliet is in fact a lot closer to the nurse than to her own mother. The one person that Juliet has always loved is the nurse. The nurse is the only character in the play that she tells about her love for Romeo. Juliet confides in the nurse, because she is like her mother. The nurse has a blunt attitude towards love and sex, but is an affectionate and loving woman who wants Juliet to be happy. She has a tendency to talk a lot and often strays from her subject. The nurse had a husband whom she loved dearly, but he died. She refers to him in her story about Juliet falling on her face, the story is vulgar and she repeats it several times, finding it very funny. Clearly she and her husband shared a bawdy sense of humour.
“And yet I warrant it had upon it brow
A bump as big as a young cockï¿½relï¿½s stone,
A perilous knock, and it cried bitterly.
‘Yeaï¿½, quoth my husband, ‘fallï¿½st upon thy face?
Thou wilt fall backward when thou comest to age,
Wilt thou not, Jule?ï¿½ It stinted and said ‘Ayï¿½.”
The nurse is often vulgar and crude, but she truly cares for Juliet. The nurse aids Julietï¿½s love for Romeo but in the end she tries to persuade Juliet to marry Paris. She has a big heart but clearly has no understanding of the depth of Julietï¿½s love for Romeo nor does she consider the sanctity of her marriage.
For Juliet the nurse is like her best friend. Romeo has the Friar to confide in. Friar Lawrence marries the couple and tries to help them whenever possible. He wants the best for them and thinks that if they marry then possibly the feuding will end;
” In one respect Iï¿½ll thy assistant be:
For this may so happy prove
To turn your householdsï¿½ rancour to pure love”
The friar tells Romeo not to rush things with Juliet, but when Romeo asks him to marry them he agrees. The friar approves of their love and truly cares about what happens to Romeo and Juliet. At the end of the play we see him trying to persuade Juliet not to kill herself and then when she has he explains to everyone why he married them.
Juliet and her mother, Lady Capulet, do not seem to have a close relationship. In the first act, Juliet feels that she must please her mother by obeying her every wish. As the play progresses we see that Lady Capulet has clear ides of what she considers best for her daughter. She sings the praises of Paris when she is informing Juliet of his desires. Lady Capulet describes Paris as ‘valiantï¿½ and tells Juliet that all his love needs is a cover, the cover will be her.
“And what obscured in this fair volume lies
Find written in the margent of his eyes.
This precious book of love, this unbound lover,
To beautify him, only lacks a cover.”
She seems less interested about whether the couple will love each other, more concerned with how suitable he is.
Paris is the man whom Capulet wants Juliet to marry. Paris explains his feelings for Juliet to Capulet. It seems that Paris does love Juliet because when Romeo kills him he asks to be put in her tomb,
“If thou be merciful,
Open the tomb, lay me with Juliet.”
He has genuine emotions for Juliet and is devastated when she ‘diesï¿½,
“Beguiled, divorcï¿½d, wrongï¿½d, spited, slain!
Most detestable Death, by thee beguiled,
By cruel, cruel thee quite overthrown!
O love! O life! not life, but love in death!”
Paris is a good man who would be kind to Juliet but she does not love him.
Julietï¿½s father however does seem to think that she would be happy with Paris. Capulet cares a lot for his daughter because all his other children have died and therefore she is very special to him;
“Earth hath swallowed all my hopes but she;
Sheï¿½s the hopeful lady of my earth.”
Capulet wants the best for his daughter when Paris first explains his proposal,
“But woo her, gentle Paris, get her heart,
And she agreed, within her scope of choice
Lies my consent and fair according voice”
Capulet then starts to push Juliet into the marriage instead of letting her choose. He says that he will only let his daughter marry Paris if she consents, but then turns against this later in the play.Maybe he thinks that marriage to Paris will be in her best interests and he therefore pressurises her into it. This is why she feels she has to fake her own death. Capulet loves Juliet in the way that most parents love their children, but he goes one step further and tells her what to do instead of letting her make her own decisions. We do not know many details of Capuletï¿½s marriage; there are only hints that he is not happily married. So the main demonstration of love that we see from him, is towards his daughter. He is furious when Juliet defies him and is prepared to cast her out from his house!
The focus of Capuletï¿½s attention is his daughter, Juliet. Juliet is only a child when she falls in love with Romeo. Her love for Romeo is true, pure and he is her first love. She loves him more than anything in the world,
“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.”
Julietï¿½s love for Romeo is the ‘loveï¿½ that people crave. She loves him infinitely and will do anything for him, even die. Her devastation is immense when her love, Romeo, is banished from Verona. Juliet tells her family that she is distraught due to the death of her cousin, Tybalt, but her grief is caused by her undying love. Romeo and Juliet share a bond, which makes their love even more special. When they first meet each other they share their language. They both use biblical and religious words to express themselves. The first time they speak it is in the form of a sonnet;
“Romeo: If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this,
My lips two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
Juliet: Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this,
For saints have hands that pilgrims hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmersï¿½ kiss.”
The first moment that they meet, it is obvious that there is something special between them.
Because of love, Julietï¿½s character changes through the play. She becomes less obedient towards her parents and more mature and independent as the play unfolds. She defies and deceives her father about Romeo and Paris. We realise how much she has changed when she talks herself round to supporting Romeo whilst he is banished.
Romeo is different in many ways to Juliet, but he still loves her as much as she does him. The first time that he thought he was in love was with Rosaline. When he ‘lovedï¿½ her he was not happy. The love was unrequited and was not genuine. Romeo became depressed when he realised that Rosaline did not love him. He was moody, withdrawn and used oxymorons in his speech,
“O brawling love, O loving hate,
O any thing of nothing first create!
O heavy lightness, serious vanity,
Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms,
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!”
Romeo does not talk to his parents about his feelings. He confides in Mercutio and Benvolio but never informs his parents of his emotions.
As he falls deeper in love with Juliet he grows happier and more sociable, whereas when he loved Rosaline he locked himself in his rooms for hours. With Juliet he risks his life to see her.
Romeo and Juliet share a physical, passionate love as well as emotional love. The first night that they meet they do not want to leave each other. This is in the famous ‘Balcony Sceneï¿½. Romeo risks his life to see Juliet by climbing the walls of the Capulet estate. He then stands beneath her window waiting to see her. He then describes her in such a loving way that it is almost unreal;
“Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.”
The couple share a night together when they are married and in the morning they do not want to leave each other. Juliet tries to make Romeo stay with her;
“Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day;
It was the nightingale, and not the lark,
That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear;
Nightly she sings on yond pomegranate tree.
Believe me, love, it was the nightingale.”
These two young lovers defy their parents by marrying behind their backs, proving their love for one another. However the most definite affirmation of their love, is when the lovers make the ultimate sacrifice, their own lives. This pair of “star-crossed lovers” experience the most remarkable form of love imaginable, true love.
Shakespeareï¿½s presentation of ‘loveï¿½ in the play ‘Romeo and Julietï¿½ varies. Some characters think only of sex, others demonstrate a form of love with their children, but the one true, pure love is that of Romeo and Juliet. Each character in the play provides a frame to their love, their attitudes contrasting with young lovers. Romeo and Juliet share a special bond together that will never be lost. They make the greatest sacrifice for each other and this proves their love.
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