Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website!
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a romantic tragedy based around a pair of young lovers. The play is set in 12th century Verona where a pair of families, the Capulet’s and the Montague’s have been feuding for many years. The play revolves around Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet falling deeply in love and the events that befall these two forbidden lovers. The play covers an array of different types of love and love related issues from brotherly love to bodily lust, Shakespeare uses the characters to portray stereotyped ideas of love and how it affects people.
Before even the first scene is out, the play has already touched upon the idea of brotherly love. Benvolio, the cousin of Romeo, finds Romeo in a state of near depression and says to Romeo ‘What sadness lengthens Romeos hours’? With this line Shakespeare is showing Benvolio’s concern as a man might unto his brother. Romeo is sad because he has fallen in love with a girl, Rosaline ‘In sadness, cousin, I do love a woman. ‘ However Romeo’s chosen spouse does not return the affection, as Romeo states ‘She will not stay the siege of loving terms’. Benvolio offers to Romeo the idea of looking for a different more attainable woman.
He gives this advice in order that his cousin may once again be happy thus showing his affection for Romeo. Throughout the play Shakespeare writes about light when referring to love, he talks of it in the prologue before the play is even afoot ‘A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life;’ It does not stop here however, on Romeo’s first encounter with Juliet he says ‘O she doth teach the torches to burn bright’ Meaning that she brings light to his dark troubled state of mind, where there was the haze of rejection her light shines through brightening his mood.
Again in scene two upon meeting with Juliet his love Romeo compares her presence to light ‘But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? ‘ To Romeo meeting Juliet is like the sun rising, just as the sun lights up the world she lights up his mood and, as the sun clears the morning mist, so Juliet clears the fog of his mind leaving it clear. I think Shakespeare uses these references to light to show that in ‘dark’ times often love can show the way. Perhaps showing that in the face of a problematic social environment love can be a beacon to those who embrace it.
When Romeo first visits friar Lawrence in Act two Scene three they speak of Romeo’s newfound love for Juliet and change of heart to Rosaline ‘With Rosaline, my ghostly father? no; I have forgot that name, and that names woe’ By this he is telling the friar that he has not only stopped doting on Rosaline but, has in fact undergone a total change in spirits forgetting the woes he had over Rosaline. However the Friar speaks of the doubts he had for the sincerity of Romeo’s love for Rosaline in the first place ‘Thy love did read by rote, that could not spell.
‘ This implies that Romeo, whilst sounding outwardly convincing lacked the meaning behind his words. Shakespeare is again using a characters opinion to influence that of the audience, in this case Romeo’s love for Rosaline may well have been true but due to the friars opinionated speech the audience is cast into doubt on the matter. The friar also chides Romeo about his use of elaborate metaphorical language when talking of love, telling him to ‘be plain, good son,’ For in order for Friar Lawrence to absolve Romeo he must first be able to understand him.
Yet it is not just the friar who is suspicious of Romeo’s decorative words, Juliet had already commented on the way he talks in Act two Scene two ‘O swear not by the moon, th’inconstant moon, That monthly changes in her circled orb, Lest that thy love prove likewise variable. ‘ Romeos allegorical promises do not hold well with Juliet because in his words no definition can be found merely elaborate metaphors. However Juliet’s complaints go unheeded for later Act two Scene six Romeo is again using exotic language in order to describe his love for her
‘Unfold the imagined happiness that both Receive in either by this dear encounter. ‘ Juliet however responds by saying ‘Conceit, more rich in matter than in words, Brags of his substance, not of ornament; They are but beggars that can count their worth, But my true love is grown to such excess I cannot sum up sum of half my wealth. ‘ What Juliet is saying here is that unlike Romeo she cannot sum up her love for him in words. Shakespeare uses strong negative imagery such as ‘beggars’ and ‘conceit’ to display Juliet’s exasperation with Romeos continuing usage of needless ornate speech.
But despite Juliet’s doubts and Romeo’s misleading words there is an overwhelming love between the pair that cannot go unnoticed. Even upon their first meeting Romeo’s feelings for Juliet are obvious ‘Did my heart love till now? ‘ He directs this phrase at Juliet before the two have even met. Yet when they do at last meet Juliet shares with Romeo not one but two kisses, the second induced by Juliet ‘Then have my lips the sin that they have took’ These shows of affection in the time in which the play was written would be unheard of upon a first meeting.
This shows just how the pair truly epitomise the phrase ‘Love at first sight’ for they did not let the fact that they were total strangers hinder the strength of their feelings even if the feeling was simply lust. However as of yet we cannot tell whether Romeo is sincere in his love this time rather than just lustfully infatuated as he was with Rosaline, the cousin of Juliet. However he proves himself later in the act by saying ‘Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptised; Henceforth I never will be Romeo’ By this he is offering to change his name if it would make Juliet love him and be with him.
During Shakespearian times it was no small feat to denounce one’s name, there was a lot more weight placed upon names back then, especially if it was a name of high social standing as was Romeo’s. This proposal shows the true and serious nature of Romeo’s newfound love. However it is not simply Romeo who makes such a bold offer for earlier in the scene Juliet says ‘be but sworn my love, And I’ll no longer be a Capulet’ To the audience Shakespeare was writing for this selfless act on both their parts would have convinced the audience that their love was true.
Another factor that Shakespeare played upon to influence his audience into believing that Romeo and Juliet’s love was true was his use of Religious language upon their first meeting. ‘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. ‘ Shakespeare deliberately uses this language to symbolise a number of things. Firstly that Juliet like a shrine is ‘untouched’ or virginal this theme is recurrent through the first two acts of the play.
Secondly it However not all Shakespeare’s example’s of love are so romantic for instance Juliet’s mother The Lady Capulet says to Juliet considering the offer of marriage from Paris ‘So shall you share all that he doth possess, By having him, making yourself no less. ‘ This shows a very materialistic side to Lady Capulet it also implies that the reason she is married to Lord Capulet might not necessarily be because they are in love. It portrays a much more dutiful love between Juliet’s parents perhaps Lady Capulet loves Lord Capulet simply because they are married rather than being married because they are in love.
This type of relationship was common in Tudor times because often romanticism was overlooked in the face of bettering oneself financially. Paris’ show of affection for Juliet is not without a sense of duty he, as was proper in those days, approaches Lord Capulet for his daughters hand in marriage ‘But now, my lord, what say you to my suit? ‘ At this point Capulet believes his daughter to be too young for marriage yet he encourages young Paris to ‘woo’ her in order that she may fall in love with him down the line ‘And too soon marred are those so early made.
‘ Might be referring to the marriage of himself and lady Capulet that has now become loveless and hollow. He as a loving father does not wish this upon his own only child so through Paris’ persistence Shakespeare shows another form of love, the love of a father for his daughter. Yet not all Shakespeare’s characters believed in such an ‘honourable’ love. In his opening scene there are two servant men talking between themselves, there speech although on the topic of fighting generally is rife with sexual innuendo and pun.
For example ‘Ay, the heads of maids, or their maidenheads, take it in what sense thou wilt’ This line seemingly innocent to the reader of our time has a very rude meaning in Shakespearian language where ‘maidenhead’ means virginity, in this sense the two are talking of having sex with virgins, more than a little less noble than the good Paris. They speak also of pushing women to the wall because of their weaker build; this all shows little true emotion and a very physically sexual type of ‘love ‘ if indeed it can be referred to as that at all.
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was a revolutionary piece when it was written because it showed just how love can move people in an age where marriage for social or financial gain was the norm. Over nearly five hundred years Shakespeare’s language and story line has captivated the hearts and minds of generations of lovers with its unique mixture of reality and fantasy. Romeo and Juliet is one piece of Shakespeare’s work that will remain a true timeless classic.