Courtly Love and True Love in Romeo and Juliet

Courtly Love vs. True Love

In Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, courtly love and true love are portrayed through the light and dark imagery spoken by Romeo, and Juliet. A courtly lover is miserable in his love and is a delusional thinker. He or she is depressed, and does not feel the full potential of life. Therefore they must fill the void in their hearts with something. For Romeo this was sex and young courtly love. Before the lovers meet in the beginning of The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo is in love with a woman named Rosaline.

He has become irrational with his words and his actions, and many times annoying the people around him. “Many a morning hath he there been seen./With tears augmenting the fresh morning’s dew,/Adding to the clouds more clouds with his deep sighs” (Shakespeare The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet I.i.134-136). A courtly lover hates the light.

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Light is something that is considered to be a good and joyful thing. This makes the reader question the reality of courtly love overall. Shakespeare realizes this and uses it in his play to reinforce the fact that Romeo has gone absolutely mad with meaningless love. During this time, Romeo cannot think straight, and therefore he retrieves to his dark state, away from people and all light. Shakespeare uses Romeo’s depression from courtly love and the fear of light to fortify the understanding that courtly love is not healthy.

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Shakespeare makes sure that whoever reads this tragedy understands this concept for the greater good of all of those in love. Romeo and Juliet show the reader through their actions how dark imagery relates to courtly love. Darkness is something that Romeo thrives on during his brief session loving Rosaline. Mostly he is away from people, depressed, dark, and alone. He hates this, and at one time he questions if he is truly loving Rosaline at all, or just making himself go mad. “And makes himself an artificial night./Black and portentous must this humor prove,/Unless good counsel may cause the remove” (I.i.143-145). A courtly lover feels hopeless at all times, and he creates an artificial night for himself to cope unless someone comes for him and gets him out. Shakespeare uses the fear of light and the love of darkness presented by the courtly lover to demonstrate that courtly love can never be a good thing, especially if it is unrequited. Overall, the depression that one feels during courtly love makes the said person feel like they cannot do anything to help themselves besides being with another person.

Romeo demonstrates qualities of true love toward Juliet. Romeo is soon banished after killing the cousin of Juliet, Tiblet. He mourns not only about killing his now cousin, but aslo about not being able to see Juliet ever again. Juliet hears of the death of Tiblet from the nurse and becomes hysterical because she now knows that her husband will be banished. The nurse comes to retrieve Romeo from Friar Lawrence and tells of the bad conditions Juliet is in. When Romeo hears of how Juliet is doing he says, “Spakest thou of Juliet? How is it with her? /Doth she not think of me an old murderer, /Now I have stained the childhood of our joy/ With blood removed but little from her own?/ Where is she? And how doth she? And what says/ My concealed lady to our canceled love” (III.iii.93-98). Romeo is very concerned with Juliet’s well-being. He doesn’t care about having sex with her or how beautiful she is, much like you would in courtly love, but instead he cares about her emotions. This represents a change in Romeo, from having tons of emotional disturbances from the amount of courtly love he was in, to now wanting to know what Juliet thought of him and the feelings she was bestowing. Romeo also shows true love when he dies because Juliet has passed. Romeo hears of Juliet’s death so he travels to her cold and dark grave and sees her laying down, supposedly dead. Because he knew Juliet was dead he planned ahead and brought poison to end his life as well. He kisses Juliet then says, “Come bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide. /The dashing rocks thy seasick, weary bark. /Here’s to my love” (V.iii.116-119). After kissing his one true love, he ends his life. With courtly love, he would talk about dying for the woman, but it would never be serious enough to actually end his life. Romeo has such true feelings for Juliet that he can’t imagine life without her. He loves her for more than her beauty and it would be impossible for him to live life without her. His courtly love was accepted and he was inspired to have a greater and true love with Juliet. In Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, courtly love and true love are portrayed through the light and dark imagery spoken by Romeo, and Juliet.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Courtly Love and True Love in Romeo and Juliet. (2024, Feb 07). Retrieved from

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