Romeo and Juliet’ has many different themes and messages, with one of the most popular being love. Shakespeare gives most significance to the romantic love between Romeo and Juliet, but there are lots of other aspects of love in the play and Shakespeare uses the different characters to present this. One form of love that Shakespeare describes in the play is the parental love between parents or carers such as the nurse, and children. Romeo’s family life is presented as more caring than Juliet’s.
This is shown when Romeo’s mother dies of grief when Romeo is banished and also when Juliet’s parents don’t understand how she’s feeling and don’t guess that she is prepared to kill herself. The Montague’s are concerned about Romeo’s state of mind at the beginning of the play, as he seems very depressed: ‘Many a morning hath he there been seen, with tears augmenting the fresh morning dew, adding to clouds, more clouds with his deep sighs… ‘ This is contrasted with the way Shakespeare presents Juliet’s family life.
Capulet at first appears to love Juliet as a parent loves a child and does not consider her an adult.
When Paris asks to marry Juliet, Capulet says he should wait as they do not feel she is ready to be a bride. This could be interpreted in two ways, that he does not feel she is ready to experience sexual love, but also that he does not want her to leave his household. ‘She hath not seen the change of fourteen years. Let two more summers wither in their pride Ere we think her ripe to be a bride. ‘ However, later his attitude changes, it seems to be more important that she obeys him and he threatens to disown her if she doesn’t marry and settle down in a good arranged marriage.
This still appears to be a loving thing to do, as he feels he knows what’s best for her as a loving parent and he is sure that Juliet will do what he wants: ‘Sir Paris, I will make a desperate tender Of my child’s love. I think she will be ruled In all respects by me: nay more, I doubt it not. ‘ However as soon as Juliet refuses to do what Capulet wants, he completely loses his temper and says: ‘And you be mine, I’ll give you to my friend; And you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets, For by my soul, I’ll ne’er acknowledge thee, Nor what is mine shall never do thee good.
Trust to’t, bethink you, I’ll not be forsworn. ‘ As Juliet has mainly been brought up by her nurse, she is not very close to Lady Capulet in a mother/daughter way and theydo not have a very good relationship; Lady Capulet seems to be unsure of being alone with Juliet and asks the nurse to stay when she is going to tell Juliet that she is to marry Paris. Later Lady Capulet refuses to comfort Juliet, when she is distraught at the thought of marrying Paris. Her view of love seems to be that marriage is far more important than love and a woman is not secure until she is married.
She feels that as long as Juliet likes the look of Paris when she sees him that evening, then love can come later: ‘Read o’er the volume of young Paris’ face, And find delight writ there with beauty’s pen; Examine every married lineament. ‘ And see how one another lends content;’ The nurse though is far more natural when talking of Juliet, for example she knows Juliet’s birthday to the last minute, while Lady Capulet seems a little unsure of Juliet’s exact age and the nurse reminisces at length about Juliet’s childhood. It is also the nurse who Juliet gets to help her to contact Romeo.
The nurse also shows another type of love, which is a crude form of love. The nurse, even though she brings some of the things she talks about down to this level, does it in a somehow more pleasant way than Sampson and Gregory, as she is not boasting but just reflecting her upbringing ‘Go girl seek happy nights to happy days’ This language also contrasts with the language of Juliet and her mother when the three of them have a conversation, it is obvious that Lady Capulet and Juliet are of a higher class. She refers to Juliet’s wedding day and of course the first thing she thinks about is the wedding night; she quotes her husband:”yea,’ quoth he, ‘dost thou fall upon thy face?
Thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit,’ Another character who uses this kind of language is Mercutio, but because he is a higher class, therefore his language is more superior and witty. The characters Sampson and Gregory, are also used by Shakespeare to highlight the more crude forms of love. They parade around the streets and are always boasting and showing off. ‘Therefore I will push Montague’s men from the wall, and thrust his maids to the wall’ This is obviously not talking about true love, but simply referring to sex.
It is all talk of what they are going to do to the enemy, but none of it is likely to happen. ‘Aye the heads of the maids, or their Maidenheads – take it in what sense thou wilt. ‘ Shakespeare has used Sampson and Gregory and their bravado in the opening scene of Romeo and Juliet to demonstrate the hatred between the two families and also that it has spread right through the households to the servants. The whole idea of Shakespeare using this crude speech, is to then emphasize the beautiful poetry between Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare also presents love in the form of infatuation.
Initially Romeo is portrayed as a young man who thinks he is desperately in love with Rosaline. However he is evidently very confused and his language reflects his feelings. ‘Mis-shapen chaos of well- seeming forms Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health, Still waking sleep, that is not what it is’ Romeo’s behaviour shows he enjoys his melancholy state as he cuts himself off from the outside, but makes sure everyone knows about his depression.
He tries to explain to Benvolio how depressed and confused he feels. ‘love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs,being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes, being vexed, a sea nourished with lovers’ tears, What is it else? A madness most discreet, A choking gall, and a preserving sweet. ‘ Unfortunately for Romeo, Rosaline does not love him back and is unlikely to: ‘From love’s weak childish bow she lives uncharmed. ‘ Benvolio’s view of love seems to be quite cynical. In his opinion, all Romeo needs is to meet someone else to love and that will cure him of loving Rosaline: ‘Tut man, one fire burns out another’s burning, One pain is lessened by another’s anguish.
Then later: ‘Take thou some new infection to thy eye, And the rank poison of the old will die. ” When Romeo does see Juliet, his feeling for Rosaline is proved to be infatuation, as he forgets all about Rosaline: ‘Did my heart love till now? Forswear it sight, For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night. ‘ Romeo also confides in the Friar who is amazed that Romeo’s feelings for Rosaline can be so quickly changed: ‘Holy St Francis, what a change is here! Is Rosaline, whom thou dids’t love so dear, So soon forsaken? Young men’s love then lies.
Not truly in their hearts but in their eyes! ‘ The Friar tells Romeo that what he felt for Rosaline was not true love but what he feels for Juliet might be. ‘For this alliance may so happy prove, To turn your households’ rancour to pure love. ‘ Romeo had taken his infatuation very seriously and it affected him deeply. His love is like a religion and he is angry that his faith leads him to believe something so false: ‘When the devout religion of mine eye Maintains such falsehood, then turn tears to fire,’ Romeo’s behavior undergoes a big change when he meets Juliet.
Shakespeare contrasts Romeo’s feelings of infatuation for Rosaline, with his true love for Juliet, through the language Romeo uses. Instead of the confusion he felt when he was in ‘love’ with Rosaline his speech becomes romantic and gentle. ‘Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven Having some business, do entreat her eyes. To twinkle in their spheres till they return. ‘ Romeo is presented as an extremely romantic character and true love means a lot to him. Shakespeare has shown us what false love or infatuation is like and this then emphasises how he presents true love.
Romeo has a complete change in his personality after he meets Juliet. He had been hiding himself away from company, but in Act 2 scene 4 there is a complete change in his manner and he is sociable again. His friends try to tease him but Romeo gets the better of them and they comment on the change in his nature: ‘Why is not this better now than groaning for love? Now art thou sociable, now art thou Romeo. Now art thou what thou art, by art as Well as by nature…. ‘ Juliet’s behaviour also changes as soon as she meets Romeo at her father’s party.
As she is so young she is an obedient and dutiful daughter, whose only love is for her parents, but as soon as she falls in love with Romeo, she becomes headstrong and determined towards her parents. Before she meets Romeo she is willing to marry Paris because it is what her parents want: ‘Ill look to like, if looking liking move. But no more deep can I endart mine eye Than your consent gives strength to make it fly’ However when she falls in love with Romeo she is prepared to stand up to her parents even if it means being disowned. This shows that Juliet is also affected by love.
She realises that it is going to be very difficult loving Romeo because of the fact that he is a Montague, but she is powerless to do anything about it: ‘My only love sprung from my only hate, Too early seen unknown, and known too late! Prodigious birth of love it is to me, That I must love a loathed enemy. ‘ In the love scenes between Romeo and Juliet the whole language becomes more eloquent. At one point Romeo is lost for words and Shakespeare puts this across by leaving the last four syllables on the line empty, so as to create the feeling of silence and words unsaid: ‘It is my lady, O it is my love.
O that she knew she were. ‘ In conclusion, the main theme of the play is love, but all the characters view it’s importance and meaning differently. It is obvious to anyone that Romeo and Juliet feel that love is the most important thing in their lives, as they are prepared and do die for it. However every character treats love in a different way. Benvolio for example cares more about his friendships than romantic love and shows no desire for a romantic relationship in the play. Mercutio treats love as a game and as he has never experienced true love, he enjoys mocking other people’s experience of love.
The parents of the two lovers care a lot about their love for their children, but this parental love is treated differently by each set of parents. Capulet for example, wants the best for Juliet, but is also conscious of the family name while Lady Montague actually dies of grief for her son when he is banished. The nurse loves Juliet as if she was her daughter up to a point, but is not prepared to stick by her when she is in trouble. Through these characters and their presentation of the many meanings of love, Shakespeare illustrates that love has many aspects.