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How is love presented in the early acts of Romeo and Juliet?

Shakespeare’s treatment of love in Romeo and Juliet is complex and multifaced. He shows many different types of love, such as, young love and romantic love. Shakespeare uses Romeo to show this love- first with Rosaline and then later with Juliet.

During Romeo’s first appearance in the play, Romeo is a thwarted lover and immature. This is shown by his unrequited love for Rosaline. The love Romeo has for Rosaline is shallow, skin deep and unobtainable. Romeo’s words for his love for Rosaline are very insincere and he discusses his love for Rosaline using sad, negative language “Aye me sad hours seem long”, “In sadness, cousin, I love a woman.

” Here love is presented as a negative thing. Romeo describes his love for Rosaline in Act one Scene one in a series of paradoxes: “O brawling love, O loving hate…O heavy lightness…Feather of lead…bright smoke…cold fire…sick health…still waking sleep.” The use of these oxymoron’s – contradicting terms that are brought together- makes us think that Romeo doesn’t really love Rosaline, as he is trying to be clever and smart with his replies and dramatic.

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I think that Romeo is confused about love as, I feel that he only ‘loves’ Rosaline because she is going to become a nun.

When Benvolio asks who he loves, Romeo does not give a straight answer but instead complains that she does not return his love “From Love’s weak childish bow she lives uncharmed.” He is seen walking “underneath the grove of sycamore.

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” Sycamore trees are usually associated with despairing lovers in Elizabethan poetry – he is a typical Elizabethan lover, almost a walking clich�. This is one of the first signs that tells us that Romeo is lovesick – “sycamore” (sick amour – sick in love). He seems to have lost all reason and common sense – when Benvolio tells Romeo to look elsewhere for love and for him to ‘examine other beauties’ he rejected the idea but, ironically this is what happens and he is married in 24 hours. Romeo’s love for Rosaline contrast with his love for Juliet. As Romeo thinks he’s in love with Rosaline – but finds out he was wrong when he meets Juliet.

Romeo’s love for Rosaline shows us a stylised conventional type of love, called courtly or petrarchan love. Courtly love was a way of ‘wooing’ a lady in medieval times. The man would worship her from afar, writing poetry and songs about the perfection of his beloved. The woman was often supposed to remain cold and distant at first. Petrarchan love was described by the Italian poet Petrarch (1307-74), where a man worships a lady from afar. He postures and displays lovesickness, while the object of his love adopts a cool and disdainful attitude towards him. Romeo won’t stop loving Rosaline even though she wants to live chaste, so he ends up in despair. You could argue that the unrealistic nature of his attachment to Rosaline because she is to be a nun, this means that his love is insincere. This type of love is what grips Romeo in the opening scenes of the play: he sighs at Rosaline’s lack of affection; that she is not to be ‘hit with cupid’s arrow’. When mercutio makes fun of Romeo, when he says, “Cry but, Ay me!” This shows how ridiculous and unrealistic courtly love was.

The clouds are being used as a pathetic fallacy to emphasize Romeo’s unhappiness. Montague says, “Adding to clouds more clouds with his deep sighs”. Pathetic fallacy is giving inanimate objects-usually nature, human feelings and qualities.

When Romeo is talking to benvolio he is using short smart sentences and rhyming couplets: ‘…o loving hate…nothing first create.’ This makes Romeo’s love for Rosaline seem artificial and theatrical. ‘The all seeing sun ne’er saw her match since first the world begun’. The sun is personified to be godlike. The sun is looking down on all the women in the world and no one is compared to her, focusing again on her looks, superficiality of Romeo’s attachment.

There is a contrast with Romeo ad Juliet’s emotional love and commitment to each other and references to physical desire making their relationship more convincing, as it means that it is no longer poetry and an unrealistic romance. Mercutio frequently employs crude references that emphasises the physical relationship between the sexes, he says “straight leg and quivering thigh”. He lists Rosaline’s body parts, to make fun of Romeo, and tries to Romeo realise that he does not love Rosaline but just lusts over her. This contrasts with Romeo’s love for Juliet, as their love is pure and innocent.

The popularity of the play does not come from different definitions of love, but love in its triumphant description of one love, ‘true love’. The ‘true love’ of Romeo and Juliet that shines out against any other.

In Romeo’s and Juliet’s opening words they share a sonnet. This sonnet has a beauty and formality which captures the power of the moment. The image of a pilgrim worshipping a shrine, underlines the depth and purity of their love. The love they share is far from Petrarchan, showing how Romeo has matured and is now able to act upon his love for Juliet, whereas with his love for Rosaline he was passive. The first quatrain of the sonnet is given to Romeo, and the second to Juliet. They then share the next four lines between them and compose the final couplet. This shows that they were instantly on the each other’s wavelength, showing that they are in love. The lines of the sonnet interlock.

When they discover that they belong to rival families, makes their love much more ill-fated. In particular, Romeo senses that his love for Juliet may have darker implications when he talks of the ‘prodigious birth of love’. In Juliet’s view her, ‘grave is like to be wedding bed’. When Juliet is reluctant to tell her nurse that she loves Romeo suggest her youth and shyness.

Romeo’s first reaction to Juliet is that she lights up the room, that she is the light in his darkness, with her beauty. He says ‘but soft, what light through yoder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.” this makes Juliet sound beautiful, and shows how to Romeo she stands out from everything else, like she is his dawn in the night. This contrasts with Romeo’s love for Rosaline, as when he loved Rosaline, he would “shut up his windows, locks fair daylight out”. When Romeo is in love with Rosaline, he describes it as, “heavy heart”, whereas when he is in love with Juliet he describes it as “lightness”.

Romeo’s and Juliet use religious imagery, this makes their love is pure and innocent and that god approves. When Romeo calls himself a pilgrim, this would suggest that Juliet is the shrine at the end of his journey. Or this may suggest that that their love is out of control and their love has turned into worship; obsessive. This may be seen as being dangerous and sinful, as you weren’t supposed to worship anyone except god. That they are speaking the same extended metaphor suggests that they have more than a physical connection and that they have the same mind.

That Romeo and Juliet fell in love at first sight makes their love seem very dramatic and powerful. People have argued that their love is destructive as they are putting each other’s lives in danger, and that they wouldn’t have died if they hadn’t treated love as being the only thing worth living for.

In the play Juliet is thirteen. This means that their love may be true but it is also young. Young love is traditionally seen as being headstrong and passionate, not wise or realistic. I feel that Shakespeare made Juliet this young deliberately as this makes her appear to be more vulnerable. This also shows their unconventional relationship to be immature and reckless, but it can also make their actions seem braver. Her age also makes her transformation, from a submissive child about to give into her parent’s demands, into a young woman who is prepared to fight and die for the man she loves.

During this scene Romeo and Juliet are tense and rushed, as they could get caught at any minute. Also, during this scene there are some intimate and romantic moments. Before Juliet knew that Romeo was listening, her speech was soliloquy. Shakespeare does this as it allows Juliet to speak openly about her true feeling for Romeo. She ends her speech in the middle of the line of blank verse, ‘take all myself’. Romeo then completes the line, ‘take’, as if has accepted her offer.

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How is love presented in the early acts of Romeo and Juliet?. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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