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Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet - How far can the audience consider Romeo to be a typical courtly lover in the fist act of Romeo and Juliet?

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Introduction

Course Work: Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Question: How far can the audience consider Romeo to be a typical courtly lover in the fist act of Romeo and Juliet? In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Romeo is portrayed as a typical courtly lover. In my essay I will be examining the first act of the play and exploring Romeo as a courtly lover and his transition from loving Rosaline to loving Juliet. In traditional medieval literature there were often fictional characters who were known as courtly lovers. At the start of the play Shakespeare has portrayed Romeo as a traditional courtly lover because he follows the rules of courtly love. In the first scene of act 1, Montague describes Romeo's odd behaviour to Benvolio. Montague says: "And private in his chamber pens himself, Shuts up his windows, locks fair daylight out, And makes himself an artificial night:" Romeo's behaviour shows that he follows the rule of courtly love, that is, the man locks him self in his bedroom. This is because he isn't loved, by the lady he loves. Montague's description of Romeo's behaviour echoes a description taken from the work of Chaucer, a writer of medieval literature. This extract is taken from 'Troilus and Crisyede' written in the 1300's: "He rist up and every done he shette, And window ek, and thu this sorowful man Upon his beckles syde adown him sette, Ful lik a ded ymage, pale and wan" Both Romeo and Troilus here display traits of courtly love. ...read more.

Middle

Here Benvolio contrasts two birds here. One is seen as beautiful and one as ugly. Shakespeare has chosen these birds because their imagery is contrasting. The colours of the birds have connotations. Swans are white which symbolises purity, beauty and love. Crows are black and symbolise death, ugly and evil. Although the use of symbolic language and imagery used here makes it very clear that it is a possibility that Romeo may find '.....other beauties.....', Romeo still doesn't believe in any such possibility. Through the way Romeo responds to Benvolio's attempts to convince him to look at other women, it is made clear that Romeo idolises Rosaline as though she is sent from God. Romeo uses Religious words to describe his devotion to Rosaline, Romeo says: "When the devout religion of mine eye" Romeo idolises Rosaline in a religious way. These religious words have religious connotations this shows us that Romeo thinks Rosaline is divine. Romeo worships Rosaline like she is a goddess. Here Shakespeare's use of religious imagery emphasises Romeo's devotion to his love Rosaline. Because Romeo is taking his feelings in a religious direction, he should be as devout to loving Rosaline as he is to his Religion. Therefore by turning his back on Rosaline would be like turning his back on the catholic religion. After this, Romeo backs up his love and devotion for Rosaline by taking this religious imagery to another Level. ...read more.

Conclusion

Romeo describes his lips as: "two blushing pilgrims" Romeo's lips are described using a religious theme here as they are performing a sin; they are cheating on Rosaline. This sin now is made less immoral as it engulfed in a religious and innocent theme. The language used in Romeo and Juliet show the strong influence of the Italian poet Petrach (1304 - 74). He became very popular with English poets in the time of Queen Elizabeth 1st. They drew on Petrach's theme and style to write about courtly love. Romeo's love for Rosaline echo's the major theme of Petrach's poetry: A young mans unrequited love of an unattainable woman. By Romeo and Juliet sharing a sonnet it emphasises that Romeo's love for Juliet, is requited therefore it isn't possible for him to be a courtly lover. More evidence that supports Romeo not being a courtly lover is Juliet's declaration of love for Romeo. Juliet says: "Prodigious birth of love it is to me, That I must love a loathed enermy." This breaks the rule that the men fall in love with women who don't love them back. At the start of the play Romeo demonstrated that he was a typical courtly lover, however as the first act progressed, Romeo broke the main conventions of courtly love. Even though Romeo still portrays some traits of a courtly lover, I believe that these traits are greatly outweighed by the broken rules of courtly love. Overall I think that Romeo is not and never was an absolute courtly lover. ...read more.

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