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Examine the different views of love in 'Romeo and Juliet'. In what way is the play about love in a richer sense than we may first suppose?

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Introduction

Examine the different views of love in 'Romeo and Juliet'. In what way is the play about love in a richer sense than we may first suppose? Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet is generally thought to be a play solely about romantic love. This is partly true; the bulk of the play appears, on the surface, to be about the romantic love that exists between Romeo and Juliet. However, when studying the play closely it becomes clear that there are many different types of love that exist, between all of the characters. Romeo and Juliet is not just about romantic love, but about love in a richer sense. When the play was written at the end of the 16th century, Shakespeare's audience would have had very different ideas about love and marriage to the ones we hold today. The Elizabethans believed that love was not an essential part of marriage. Almost all marriages between the nobility were arranged, and were to the advantage of the families, although not necessarily to that of the children. Girls were married off very young, as soon as they were of childbearing age. Love was something that came after marriage, not before. Love is not the only driving element in Romeo and Juliet: hate and conflict also play a big part in the play. This underlying struggle between love and hate is particularly noticeable in the Prologue, which speaks of both love and conflict. It tells us that Romeo and Juliet's love is 'death-mark'd' and talks of them as 'star-cross'd lovers'. The contrast of words such as 'strife', 'foes' and 'mutiny' with the words 'love' and 'fair', show that the play is about the battle between love and hate; the battle of the love of Romeo and Juliet against the hate of their families. ...read more.

Middle

Sexual love between Romeo and Juliet is just another side of their existing love, part of their love in a richer sense. Shakespeare included the sexual element between Romeo and Juliet because it shows their natural progression from one part of love to the next. At the time the play was written it would have been believed that Romeo and Juliet were not actually married until they had physically consummated their marriage. This could be another reason why Shakespeare included sexual love in the play. There are many examples of friendship -or platonic love- in Romeo and Juliet. The main friendships exist between Romeo, Benvolio and Mercutio. Benvolio in particular is a very good friend to Romeo: he is worried about him when he is moping about Rosaline (Act 1, Scene 1), and after Romeo kills Tybalt (Act 3, Scene 1) Benvolio knows that he is in danger and so tells him to 'away, be gone', in order to possibly save his friend's life. These are the actions of a true friend. Mercutio is a different type of friend to Romeo, constantly teasing him, and always on the lookout for conflict and trouble. It is Mercutio's hot-headedness that provides the spark for Romeo's banishment. However, Romeo obviously cares for him, because when Tybalt kills Mercutio, Romeo immediately kills Tybalt. This is ironic because earlier in the scene Romeo is considering his new found fraternal love for Tybalt: as he is now married to Juliet, he and Tybalt are kinsmen. Romeo is reluctant to fight with Tybalt at the beginning of the scene, but as soon as Mercutio is killed, Romeo forgets about the brotherly love he is supposed to have for Tybalt. ...read more.

Conclusion

In the 'Mourning for Juliet' scene (Act 4, Scene 5), Lady Capulet's exaggerated language, 'accurs'd, unhappy, wretched, hateful day', shows that her love for Juliet, like Romeo's courtly love for Rosaline earlier in the play, is possibly artificial. The Nurse, who is Juliet's friend and confidante, has the reaction of a mother: repetition of words ('O woe! O woeful, woeful, woeful day!') and inability to make sense. When this is compared to Lady Capulet's exaggerated reaction, it is plain that Lady Capulet is overrating her love for Juliet, and is using her death as an opportunity to publicly flaunt the "love" she has for her daughter. At the end of the play, the Montagues and the Capulets agree to put aside their differences, and heal the rift between them. They feel that this healing love is the least they can do for Romeo and Juliet, 'poor sacrifices of (their) enmity.' Shakespeare included this in the play to show that this is the best kind of love. Healing love cannot cause any problems between people, it soothes all of the problems that have arisen, and puts everything to rest. Although all types of love can be very good, healing love is love in its richest sense, spanning all divides, and creating peace and harmony. Love is central to Romeo and Juliet: the whole play revolves around the many different types of love that exist. The play shows us that while all love can be good, it can also have devastating effects in the wrong circumstances. It is important to understand that the term love does not just apply to romantic love, but to all different kinds of love, and this is what Shakespeare is trying to convey through this play. Romeo and Juliet is essentially about love in a richer sense. Zo� Plant ...read more.

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