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How does Shakespeare portray the idea of love in "Romeo and Juliet"?

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare portray the idea of love in "Romeo and Juliet"? "Romeo and Juliet" is a famous tragedy by William Shakespeare, the most influential writer in English literature. The play is set in Verona and tells us the story of two "star-cross'd lovers" and the powerful nature of love. The play explores the fraught interplay of love, desire, clandestine marriage, loyalty, family relations, violence and ritual. "Romeo and Juliet" sees Shakespeare portray many different types of love, as it is an important theme throughout the whole play, and appears in many contrasting forms. Love is depicted in different ways by different characters; Romeo's love for Rosaline as lust and infatuation; Mercutio's flippant, bawdy and very physical view of love; the forced love between Lord and Lady Capulet; and the true, pure love that Romeo and Juliet feel for each other. William Shakespeare explores the extremes of love largely through language and description. In the opening scenes of the play, we meet a sad, melancholic and apathetic Romeo. Romeo pines for a woman named Rosaline, whom he proclaims the paragon of femininity and describes as "rich in beauty". He despairs at her obvious indifference towards him, because Romeo believes that he loves her. ...read more.

Middle

Romeo quickly forgets about his 'love' for Rosaline, proving that what he felt for her was a mere infatuation. He declares he has "ne'er saw true beauty till this night", speaking of Juliet. Romeo's first words to Juliet and her response that the form of two Shakespearean sonnets. The first sonnet is immediately followed by another one, until it is broken up by the Nurse. The appearance of Juliet in Romeo's life causes him to start to use a lot of light imagery to describe Juliet physically: "O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!" Juliet brings light into Romeo's world which was previously filled with melancholic confusion and dark imagery. Romeo sees Juliet as very beautiful, comparing her to a rich jewel: "It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night As a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear: Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!" Through this, we see that Romeo is fascinated by Juliet's prettiness and has forgotten about Rosaline whom he previously proclaimed "rich in beauty". Romeo's love for Juliet has taken over him, and caused him to forget about the unhappiness he felt as a result of his unreciprocated love for Rosaline. Romeo questions whether he has loved anyone till he met Juliet: "Did my heart love till now? ...read more.

Conclusion

Romeo's love for Juliet is so great, that he is prepared to die for her. The audience mourns the fact that the relationship had a disastrous end, as we realise it was the couple's only true loving union. Romeo is happy as he is about to take his life: "How oft when men are at the point of death Have they been merry!" Romeo is glad to take his own life, because it means he will be re-united with Juliet. In contrast to the sweet, innocent and pure love of Romeo and Juliet is Mercutio and the Nurse's bawdy and sexual view of love. Mercutio does not see the point in melancholic love: "If love be rough with you, be rough with love:" Mercutio, who has never felt real love, sees it as very sexual. He is full of crude remarks about love, and is constantly making sexual references when speaking of women. Samson and Gregory, two servants, also view love as very sexual. In the opening scene of the play, they are seen to be joking about love, and bragging about taking away women's virginity: "Ay, the heads of the maids-or their maidenheads. Take it in what sense thou wilt." They are crude and disrespectful to women, and see love only as having sexual conquests. In this, they support Mercutio's view that love is sexual. ...read more.

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