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How does Shakespeare present different aspects of love in act one of Romeo and Juliet?

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare present different aspects of love in act one of Romeo and Juliet? Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written by playwright William Shakespeare and is one of the most well known plays in history. It deals with such themes as household rivalry, revenge, and death but the main theme of the play is love and the many different ways it can be presented. The play is set in the romantic, Italian city of Verona, known for it's grand architecture and heritage. It follows the story of two wealthy families at war over an ancient feud, whose children fall in love against all odds, but due to the complications and hatred around them the play ends with their deaths bringing about the end to their parents feud. In Act One, there are many aspects of love shown throughout the play including the unrequited, superficial love Romeo initially had for Rosaline, the bawdy, physical love expressed through Sampson and Gregory, the compassionate and paternal love Capulet and the Nurse had for Juliet, and of course the emotional, true love Romeo and Juliet shared. In the end of the play it is this kind of love that proves to be the most important form presented. Romeo and Juliet's love was tragic, but also so great that it has inspired many writers and dreamers for many generations after Shakespeare's years. The inspiration behind the play's rival families, the Capulets and Montagues, is based on the Wars of the Roses between the House of York and the House of Lancaster which took place just before the Tudor and Elizabethan era when Shakespeare wrote. This is where the line, "two households, both alike in dignity" comes from. The Wars ended with the victory of the House of Lancaster led by Henry Tudor, who took the eldest daughter of the leader of the opposing family, Elizabeth of York, as his wife. ...read more.

Middle

At the time the play would have been performed, a man in Capulet's position would be very tempted to arrange for his daughter to be married to a man of such high status as Paris. But instead he thought of Juliet's well-being and happiness first which shows his caring and compassionate paternal love for Juliet. He also shows that he wants what is best for Juliet and believes that Paris will be a good match for her, but he cares about what she thinks and says to Paris: "But woo her, gentle Paris, get her heart, And she agreed, within her scope of choice Lies my consent and fair according voice", meaning he will consent to the marriage only if Juliet does. Capulet also reveals some of his relationship with Lady Capulet and uses it as his reason why he believes Juliet is not ready for marriage; "Younger than she are happy mothers made" "And too soon marr'd are those so early made". He is suggesting that marrying too soon could ruin Juliet's character and he probably knows this from his experience of Lady Capulet. The audience learns that Lady Capulet married at the age Juliet is in the play; "I was your mother much upon these years", and she and Lord Capulet were most likely arranged to be married by their own parents. Lady Capulet's view of love is based completely on the physical aspects as she reveals when she tries to persuade Juliet to love Paris; "Can you love the gentleman?" "Read o'er the volume of young Paris' face. And find delight writ there with beauty's pen; Examine every married linement, and see how one another lends content;". Lady Capulet is trying to romanticize falling in love with Paris by just looking upon his beauty to make marriage seem more appealing to Juliet. Lady Capulet does show a love for her daughter but it is very distant as she has not looked after Juliet for much of her life, and this shows that she does not know her very well. ...read more.

Conclusion

When Romeo and Juliet meet, their love is mutual and instantaneous. Romeo expresses his new found feelings for Juliet even more poetically that he did for Rosaline and by his sudden change of heart, he proves that his "love" for Rosaline was just infatuation. Benvolio's earlier prediction that Romeo would meet an even fairer girl at the ball also comes true. Romeo now uses much more pure and delicate expressions to describe his love for Juliet. He uses contrasting metaphors which give an image that Juliet is illuminated with beauty: "O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright! It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night, Like a rich jewel on an Ethiop's ear; Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear! So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows, As yonder lady o'er her fellows shows." Romeo idolizes Juliet and unlike his immature obsession with Rosaline, his new descriptions of his feelings show he seems to have genuine feelings for her because of his references to light and religious metaphors. Also, Juliet returns his love; "Or, if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self, Which is the god of my idolatry, And I'll believe in thee." This is something that Romeo had not experienced with his first infatuation. Romeo and Juliet's love for each other is very much like a fairytale love and their relationship symbolizes everything that love should be; romantic, passionate, and unselfish. Their love is proven as true in the end of the play where they commit suicide to be together and Shakespeare shows that it is the ultimate form of love as the ends of their lives and love ends so much confrontation and hate. Because Romeo describes his "love" for Rosaline in great detail like he does with Juliet's, the audience may question the sincerity of his words as it seems he is able to switch from beauty to beauty instantly. However, during their meeting Shakespeare drops various hints that Romeo's love for Juliet is genuine. ...read more.

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