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What do we learn of Elizabethan views of love and marriage from reading Romeo and Juliet?

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Introduction

What do we learn of Elizabethan views of love and marriage from reading Romeo and Juliet? We lay our scene in "fair Verona" where Romeo and Juliet, " a pair of star-crossed lovers" are kept apart by their wealthy families, the Montagues and Capulets whose "ancient feud" is only resolved by their children's death. This classic yet tragic love story by William Shakespeare is set in the sixteenth century, also known as the Renaissance. The portrayal of this age as a time of a rebirth is only partly correct. However many changes did take place in society that dramatically altered the way men and women thought and lived. The family played a key role during the Renaissance, especially the father and husband of the household whose duty it was to maintain the status, wealth and property of the family with his attention was especially paid to marriage. Love and marriage are key themes that run throughout Romeo and Juliet. In this play it seems as if love is doomed from the start by the society full of hate in Verona. The whole play could have been based on the oxymoron "loving hate", as love will always win over hate. ...read more.

Middle

He also feels that the cure to solve Romeo's love is to love another, "one fire burns out another's burning", so from this it followed that Romeo saw Juliet at a masked ball, and was instantly drawn to her eyes. When Romeo begins to speak of his love for Juliet the speech that he uses is very similar to the earlier portrayal of his love for Rosaline. Once again he uses courtly love language and images as he describes Juliet as being so radiant that she outshines the torches, "o she doth teach the torches to burn bright". Moreover his speech quickly becomes simpler and the lines are shorter portraying that he is learning to speak of his true feelings for her, "It is my lady. O it is my love!" The love between Romeo and Juliet is extremely superficial, as they have only fallen in love with each other's looks. This is why many parents arranged for their children to be married during this period in time as most were too young and vulnerable to make a serious decision about whom they wanted to marry. Another reason why many women during the renaissance period were married off so early was because they would have been of sexual maturity by the age of 15 yrs, and so increases the chances of having a child with her new husband. ...read more.

Conclusion

Mercutio's own attitude to women is a stark contrast; there is no emotion only sexual desire. Most Elizabethans would relate to this statement because to them sexual desire was not antithetical to romance; it was the essence of romance. However Romeo sums up Mercutio when saying that he has never been in love yet mocks it. "He jests at scars that never felt a wound" The love between Romeo and Mercutio was very special. Mercutio, although he loves to dual, was also defending Romeo's good name in the dual against Tybalt. Therefore when Mercutio is slain Romeo returns that regard for his true friend, for a moment forgetting his bride, and attacks Tybalt in vengeance for the death of his close friend. " Alive in triumph! And Mercutio slain!" With the language and characters Shakespeare uses, he manages to get a variation of views spanning extremities and so making the reader ultimately feel sympathetic for the two lovers. Using these very different characters the play is powered by using love to conquer hate. There are many different perceptions of love and marriage amongst people of the Renaissance period as they influenced Shakespeare to write the play to what was common at the time. This is shown as the play explores the widest range of human experience to make it come to life. By Arun Joshi ...read more.

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