How is love presented in the early acts of Romeo and Juliet?

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How is love presented in the early acts of Romeo and Juliet?

Shakespeare’s treatment of love in Romeo and Juliet is complex and multifaced. He shows many different types of love, such as, young love and romantic love. Shakespeare uses Romeo to show this love- first with Rosaline and then later with Juliet.

During Romeo’s first appearance in the play, Romeo is a thwarted lover and immature. This is shown by his unrequited love for Rosaline. The love Romeo has for Rosaline is shallow, skin deep and unobtainable. Romeo's words for his love for Rosaline are very insincere and he discusses his love for Rosaline using sad, negative language "Aye me sad hours seem long", "In sadness, cousin, I love a woman." Here love is presented as a negative thing. Romeo describes his love for Rosaline in Act one Scene one in a series of paradoxes: "O brawling love, O loving hate...O heavy lightness...Feather of lead...bright smoke...cold fire...sick health...still waking sleep." The use of these oxymoron’s – contradicting terms that are brought together-  makes us  think that Romeo doesn’t really love Rosaline, as he is trying to be clever and smart with his replies and dramatic. I think that Romeo is confused about love as, I feel that he only ‘loves’ Rosaline because she is going to become a nun.

When Benvolio asks who he loves, Romeo does not give a straight answer but instead complains that she does not return his love "From Love's weak childish bow she lives uncharmed." He is seen walking “underneath the grove of sycamore.” Sycamore trees are usually associated with despairing lovers in Elizabethan poetry – he is a typical Elizabethan lover, almost a walking cliché.  This is one of the first signs that tells us that Romeo is lovesick - "sycamore" (sick amour - sick in love). He seems to have lost all reason and common sense - when Benvolio tells Romeo to look elsewhere for love and for him to ‘examine other beauties’ he rejected the idea but, ironically this is what happens and he is married in 24 hours. Romeo’s love for Rosaline contrast with his love for Juliet. As Romeo thinks he’s in love with Rosaline – but finds out he was wrong when he meets Juliet.

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Romeo’s love for Rosaline shows us a stylised conventional type of love, called courtly or petrarchan love. Courtly love was a way of ‘wooing’ a lady in medieval times. The man would worship her from afar, writing poetry and songs about the perfection of his beloved. The woman was often supposed to remain cold and distant at first. Petrarchan love was described by the Italian poet Petrarch (1307-74), where a man worships a lady from afar. He postures and displays lovesickness, while the object of his love adopts a cool and disdainful attitude towards him.  Romeo won’t stop loving Rosaline ...

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