In what ways do the various types of love represented in Romeo and Juliet help you to understand the relationship of Romeo and Juliet? Examine the different types of love and analyse the language that Shakespeare uses to describe them.
Throughout Romeo and Juliet there are many different types of love being portrayed. I am going to look at the different types of love to see how they affect and represent Romeo and Juliet’s love for each other. There are four main types of love that are shown, the first type of love that I will examine is courtly love, this is represented by Romeo’s ‘love’ for Rosaline and also Paris’s ‘love’ for Juliet. The second type of love that I will explore is family love; this is mainly shown in the arguments and conflicts in the Capulet household. Family love and family conflict affected Romeo and Juliet’s love for each other because it was the feud between the Capulet and Montague families that forced Romeo and Juliet into hiding their relationship, getting married in secret without their families consent and in the end tragically taking their lives because of it. The third type of love that I will be examining is sexual love this is represented by Sampson and Gregory and also by Mercutio. These types of love are introduced by Shakespeare to highlight the fact that Romeo and Juliet’s love is the real thing; it shows that it isn’t courtly love or just sexual love but something really deep and special. The last love representation I am looking at is the love between Romeo and Juliet. Their fast moving relationship shows that it was love at first sight; it also shows us that they had strong commitment to each other as they quickly secured their relationship with marriage. Certain scenes represent their love strongly; these scenes are the party scene where they first met, the balcony scene where Romeo and Juliet define their love for each other and exchange vows and the scene where Juliet awaits Romeo. These representations of love also highlight the innocence of Romeo and Juliet’s feelings for each other, they fell in love with each other almost by accident because they did not know who each other was and didn’t know at the time that their families were sworn enemies. The representations of different types of love, are there as a comparison to Romeo and Juliet’s love, they distinguish that the sexual nature of their relationship is not lusty, sexual feelings but a deep commitment to each other as they pass over to adult sexual beings.
Courtly love was a tradition dating from the middle ages. It was a set of rules and expectations about they way lovers from aristocratic classes should behave. The man is expected to fall in love with a lady of higher social class and she would probably be married therefore unobtainable. The lady must spurn the man’s advances to protect her honour and good name, but her coldness inflames his passions. He feels dejected and attempts to make himself more worthy of the lady by performing deeds and having faith in the power of God. He neither eats nor sleeps for thinking of the lady, and is constantly suffering from jealous thoughts. One example of courtly love is Romeo’s ‘love’ for Rosaline. Romeo believes that he is in love with Rosaline, a character that is only ever a name, we never actually get to see her, this adds to the falseness of Romeo’s ‘love’ for her. Some lines during the scene, where Benvolio is attempting to find out what is wrong with Romeo, are spoken hyperbolically, for example Romeo says, “She is too fair, too wise, wisely too fair” (act 1 sc1 215), exaggerating his feelings for Rosaline, adding to the falseness of his ‘love’ for her. He also uses oxymoron’s, a combination of contradictory words, for example, “feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health” (act 1 sc 1 74); this creates an even bigger falseness of his love because he uses things that aren’t possible to describe his love for Rosaline. Using poetic language such as this emphasizes the fact that it isn’t real love he is feeling but just courtly love. Love is also given a capital letter in part of his speech, “ From Love’s weak childish bow she lives unharmed” (act 1 sc 1 205), and this personifies the word making it seem not like a feeling but as an object or person. I think that this shows us that Romeo isn’t as much in love with Rosaline than he is with the idea of being in love.
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Another example of courtly love is Paris’ ‘love’ for Juliet. He attempts from very early on in the play to persuaded Capulet into giving his daughter to him in marriage but Capulet is unsure about whether or not his daughter is ready to be made a bride, he has a great affection for his daughter and wants her to be happy. But Capulet changes his mind about the marriage after the death of Tybalt, he believes that getting married will make her happy and stop her grieving over the death of Tybalt. Capulet probably thinks that Paris will be a good choice of husband for Juliet as he is rich and will be a powerful alias to the Capulet household. Paris’s ‘love’ for Juliet is shown in act 5 sc 3 12-17, the language that he speaks in is poetic and has a rhyme scheme to it, the language used is exaggerated and he has a sense of self-pity in the words. It is very similar to the language used when Romeo was speaking about Rosaline.
Both Romeo and Juliet have experienced courtly love; courtly love is a contrast to the deep, meaningful, passionate love between Romeo and Juliet. There is an obvious change in language and action used for courtly love and the language and action used between Romeo and Juliet. It also highlights that Romeo and Juliet’s love is given out strongly by both Romeo and Juliet where as courtly love is very much a one-way thing.
Family love and conflict is expressed strongly when the Capulet family argue over the arranged marriage. Juliet’s father, Capulet, had arranged the marriage of Juliet which was a tradition back then, he had chosen Paris, a young noble man with power and fortune, that would provide a good alias to the Capulet family. The argument was started because Juliet had refused to marry Paris, Capulet was outraged that she refused to obey him and was extremely angry with Juliet. It was an argument between the most powerful person of the household and Juliet, probably the least powerful member of the Capulet family. Juliet attempts to use words of love and compassion (such as love, thankful, good, patience, etc.) against the words and insults from her father. He calls Juliet many names such as green-sickness carrion, tallow-face, and disobedient wretch and as a result of his rage Juliet is kneeling at his feet asking for him to listen to her. When Capulet’s wife speaks to him in an attempt to calm him he ignores her and when the nurse intervenes he speaks to her the same way he speaks to Juliet calling her a mumbling fool. Capulet is more of the power of the house rather than a father figure to Juliet, her mother is closer to Juliet than he but is still not much of a caring, loving mother. The nurse however acts as the parental leading role in Juliet’s life as she has basically raised her alone and as a result, Capulet treats the nurse and Juliet the same. This lack of love from Juliet’s father probably adds to her love for Romeo, her father doesn’t show her love much and as a result she finds the love of Romeo new and exciting, even fatherly as well as having a passionate and sexual side to their relationship.
The feud between the Capulet and Montague families affects the love of Romeo and Juliet greatly because if there was no feud their relationship could be out in the open but instead they have to keep their love secret. In a way it makes their relationship more exciting as it involves a lot of sneaking around and secrecy but in the end the family feud did lead to Romeo and Juliet taking their lives.
The last love representation is sexual love; one example of this is the conversation between Sampson and Gregory, servants of the Capulet household. They talk about sex openly; they mention raping maids, virgins and Sampson refers to his penis as “…a pretty piece of flesh.” (act 1 sc 1 27). Their view on sexual love is lust and it isn’t something meaningful or passionate. Another example of sexual love is when Mercutio and Benvolio are looking for Romeo. Mercutio talks quite intimately about Rosaline mentioning her lips and thighs. He goes on to represent sex with two pears that represented genitalia of the opposite sexes. The way Mercutio talks about sexual love is similar to the way Sampson and Gregory speak of it. Shakespeare probably showed this side of sexual love to highlight how deeply passionate yet innocent Romeo and Juliet’s sexual feelings were. The two different types of sexual love represented are a good comparison of each other.
Romeo and Juliet’s relationship was very quick, unintended and tragic. It lasted about four to five days but they still managed to fall in love, be married, consummate their marriage and die in each other’s arms in that time. The reason that this relationship happens so quickly was because they fell in love at first sight, it wasn’t a growing feeling that occurred after a while, it was almost instant. I think that they fell in love because of a mutual attraction towards each other, but I also believe they were destined to, as in the prologue they were described as “star-crossed lovers” Also the feud between the two families had to end sometime and it was going to take two people, one from each the feuding families, to get together to bring the families together. It could have been that Romeo and Juliet were destined to be those two people.
When Romeo and Juliet first meet their words to each other form a sonnet, a fourteen-line poem with a rhyme scheme, in the sonnet Romeo is asking for a kiss and Juliet is somewhat teasing him. The language they are using is very religious and heart felt, showing that although they do not know each other they feel an instant connection. They use physical contact with their hands and lips, which they represent in their words as pilgrims, saints and prayers, the physical contact used within moments of speaking shows their innocent sexual desire to touch each other. After they have finished the sonnet, they speak four more lines that rhyme, this shows that their instant love for each can’t be contained in a sonnet and it overflows, confirming their feelings and passion in their first meeting. This scene is probably one of the most important in Romeo and Juliet as it proves their love at first sight, it shows their innocence and desire for each other and it’s the beginning of the last few days of their young lives. We also see how quickly Romeo changes the way he acts and the language he was using when speaking about Rosaline, he stops his sighing and grief and is suddenly aware of himself, his surroundings, and Juliet. His language changes from highly exaggerated and forced to deep and heart felt when speaking to Juliet. He quickly overcame his ‘love’ for Rosaline, proving that it was only courtly love and nowhere near as deep as his love for Juliet.
The next important scene in Romeo and Juliet is the balcony scene, it occurs later that night after they first meet and fall instantly in love with each other. Romeo has taken the risk of entering the Capulet grounds, and as they meet once more their words are full of magical poetry, defining their love and exchanging vows. They define their love in terms of light, for example, “The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars.” (act 2 sc 2 190), the imagery of light that Romeo uses likens Juliet to the sun and the stars making her as great and beautiful, if not greater and more beautiful than they. The use of height and elevation in Romeo’s language shows that he puts her higher than anyone else, it shows that she’s almost heavenly, and it also connects with the imagery of light and stars. Other imagery is used as well, for example Juliet likens her love to the sea and also a flower, “This bud of love, by summer’s ripening breath, may prove a beauteous flower when we next meet.” (act 2 sc 2 121-122). I think that Juliet’s love is capable of growing like a flower although it is already as deep as the sea, I think that by using this imagery she is trying to prove her love to Romeo. The moon is mentioned a lot in this scene and in a way this could represent Romeo because he’s as changeable as the moon, as he changed quickly from ‘loving’ Rosaline to falling desperately in love with Juliet, and that’s why Juliet doesn’t want him to swear his love for her by the moon. Although their love seems deep and passionate Romeo still possesses some courtly love traits, for example when he overhears Juliet debating over whether or not it matters that Romeo’s a Montague, Romeo attempts to make himself more worthy of Juliet by saying that he’ll change his name if she’ll prefer it.
Another scene that shows Juliet’s love for Romeo is in the scene where she awaits Romeo as her new husband. Juliet is waiting for the night to come for then she is expecting Romeo and they will consummate their marriage. She uses very strong language to do with night, one example of this is as follows, “Come, gentle night; come, loving, black-browed night.” (act 3 sc 2 20). She also uses effective alliteration, which adds to the poetry of her words, for example, “As Phaeton would whip you to the west,” (act 3 sc 2 3). She talks of how tedious the day is, and how she’s wishes it would go away she likens this to how a child awaits a festival so he may wear his new robes. Juliet knows that the night is going to be special and as an honour to the night she asks that when Romeo dies they should cut him out in little stars and then everyone will love the night. It is obvious by Juliet’s language that she feeling quite excited; she is also feeling very deeply and passionately for Romeo as she awaits him. She knows that the are going to consummate their marriage tonight and although she knows that its only a small part of their relationship and not the main essence she’s still anticipating it, that’s probably another reason why she wants night to come as she says, “Spread thy close curtain, love-performing night.” (act 3 sc 2 5).
The various types of love in Romeo and Juliet represent, highlight and contrast with the deep, innocent, passionate, tragically real love that Romeo and Juliet share for each other. The different types of love, (courtly, family and sexual) show the opposite of what Romeo and Juliet’s love is about. Maybe with the exception of sexual love as they do have sex but its consummating their marriage, very passionate and innocence, nothing like the bawdy jokes and coarse jests about love made by other characters.