Is Romeo and Juliet More about Love or More About Hate?
Romeo and Juliet I is not a typical ‘tragedy’. It does contain many of the usual components such love and death. It also includes other elements that are rarely found in a tragedy: the saucy conversations between Romeo and his friends, Juliet’s Nurse being a fairly funny character, there are also some scenes between Romeo and Juliet that are romantic and optimistic.
The prologue is 14 lines written in the form of a sonnet, it provides a summary of the play. It explains to the audience that Romeo and Juliet will fall in love but their fate is death, ‘two star-crossed lovers take their life’. The feuding of their families is at fault, ‘And the continuance of their parents rage’. Only the deaths of their children will bring peace, ‘Which but their children’s end could nought remove’.
Act 1 Scene 1 starts off with a good natured tease between two of the Capulet servants Sampson and Gregory, but when two Montague servants Abram and Balthasar an argument brews. The servants are cowards, so they don’t actually fight at first; they insult each other to show loyalty to their masters. The Montague servants are given a boost of confidence when Benvolio arrives. The servants continue to insult each other until Sampson issues the first challenge ‘draw if you be men’ Benvolio, a Montague, tries stop the fight between the servants ‘I do not keep the peace put up thy sword, or manage it to part these men with me’, when Tybalt, a Capulet arrives on the scene, he threatens Benvolio by saying ‘What! Drawn and talk of peace? I hate the word, As I hate hell, all Montague’s, and thee. Have at thee coward’. The audience are immediately shown in the Act 1 Scene 1 how violent the feud is. When the Prince of Verona, witnesses the fight he says if anymore fighting goes on in the streets the participant’s punishment will be death.
Romeo shows love toward Juliet’s cousin Rosaline but she does not love him back ‘out of her favour I am in love’, her coldness inflames his passion. He is consumed with melancholy; this is an example of courtly love. The idea of ‘courtly love’ was a European tradition, dating back from the Middle Ages but still well known to the Elizabethans. It was really a set of rules and expectations about the way lovers from aristocratic classes should behave but typically they only really existed in poems and plays.
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In Act 1 Scene 5 Romeo and Juliet meet at a party thrown by Juliet’s parents. Romeo and his friend Mercutio have disguised themselves so they are able to sneak into the masquerade ball. From lines 44 – 53 Romeo tells the audience what he thinks of Juliet. ‘As a rich as a jewel in an Ethiop’s ear’ Romeo compares her to rich and wonderful things ‘Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!’ she is too amazing for every day use. ‘Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night’ this shows that his love for Rosaline wasn’t ‘true love’. When he talked about Rosaline he was always quite negative and he never really described her but with Juliet he describes all her perfections and shows how amazing she is.
When Romeo and Juliet meet they share a sonnet; the way they express themselves, shows that there so much love between them, that they are able to complete each others sentences. The use of religious imagery in the sonnet makes their love seem profound. Their ‘special bond’ gives the impression that their love is on a higher spiritual level. They talk as if their love was fated. Romeo says to begin the sonnet ‘If I profane with my unworthiest hand’ meaning that she is holy that even if she just touches her it will make her less holy.
One of the most famous scenes in Romeo and Juliet is Act 2 Scene 2. The scene begins with Juliet coming out on to her balcony, not realising Romeo is down below. She wishes that Romeo wasn’t a Montague and she wasn’t a Capulet ‘O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name. Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I’ll no longer be a Capulet. In this scene Romeo and Juliet admit their true feeling for one another. Juliet says, ‘if they do see thee, they will murder thee’ Romeo responds ‘alack there lies more peril in thine eye Then twenty of their swords. Look thou but sweet, And I am proof against their enmity’ Juliet later says, ‘In truth, fair Montague, I am to fond’ Juliet then insist that they should get married ‘If thy bent of love be honourable, Thy purpose marriage, send me the word tomorrow’.
In Act 2 Scene 3 we meet a fairly important character in the play, Friar Lawrence. Friar Lawrence is Romeo’s guide and in this scene gives him advice about his love life ‘wisely and slowly: they stumble that run fast’ because Romeo’s parents are not good at giving him advice. Friar Lawrence talks about plants in the opening of the scene and he says plants can be used for good and bad things, he says ‘a plant will did if it is poisonous, this is a metaphor for the relationships between the families. In this scene it is also shown Friar Lawrence’s love for Romeo, ‘young son, it argues a distempered he so soon to bid good morrow thy bead’, ‘be plain, good son, home in thy drift’ and ‘for doting, not for loving, pupil mine’ also in this scene Romeo asks Friar Lawrence if he will perform his marriage to Juliet. The Friar surprised how quickly Romeo got over Rosaline. Reluctantly, the Friar agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet because he hopes that the marriage will end the feud, ‘in one respect I’ll thy assistant be. For this alliance may so happy prove, To turn your households’ rancour to pure love’.
In the course of the play we observe the close relationship between Juliet and her Nurse. She has looked after Juliet since she was a baby. It was common practice in wealthy families to employ a nurse to care for their children. Juliet’s nurse is a lot closer to her that her parents. In Act 1 scene 3 nurse uses pet names for her such as ‘lamb’, ‘ladybird’ and ‘pretty fool’ later on in the play in Act 4 Scene 5 when the Nurse discover Juliet ‘dead’ she seems to be more upset that Juliet’s actual parents. Like Romeo with the Friar, Juliet also entrust the secret marriage with her Nurse. Juliet uses her Nurse to communicate with Romeo. In Elizabethan times, a young girl wouldn’t be allowed out of the house with her parent’s permission.
The relationship between Juliet and her parent is typical for the times. The County Paris, a wealthy nobleman, wants to marry Juliet. At the time Juliet’s father, Lord Capulet agrees to this proposal but only when she is old and if she agrees. Lord and Lady Capulet love their daughter, but are not greatly concerned about what she wants.
In Act 2 Scene 6 the friar marries Romeo and Juliet; the newly wed couple have strong hopes that the marriage will reconcile their families’ differences. In Act 2 Scene 4, Tybalt sends a note challenging Romeo to a duel. In Act 3 Scene 1, Mercutio and Benvolio are out in the street. Benvolio, who is a peace maker, wants to go home because he is worried that there are Capulet’s about. Mercutio refuses a starts to joke around saying that Benvolio is a trouble maker ‘hot headed’. Tybalt appears on the stage. Tybalt tries to pick a fight with Mercutio when Romeo comes along; Tybalt forgets Mercutio and starts a fight with Romeo, but Romeo refuses to fight. He refuses because in the previous scene he had just married Juliet, and Tybalt is her cousin. Romeo feels that it is not right to fight him. In Elizabethan times if a man was insulted he must defend his honour by fighting back. When Romeo refuses to fight, Mercutio decides that he shall fight of Romeo’s behalf to defend his honour. Romeo tries to stop the fight and stands between Mercutio and Tybalt ‘gentle Mercutio, put up thy rapier’. Tybalt reaches under Romeo’s arm and stabs Mercutio. Mercutio is badly injured and before he dies he says ‘a plague a’both your houses! They have made worms’ meat of me’. Romeo is greatly angered by this, so he fights Tybalt to the death. Then he runs off and seeks sanctuary with Friar Lawrence.
After the killing of Tybalt, the Prince and Benvolio speak, Benvolio tells the Prince the account of what happened, and though they did fight, he must not kill Romeo. After this the Prince decides to banish Romeo from Verona.
In Act 3 Scene 2, Juliet is happy and she wishes night to come quick so that she can be with Romeo ‘spread thy close curtain, love-performing Night’ until in Act 3 Scene 3, her Nurse comes to her bed room saying that Romeo killed Tybalt. Juliet is very distraught by these events, her parent’s assume that she is grieving the loss of her cousin but the audience know other wise.
In Act 3 Scene 5, Juliet’s parents tell her that she is going to marry Paris to cheer her up. Disobediently, she tells them that she will not ‘I will not marry yet, and when I do, I swear It shall be Romeo, whom you know I hate, Rather the Paris.’ Since meeting Romeo Juliet has become less of the ‘perfect’ dutiful daughter that she always was. Juliet’s father becomes enraged by his daughter attitude and says that she has no choice! ‘Hang thee, young baggage, disobedient wretch! I tell thee what: get thee to church a’thursday, or never after look me in the face.
In Act 4 Scene 1, Juliet goes to see Friar Lawrence and she says ‘O bid me leap rather than marry Paris, From the battlements of any tower’ Friar Lawrence see adamant she is and makes a plan, he will make a potion that make her seen dead and will send a note to Romeo, and once she is buried he shall rescue her. Where Romeo is hiding there is a plague and no one is allowed in the city, so he never gets the message. Friar Lawrence thinks that Romeo wouldn’t have heard about Juliet’s death, so is not in a rush to let him know. When Romeo hears of hear death, he goes to an apothecary to purchase poison, he wants to prove his love for Juliet by dying beside her.
The contrast of love and hate the key message portrayed in Romeo and Juliet. The love between Romeo and Juliet so strong and pure, it is completely opposite to the great hatred of there families. The feud is directly responsible for the secret marriage, Romeo’s banishment and the eventual plan that Romeo and Juliet’s death.
I believe in Romeo and Juliet love eventually love triumphs over hate, because after Romeo and Juliet die the Montague’s and Capulet reconcile in their grief. When the Friar reveals how Romeo and Juliet die Lord Capulet says, ‘O brother Montague, give me thy hand. This is my daughter’s jointure, for no more Can I demand’ this means that all the Lord Capulet can now offer as a dowry is join hands peace with Lord Montague, Lord Montague replies, ‘but I can give thee more, for I will raise her statue in pure gold, That whiles Verona by that name is known, There shall no figure at such rate be set as that of true faithful Juliet.