“O brawling love, O loving hate, O anything of nothing first created!”
Widely regarded as the greatest writer and playwright of the English language, William Shakespeare expanded and changed the way people viewed literature drastically through his numerous books and plays. One of the most cherished and renowned pieces of his literature, Romeo and Juliet, is set in Verona, where two “star-cross’d lovers” encounter the powerful nature of love to its greatest extent (Prologue.6). Shakespeare explores love and virtually all its aspects and depicts them numerously through the duration of the play. He harnesses the use of his characters to express these countless varieties seamlessly, and with it gains the ability to encompass several diverse themes of love in the novel. At first, Shakespeare is seen portraying an infatuating love through Romeo’s affection for Rosaline, later, as a romantic and genuine love represented through Romeo and Juliet, and finally, a bawdy and physical form through the views of Mercutio in order to show that although there are many different forms of love, they can all lead to misery, tragedy, and wrong.
Shakespeare utilizes Romeo’s obsession with Rosaline in order to achieve the underlying message that all love can lead to unhappiness multiple times throughout Romeo and Juliet. At the opening of the play, we come across a depressed and miserable Romeo whose “sadness lengthens [his] hours” (1.1.156). Romeo pines for the love of Rosaline who he declares is the flawless model of a woman and who he describes as “rich in beauty” (1.1.209). Unfortunately, Rosaline “hath sworn that she will live chaste” (1.1.211). In other words, Rosaline has sworn to be a virgin and a nun. For this reason, Romeo “pens himself, shuts up his windows, locks fair daylight out, and makes himself an artificial night” (1.1.131-133). These drastic events not only demonstrate the sheer extent of Romeo’s love for Rosaline, but also reveal his need for her love. As Rosaline continues to ignore Romeo and his affection, Romeo becomes undeniably depressed and struggles with the sufferings of routine activities. Thus, he masks himself from the sunlit day and yearns for Rosaline’s love. He obsesses over Rosaline and the dreamy idea of her loving him back. Since his infatuation with Rosaline is so strong, all he can focus on is her love and as a result isn’t his typical, lighthearted, content self. He doesn’t desire to go to the Capulet’s ball to dance because his “soul is made of lead” (1.4.16). As shown in this quote, Romeo is obviously affected significantly by the infatuating love and his great obsession. This also shows how this type of love has enough power to alter him into an entirely new person. Shakespeare uses Romeo and his great obsession with Rosaline to faultlessly demonstrate love leading to depression.
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Additionally, Shakespeare uses the very passionate and prominent love between Romeo and Juliet in order to portray love leading to tragedy several times throughout the drama. Later in the play, the recently heart-broken Romeo halfheartedly enters the Capulet’s ball and encounters Juliet’s complete splendor for the first time. The moment Romeo lays eyes on Juliet he utters “I ne’er saw true beauty till this night” (1.5.50). This quote demonstrates how differently Romeo speaks of Juliet from Rosaline prior to the ball. He changed drastically from being exceedingly intense and gloomy to suddenly love-struck and blissful. This also proves Romeo’s feelings for Rosaline were solitarily infatuation, because he instantly forgets about those feelings and develops fresh ones that truly come from the depths of his heart. Romeo also uses intense personification to help describe Juliet’s importance and the feelings he has for her. When at the ball, Romeo says “Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright” (1.5.42). Obviously, Juliet is not actually teaching the torches, but it is a way for him to say that Juliet is brighter than any of the torches in the room and is the light bringing happiness and warmth into his previously confusing and black world. In addition to Romeo using personification at the Capulet’s ball, he again uses powerful personification when he is talking about Juliet in the balcony scene, he says “two of the fairest stars in all the heaven, having some business, do entreat her eyes to twinkle in their spheres till they return” (2.2.15-17). The stars cannot actually ask her eyes for a favor or have business elsewhere, but it is a way for Romeo to say her eyes are beautiful enough to replace two of the most beautiful and brilliant stars in the sky. This truly displays the deep, genuine love Romeo feels for Juliet and the great amount of personification used by Shakespeare in order to enhance their love. Later in the book, their relationship proves to be unbreakable when both lovers choose to “take their [own] life” in order to escape the possibility of living without the other (Prologue.5). This horrible event is a flawless example of how Shakespeare uses this eternal and passionate love as an example of love leading to tragedy and heartbreak.
Also in Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare explores a bawdy and more physical form of love through Mercutio and his thoughts in order to prove that love can also lead to wrong. Contrasting from Romeo and Juliet’s innocent and genuine love, Mercutio is full of immoral remarks on love and is frequently making sexual references or jokes throughout the text. Near the beginning of the play, Mercutio sees no point in the reason for the melancholy and depressing love Romeo is enduring and declares to Romeo that “if love be rough with you, be rough with love” (1.4.28). Here, Mercutio is hinting to Romeo that the only way to cure his love-deprived state is by having sexual intercourse. This is a perfect example of one of the many sexual remarks Mercutio makes about love. Furthermore, this proves that Mercutio has never felt real, genuine love, so he is immature and inexperienced. This lack of knowledge results in the inappropriate comments and thoughts that love is merely physical and in no way emotional. Another example of Mercutio’s crude remark is when he is joking with Romeo about where he was after the Capulet’s ball. Despite the fact that Romeo was really in the Capulet’s orchard, Mercutio suggests that Romeo’s important business “constrains a man to bow in the hams” (2.4.47). Mercutio is implying that Romeo’s business required him to preform sexual actions. This again depicts the constant sexual and vulgar remarks Mercutio makes about love. Mercutio’s crude remarks and views on love are very unjust. He believes that all love doesn’t require much emotion or thought, but instead is very physical and sexual, when in reality it is the utter opposite. Mercutio’s unfair views impeccably allow Shakespeare to accomplish the aspect of bawdy and physical love leading to wrong and injustice.
Throughout the tragedy, Shakespeare is able to incorporate several different aspects of love successfully due to his use of characters expressing many of these varieties. Initially, Shakespeare utilizes the obsession and infatuating love Romeo feels for Rosaline in order to display love leading to depression and misery. Later in the drama, Shakespeare explores a very different form of love, an honest and romantic love clearly represented through Romeo and Juliet in order to prove the fact that love can lead to tragedy. Additionally, Shakespeare visits the very bawdy and physical views of Mercutio in order to encompass the reality that love can also result in wrong. Shakespeare finishes the play with the Prince saying that “[there] never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo” (5.3.309-310). Shakespeare ends the play like this and presents all these diverse forms of love in order to show the audience that love can results in hopelessness, decease, and injustice, opposed to merely happiness and joy. Though love can easily result in happiness and joy, Shakespeare displays that tragedies can also equally occur. He demonstrates how brutal life can truly be and how harsh the real world is and teaches this unforgiving reality to his readers and viewers.