Romeo and Juliet’s love affair affects themselves, their friends and their families. Different people react to this love in different ways. How does Shakespeare make an audience interested in this?
Romeo and Juliet is one of the most famous love stories ever written. Just as their love was depicted as eternal, the play itself has lasted for years. The play explores many views of love. Each character has a different personality and a different view on both love and life.
Love in the dictionary is defined as a warm liking or affection or sexual passion.
Romeo and Juliet is a story of true love so it is unexpected that the first reference to love is about sex. Sampson and Gregory are the first two characters introduced to the audience. Both Sampson and Gregory have petty and narrow perceptions of ‘love’. Neither of them appears to have ever experienced true love. They see women as objects not people. They do not see love as anything to do with emotions but just sexual desires.
Both Sampson and Gregory have little knowledge and understanding of love. Neither of them appears to have ever experienced true love. They see women as objects instead of people.
Other contrasts to Romeo and Juliet in the play are the nurse and Mercutio. Mercutio is lively with an amazing imagination. He loves life and makes the most of each day. His love for words and puns is shown to its full in his speech about Queen Mab. The speech starts off being very idealistic and fantastical.
“She gallops night by nights, through lovers’ brains, and then they dream of love,”
As it continues, the speech becomes moves from the image of a beautiful fairy to ideas of war and suffering;
“Sometime she driveth o’er a soldiers neck, and then dreams he of cutting foreign throats.”
Mercutio thinks that Romeo is wasting his time with Rosaline, and mocks him. In general Mercutio has a clouded view of ‘love’. Like Sampson and Gregory he considers ‘love’ only in sexual terms rather than emotions.
The nurse is similar to Mercutio in her use of language. The nurse is the equivalent of Juliet’s mother, she raised and looked after her and is very close to Juliet. Juliet is in fact a lot closer to the nurse than to her own mother. The one person that Juliet has always loved is the nurse. The nurse is the only character in the play that she tells about her love for Romeo. Juliet confides in the nurse, because she is like her mother. The nurse has a blunt attitude towards love and sex, but is an affectionate and loving woman who wants Juliet to be happy. At the beginning, the nurse tries to help Juliet and Romeo get together but in the end she tries to persuade Juliet to marry Paris. She has a big heart but clearly has no understanding of the depth of Juliet’s love for Romeo.
For Juliet the nurse is like her best friend. Romeo has the Friar to confide in. Friar Lawrence marries the couple and tries to help them whenever possible. He wants the best for them and thinks that if they marry then possibly the feuding will end;
” In one respect I’ll thy assistant be: For this may so happy prove, To turn your households’ rancour to pure love”
The friar tells Romeo not to rush things with Juliet, but when Romeo asks him to marry them he agrees. The friar approves of their love and truly cares about what happens to Romeo and Juliet. At the end of the play we see him trying to persuade Juliet not to kill herself and then when she has he explains to everyone why he married them.
Juliet and her mother, Lady Capulet, do not seem to have a close relationship. In the first act, Juliet feels that she must please her mother by obeying her every wish. As the play progresses we see that Lady Capulet has clear ides of what she considers best for her daughter. She sings the praises of Paris when she is informing Juliet of his desires.
She seems less interested about whether the couple will love each other, more concerned with how suitable he is.
Paris is the man whom Capulet wants Juliet to marry. Paris explains his feelings for Juliet to Capulet. It seems that Paris does love Juliet because when Romeo kills him he asks to be put in her tomb,
“If thou be merciful, Open the tomb, lay me with Juliet.”
Juliet’s father however does seem to think that she would be happy with Paris. Capulet cares a lot for his daughter because all his other children have died and therefore she is very special to him;
“Earth hath swallowed all my hopes but she; She’s the hopeful lady of my earth.”
Capulet wants the best for his daughter when Paris first explains his proposal,
“But woo her, gentle Paris, get her heart, and she agreed, within her scope of choice lies my consent and fair according voice”
Capulet then starts to push Juliet into the marriage instead of letting her choose. He says that he will only let his daughter marry Paris if she consents, but then turns against this later in the play. Maybe he thinks that marriage to Paris will be in her best interests and he therefore pressurises her into it. This is why she feels she has to fake her own death. Capulet loves Juliet in the way that most parents love their children, but he goes one step further and tells her what to do instead of letting her make her own decisions. We do not know many details of Capulet’s marriage; there are only hints that he is not happily married. So the main demonstration of love that we see from him is towards his daughter. He is furious when Juliet defies him and is prepared to cast her out from his house!
Juliet loves Romeo infinitely and will do anything for him, even die. Her devastation is immense when her love, Romeo, is banished from Verona. Juliet tells her family that she is distraught due to the death of her cousin, Tybalt, but her grief is caused by her undying love. Romeo and Juliet share a bond, which makes their love even more special. When they first meet each other they share their language. They both use biblical and religious words to express themselves. The first time they speak it is in the form of a sonnet:
“Romeo: If I profane with my unworthiest hand this holy shrine, the gentle sin is this, My lips two blushing pilgrims, ready stand To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
Juliet: Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much, which mannerly devotion shows in this, for saints have hands that pilgrims hands do touch, and palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.”
The first moment that they meet, it is obvious that there is something special between them.
Because of Juliet’s love for Romeo, Juliet’s character changes. She becomes less obedient towards her parents and more mature and independent as the play unfolds. She defies and deceives her father about Romeo and Paris. We realise how much she has changed when she talks herself round to supporting Romeo whilst he is banished.
Romeo first ‘loved’ Rosaline. The love was unrequited and was not genuine. Romeo became depressed when he realised that Rosaline did not love him. He was moody, withdrawn and used oxymoron’s in his speech.
“O brawling love, O loving hate, O any things of nothing first create! O heavy lightness, serious vanity, Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms, Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!”
As he falls deeper in love with Juliet he grows happier and more sociable, whereas when he loved Rosaline he locked himself in his rooms for hours. With Juliet he risks his life to see her, this may be because he knows that Juliet loves him whereas when he loved Rosaline she didn’t love him.
Romeo and Juliet share a physical, passionate love as well as emotional love. The first night that they meet they do not want to leave each other. This is in the famous ‘Balcony Scene’. Romeo risks his life to see Juliet by climbing the walls of the Capulet estate. He then stands beneath her window waiting to see her. He then describes her in such a loving way that it is almost unreal;
The couple share a night together when they are married and in the morning they do not want to leave each other. Juliet tries to make Romeo stay with her;
“Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day; It was the nightingale, and not the lark, that pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear; Nightly she sings on yond pomegranate tree. Believe me, love, it was the nightingale.”
These two young lovers defy their parents by marrying without telling them, proving their love for one another. However the most definite affirmation of their love is when the lovers make the ultimate sacrifice, their own lives.
Shakespeare’s presentation of ‘love’ in the play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ varies. Some characters think only of sex, others demonstrate a form of love with their children, but the one true, pure love is that of Romeo and Juliet. Each character in the play provides a frame to their love, their attitudes contrasting with young lovers. Romeo and Juliet share a special bond together that will never be lost. They make the greatest sacrifice for each other and this proves their love.
Benvolio is a peacekeeper as opposed to Tybalt. Both Lord Montague and Prince Escales trust him. Yet he tells Lady Montague that he has a troubled mind.
Romeo has the Friar to talk to, when something troubles him. Friar Lawrence marries Romeo and Juliet and tries to help them wherever and whenever he can. He wants the best for them and thinks that if they marry the feuding will stop. “In one respect I’ll thy assistant be: For this may so happy prove To turn your households rancour to pure love.” The Friar tells Romeo not to rush things with Juliet but when Romeo asks him to marry them he agrees. Juliet and her mother, Lady Capulet, do not seem to have a close relationship. In the first act, Juliet feels that she could please her mother by obeying her every wish. The Friar is a very important character, he is a friend to both Romeo and Juliet but it is the Friar’s plot that leads to Romeo and Juliet’s downfall.
Paris is the one who Capulet wants Juliet to marry. Paris explains his feelings for Juliet to Capulet. It seems that Paris does have true love for Juliet because when Romeo kills him he asked to be put in Juliet’s tomb. “If though be merciful, open the tomb, and lay me with Juliet.” He is devastated when Juliet dies.
Juliet’s father thinks that Juliet would be happy if she was to marry Paris. Capulet tries to push Juliet into marrying Paris instead of letting her choose. He probably thinks that marriage to Paris will be in her best interest and therefore pressurises her into it, as does Lady Capulet. He is angry when Juliet defies him and is prepared to cast her out of the house.
Lord Montague shows much more concern for his son than Capulet does for his daughter. At the beginning Lord Montague is worried about Romeo, his son and asks Benvolio to check on him.
Lady Montague is much more concerned about her family than Lady Capulet is with her family. Lady Montague’s first words are to stop Lord Montague from joining in the riot. She dies of a broken heart after she hears of Romeo’s death.
Juliet’s love for Romeo is true and pure and he is her first love. She loves him more than anything in the world. She is very devastated when Romeo is banished from Verona. Lady Capulet thinks that Juliet is sad because of Tybalt’s death but her grief is caused because of the banishment of her husband. When they first meet it is obvious there is something special between them. Juliet’s character changes throughout the play because of her love for Romeo. She becomes less obedient and more mature and independent as the play moves on. Romeo does not talk to his parents about the way he feels. He talks to Mercutio, Benvolio or Friar Lawrence.
Shakespeare writes about the power of hatred to destroy lives. ‘Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean’ (prologue). The Prince also talks about hatred at the end of the play. ‘See what a scourge is laid upon your hate, that heaven finds means to kill your joys with love’ (Act 5 Scene 3). All through the play there are hints that Romeo and Juliet should not be together.