In how far do the views of love presented in the play reflect 19 the attitude towards love the Elizabethan audience had

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has the “high profile as the love-tragedy everybody knows”1. Although it is regarded as the ideal of romantic love there are many other (quite unromantic) views represented in the play, too. In this term paper I will try to give a survey of the different views of love in Romeo and Juliet. First of all there are Romeo and Juliet, the “star-cross’d lovers” (Prologue) who “establish a quality of love, of life intensively lived, that becomes its own value”2. Apart from these two main characters and their view of love there are in general five other attitudes towards love: to the servants of the house of Capulet, the Nurse and Mercutio love means nothing else than sex, to Romeo’s friend Benvolio the most important thing about love is not only sex but that love makes you happy, Juliet’s parents Capulet and Lady Capulet together with the Prince and Paris share an Elizabethan view of love and marriage, Romeo’s parents Montague and Lady Montague in contrast to Juliet’s parents have a relationship full of love, and last but not least there is Friar Laurence who is afraid that Romeo’s and Juliet’s passion will lead to a bitter end but nevertheless shows a big sympathy for the young lovers and wants to make their love holy by marriage.In the following part of this term paper I will have a more detailed look on these shortly sketched views of love, dealing with them in the order just named above and laying great stress on Romeo and Juliet and the way they deal with their feelings.Finally I’d like to take a short look on the question in how far the views of love presented in the play reflect the attitude towards love the Elizabethan audience had.2. Main part: Views of love in Romeo and Juliet2.1. Romeo’s and Juliet’s view of love: Love as the reason for livingThe ‘star-cross’d’ lovers Romeo and Juliet both fall in love at first sight and are determined to marry just after their first encounter. Their love is the most precious thing Romeo and Juliet have in their lives so both are ready to die for each other and chose to die in the end “[…] because each knows that he or she cannot live without the other, and knows this as a simple, literal truth to be acted on at the first opportunity”3. Romeo as well as Juliet regards his banishment as death. Although the lovers are hoping to see each other again they are willing to die after Tybalt’s death/their wedding night.After their separation due to the banishment both kill themselves in order to be together again: Juliet drinks Friar Laurence’ sleeping potion in order to ‘die’ and be with Romeo again when she awakes, and Romeo drinks the poison to be reunited with Juliet, whom he thinks lifeless, in death. When waking up in the monument and finding her love having committed suicide, Juliet kills herself for the reason of a reunion after death, too. The lovers even drink to each other when they drink their potions.Up to here Romeo and Juliet seem to share the same view of love but on having a closer look there are some differences in their ways to deal with their feelings. So I’ll characterize both separated from each other in detail.2.1.1. RomeoFrom the beginning of the play, where Romeo is introduced as being lovesick, till the end of the action, where he takes the poison and commands himself to die quickly (V, iii, 117-118), Romeo is a Petrarchan lover. In the beginning he indulges himself in eloquent images and enjoys his role as the rejected lover. He pities himself and says that he feels heavy and burdened with his love for Rosaline (I, iv, 12; I, iv, 20-22).”This is the Elizabethan lover, expressing himself in wild antitheses which are a sort of verbal equivalent for his distracted state balanced between two extremes ([e.g.] ‘feather of lead’, ‘cold fire’ [I, i, 179], etc.), and in conceits ([e.g.] ‘Love is a smoke [made with] the fume of sighs’ [I, i, 189]) which serve to represent the pleasing anguish of the lover, the grief of unrequited love which is yet happier than not loving at all would be.”4But as soon as Romeo lays eyes on Juliet he is so overwhelmed by her beauty that his unhappy love for Rosaline is forgotten at that instant:”O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright.It seems she hangs upon the cheek of nightAs a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear -Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear.[…]Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.” (I, v, 44-53)He gets to know Juliet after the dance and from the first moment their love is so right and true that their conversation effortlessly forms a sonnet. Romeo uses Petrarchan images in that first conversation (e.g. calling Juliet a saint that he is unworthy to touch) and goes on with this when he watches and describes Juliet in the orchard after the party. She is his ‘sun’ (II, ii, 2 and 3), her eyes are even brighter than the stars (cf. II, ii, 15-22) and she is a ‘bright angel’. When talking to her Romeo wants to swear how much he loves her but she doesn’t want to hear his oaths.Although in II, ii Romeo’s language is not different from the Petrarchan language he used to describe Rosaline and the love he felt for her, Romeo’s love for Juliet is much different from the love he bore for Rosaline. When loving Rosaline, Romeo was in love with love and unable to act. But now he has found a purpose for living in Juliet and in the fact that his new love “doth grace for grace and love for love allow” (II, iii, 82). Romeo is so much changed by this experience that for a short time he is able to be the old Romeo, the Romeo his friends are missing, again. He jests with Mercutio and wins their battle of wits which makes Mercutio cry out:”Why, is not this better now than groaning for love? Now art thou sociable, now art thou Romeo; now art thou what thou art, by art as well as by nature. For this drivelling love is like a great natural that runs lolling up and down to hide his bauble in a hole. ” (II, iv, 88-92)Romeo gets more mature by his marriage to Juliet, too. When he comes back from the wedding, he is so full of peace and love that Tybalt’s insults cannot hurt him. Moreover he calls Tybalt ‘cousin’ and tells him”[I] love thee better than thou canst deviseTill thou shalt know the reason of my love.” (III, i, 68-69)But when Tybalt stabs Mercutio, Romeo accuses Juliet of having made him act so peacefully:”O, sweet Juliet,Thy beauty has made me effeminateAnd in my temper soften’d valour’s steel.” (III, I, 115-117)In a fury he takes revenge for Mercutio’s death and kills Tybalt. This action throws him back in the role the feud forces him to play but at the same time it hinders him to be what he intends to be – a peaceful young man enjoying his happiness as a freshly-made bridegroom. Romeo seems to realize this, crying out that he is ‘Fortune’s fool’. He flies to Friar Laurence’ cell and bursts out in tears. When the clergyman informs him that the Prince’s doom is not death but banishment, Romeo moans about this banishment because it means that he has to leave Juliet whereas”every cat and dogAnd little mouse, every unworthy thing,Live here in heaven and may look on her,But Romeo may not.” (III, iii, 30-33)This clearly shows that Romeo “is himself only in his Juliet; she is his only reality, his heart’s true home and idol”5 and this strong and passionate love he feels for her makes him able to face death in the end of the play.To Romeo love is the most important thing in life. He “has the blessing and the curse to feel things deeply”6 so being banished from his Juliet after having killed Tybalt really is “purgatory, torture, hell itself” (III, iii, 18) to him. He doesn’t want to live like this, so he denies to hide himself hearing someone (the Nurse) knocking at the door. Learning from the Nurse then that Juliet is in the same state of mind, Romeo is so afraid that Juliet might not love him anymore that he offers to stab himself. But Friar Laurence makes him go to his wife and after having spent the night with her Romeo is so absolute happy that death doesn’t give him a fright anymore; he would die at that instant if it pleased Juliet:” Let me be ta’en, let me be put to death,I am content, so thou wilt have it so.[…]I have more care to stay than will to go.Come death, and welcome. Juliet wills it so.” (III, v, 17-25)But she makes him leave her at dawn. Bidding her farewell Romeo shows himself certain that they will see each other again and that makes him accept his banishment. Just before he learns about Juliet’s ‘death’ in V, i, he is happy having had a dream of Juliet which he takes as the harbinger of “joyful news” (V, i, 2). Hearing of his wife’s death then he is at once determined to “lie with thee [Juliet] tonight” (V, i, 34) and gets to Verona to commit suicide at his lady’s side. He is possessed by this idea and cannot be stopped by Paris who gets in his way. Romeo does not want to “put another sin upon his head” (cf. V, iii, 62) and beseeches Paris to leave him alone. But Paris refuses to go, so they fight and the County gets killed. Romeo promises to fulfil his last wish to lay him next to Juliet in the tomb. Noticing that the man he just killed is Paris, the man who should have been Juliet’s bridegroom, he pities him for “being writ with him in sour misfortune’s book” (cf. V, iii, 82) and lays the corpse into the grave. Inside the tomb Romeo feels merry; he is with his beloved Juliet again, he will remain at her side and no one will ever separate them again. After having praised Juliet’s beauty, having taken her in his arms and kissed her once again, Romeo drinks the poison to his love and “[t]hus with a kiss” (V, iii, 120) he dies.2.1.2. JulietJuliet’s attitude towards love is a bit different to that of her lover Romeo. “In this couple, Romeo is the romantic one, and Juliet is the practical one”7. Whereas Romeo indulges himself in Petrarchan images she “discourages Romeo from stereotyped love-vows, and spurs him to make arrangements for their wedding”8. In the beginning of the play Juliet is a child, not yet fourteen. To her marriage is “an honour that I dream not of” (I, iii, 66). This changes when she meets Romeo at the party and falls in love with him. To her as well as to Romeo this is love at first sight and right from the beginning her feelings for him are very deep:”[…] If he be married,My grave is like to be my wedding bed.” (I, v, 134-135)After the party, Juliet as well as Romeo seems to be too excited to go to bed at once. Instead she is talking to herself in the orchard lamenting about Romeo’s name. If he were not a Montague and by this her enemy, she could be in love with him so she bids him to”doff thy name,And for thy name, which is no part of thee,Take all myself” (II, ii, 47-49)Juliet is as well happy as taken by surprise when Romeo disturbs her. She knows that he has overheard her private counsel and that is why she doesn’t want to frown or play around. In her practical mind that would make no sense. Juliet is confused by this unexpected meeting, she is a bit shy. She is very young so this is probably her first love and first secret ‘date’. She wants a bit more time to make up her mind about all that has happened so far:”[…] Although I joy in thee,I have no joy of this contract tonight:It is to rash, too unadvis’d, too sudden,Too like the lightning, which doth cease to beEre one can say �It lightens�. Sweet, good night.This bud of love, by summer’s ripening breath,May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.Good night, good night. As sweet repose and restCome to thy heart as that within my breast.” (II, ii, 117-124)However, at her re-entering Juliet has worked out a plan: if Romeo does honestly love her, he shall marry her the next day, otherwise he shall leave her to her grief (cf. II, ii, 143-148 and II, ii, 150-154).In II, ii Juliet presents herself rather as a child than a young women. This can be seen in the metaphors she uses to describe her love for Romeo, e.g.:Juliet: “[…] I would have thee gone,And yet no farther than a wanton’s bird,That let’s it hop a little from his handLike a poor prisoner in his twisted gyves,And with a silken thread pulls it back again,So loving-jealous of his liberty.Romeo: I would I were thy bird.Juliet: Sweet, so would I:Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.” (II, ii, 176-183)However, her marriage makes her become a young woman waiting impatiently for her wedding night:”[…]Come gentle night, come loving black-brow’d night,Give me my Romeo […]” (III, ii, 17)She wants the night to”[…] learn me how to lose a winning matchPlay’d for a pair of stainless maidenhoods.Hood my unmanned blood, bating in my cheeks,With thy black mantle, till strange love grow bold,Think true love acted simple modesty.” (III, ii, 12-16)But before she can enjoy her wedding night, Juliet is informed about Tybalt’s murder committed by her bridegroom. Although she calls Romeo a “despised substance of divinest show” (III, ii, 77), she repents her words a minute later when the Nurse joins in her laments. If not hers”what tongue shall smooth thy nameWhen I thy three-hours wife have mangled it?” (III, ii, 98-99)Romeo’s banishment is worse to her than Tybalt’s death, she even mourns more over the lost wedding night than over her cousin:”Take up those cords. Poor ropes, you are beguil’d,Both you and I, for Romeo is exiled.He made you for a highway to my bed,But I, a maid, die maiden-widowed.Come, cords, come, Nurse, I’ll to my wedding bed,And death, not Romeo take my maidenhead.” (III, ii, 132-137)When the Nurse promises to find Romeo for her, she bids her to bring him to her “to take his last farewell” (III, ii, 143).The next morning Juliet seems to have enjoyed her wedding night and doesn’t want Romeo to leave at dawn. She pretends that”It is not yet near day.It was the nightingale and not the lark,That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear.” (III, v, 1-3)Nevertheless she makes Romeo go when he agrees to stay willing to die in case he should be found there. When Romeo descends from her balcony, Juliet is haunted by an evil fore-shadowing. She sees him as “one dead in the bottom of a tomb” (III, v, 56) and bids fortune to bring him back to her quickly. After this parting Juliet is forced to get more and more mature. Things happen very quickly. Her mother enters telling her that she shall marry Paris, her father threatens her to throw her out on the street to starve if she doesn’t agree to this marriage and she hasn’t got a single friend in her household anymore since the Nurse advices her to forget Romeo and to marry the County.But to Juliet her marriage to Romeo and her love for him are holy and she will not betray those. So she turns from the obedient daughter she was in the beginning of the play into a woman who takes charge of her own life. She already showed her loyalty to Romeo when talking to her mother. There she speaks so ambiguously that she appears to be loyal to her family although she speaks well of Romeo, too. Now Juliet turns entirely against her family’s will and seeks help in Friar Laurence. She is even ready to die.

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