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Romeo and Juliet is a play about love

‘Romeo and Juliet is a play about love, but this word means different things to different characters in the play, and for some, like Romeo, its meaning changes as the play progresses. Discuss the theme of love in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and examine the different attitudes towards love that the characters have.’Romeo and Juliet’ is a play about fate, hate, passion and most of all love. From the beginning love has a strong hold on the audience, particularly their emotion. The theme of love is used and shown in many different ways throughout the play, for example love goes from being shown as a lustful, melancholy emotion, such as Romeos love for Rosaline, to a happy joyful emotion, such as Romeos love for Juliet. Each and every character has a different approach and view to love from everyone else. As well as many different views towards love being shown throughout the play there are also many different types of love shown, such as, unrequited, passionate and motherly love.Love also brings many dramatic aspects to the play; most notable is the dramatic tension it brings. The dramatic tension is created by the strong contrast between love and hate, which is consistent throughout the play. The audience can see that Romeo and Juliet are in love, which is full of passion, yet they know that their love is ‘death marked’ by the hate between the two families, the Montagues and the Capulets. The tension is fuelled by the fact that the audience knows that the two lovers are going to die, which is made known by the chorus at the beginning of the play. This would make the audience hope and silently cry out in the hope that they can prevent this tragedy from taking place.The tension would have been a particular enjoyment to the Elizabethan audience, as they loved seeing love, passion and sex as well as violence and death. Fate acts as a contrasting theme with love. It is used to emphasize the strength and danger that is contained within Romeo and Juliet’s love. The rash swiftness of Romeo and Juliet’s love only adds to the knowing of an ill fate, for ‘the sweetest honey, Is loathsome in his own deliciousness’. The contrast between love and fate creates a strong bond between Romeo and Juliet’s love even though we know that it is going to be short lived.Romeo is an excellent example of how the meaning of love evolves and changes as the play progresses. At the beginning of the play Romeo is in ‘love’ with Rosaline. However this love is unrequited and is more of a lustful relationship. Romeo expresses his confusion over his feelings by using oxymoron’s to describe the way he is feeling, ‘o brawling love, o loving hate’, ‘O heavy lightness, serious vanity’. The fact that he is confused shows that he isn’t feeling true love, for if he can’t be sure of his thoughts and feelings, how can he be sure that he is in love? Romeo can clearly not distinguish between genuine and false love. Could it be however, that Romeo wants to be confused? It seems that he is enjoying wallowing in self-pity as though he is love with the idea of being in love.The fact that Rosaline has not returned Romeos love seems to have attracted Romeo more as Rosaline has hurt his self esteem and so he wants to prove that he can get her if he wants her. Romeos love for Rosaline is also very physical for when Benvolio suggests Romeo should begin looking at other women, in order to get over Rosaline, Romeo replies ‘ I’ll go along, no such sight to be shown, But to rejoice in splendour of mine own’. Despite all of Romeos ‘loving’ feelings for Rosaline, it seems that subconsciously he knows that what he is feeling isn’t true love. Romeos reaction to Benvolios questioning over Rosaline expresses how lost and unsure this love has made him feel, ‘Tut I have lost myself; I am not here, This is not Romeo, he’s some other where’ Friar Lawrence sums up Romeos love affair with Rosaline as, ‘Thy love did read by rote, that could not spell’, he tells Romeo that he’s going through the motions but the love he is feeling is artificial and meaningless.The moment Romeo sees Juliet his views and attitude towards love changes. He instantly begins to complement her beauty, which provides a foundation for his love for Juliet, ‘Did my heart love until now? Forswear it sight, For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night’. This instantly shows that Romeos love for Rosaline had been a doting, false charade. Although Romeos love for Rosaline and his love for Juliet share a common feature in physical attraction, the attraction for Juliet has the opposite affect on Romeo than it did when he loved Rosaline.When he was in love with Rosaline, Romeo built up a false world, and locked himself away from society. However when he sees Juliet’s beauty he wants to be part of the world again. Romeo approaches Juliet soon after he first lays his eyes on her and begins to speak to her as though she is a religious aspect, ‘If I profane with my unworthiest hand, This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this, My lips two blushing pilgrims ready to stand, To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss’. Religion is associated with devotion and love, so by connecting Juliet to religion, he is expressing the strength of his love for Juliet and the devotion he has for her.Romeos love is proved to be genuine when he meets Mercutio for the first time since meeting Juliet. He is happy and joyful which Mercutio comments on, ‘Now art thou sociable, now art thou Romeo. Now art thou what thou art, by art as well as nature, for this drivelling love is like a great natural that runs lolling up and down to hide his bauble in a hole’. This is a great contrast to how Romeo acted when he thought he was in love with Rosaline and so by being merry and happy he shows us that he is truly feeling love. This is ironic, as Mercutio doesn’t realise that Romeo wasn’t in love before but is now. Romeos attitude towards love is always dreamy, whether it is genuine or not.He gets carried away with emotion and ‘babbles’ on about his actions and feelings. A prime example of this is when he climbs over the Capulet wall to get to Juliet. She is quick to warn of the dangers he will face if he gets caught and she asks how he got over the wall, he teases her with his imagination by saying, ‘With love’s light wings did I o’erperch these walls, For stony limits cannot hold love out, And what love can do, that dares no attempt. Therefore thy kinsmen are no to stop me.’ Romeos dreamy attitude also expresses his brave, romantic loving for Juliet, telling her that none of her men would be able to stop him. At the end of the play Romeos overall love and devotion to Juliet is shown when he kills himself, as he cannot face living without her.Like Romeo, Juliet’s attitude towards love changes and progresses as the play goes on, as does her character. Juliet is viewed as a child by her father, Capulet, throughout the play and she acts accordingly. Her early views on love are virtually non-existent as she relies heavily on her peers to make her decisions for her. This is shown when Lady Capulet suggests marrying Paris, Juliet obediently replies ‘I’ll look to like, if looking liking move. But no more deep will I endart mine eye, Than your consent gives strength to make it fly’. Juliet’s child-like ways make her seem very na�ve and unsure of what she wants.Lady Capulet arranges for Juliet to meet Paris at the Capulet feast, however little does she know that by doing so Juliet will begin to grow up and develop her own attitude and views towards love. Juliet meets Romeo while at the feast and is instantly attracted to him. Her love is quickly exposed as she replies to Romeos comment that he’s unworthy to touch her, ‘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 love that Juliet has for Romeo is very strong, so strong that Juliet is willing to risk everything, ‘My only love sprung from my only hate, Too early seen, and known too late!’ Juliet isn’t frightened to declare her love despite the troubles she may face. Juliet also has a strong contrast to Romeo, for she is a lot more practical in comparison to dreamy Romeo. Juliet’s practicality is shines through at the same time she declares her love, for she follows her declaration with, ‘Prodigious birth of love it is to me’. Juliet knows her love is going to be risky whereas Romeo hasn’t even considered it.As Juliet’s attitude develops, as does her love. She begins to care deeply for Romeo and so along with her practical nature in hand warns Romeo of the dangers that he faces by climbing the Capulet Wall, ‘The orchard walls are high, and hard to climb, And the place death, considering who thou art’. Juliet’s caring nature coincides with the empowerment love has over Juliet on two occasions. The first being when the nurse criticises Romeo for killing Romeo. Juliet is quick to turn on the nurse ‘blistered be thy tongue’, Juliet screams at the nurse, ‘For such a wish. He was not born to shame’.Then in complete contrast to her ways at the beginning of the play Juliet stands up to her father when he tells her that she is o marry Paris. Juliet refuses as she knows she has to stay faithful to Romeo, she refuses to marry him telling Lady Capulet, ‘ Delay this marriage for a month, a week, Or if you do not, make the bridal bed, In that dim monument where Tybalt lies’. As we know this turns out to be Juliet’s fate, for as the ultimate sacrifice to her love for Romeo, Juliet kills herself when she finds him dead.The character of Paris doesn’t portray his views of love too well throughout the play, however the attitude that Shakespeare does reveal to us is in complete contrast to Romeo and Juliet’s attitude. He wants to marry Juliet, but it would be a ‘marriage de convenance’ similar to that of Capulet and Lady Capulet.The Nurse has the most individual views and attitude towards love than any other character within the play. The nurse’s love is based very much upon physical appearance, more so than anyone else in the play. She is also very crude within this attitude, focusing a lot on sex. When Lady Capulet asks Juliet about marrying Paris, at the start of the play the nurse quickly interrupts her telling Juliet, ‘No less, nay bigger; women grow by men’.Her view of marriage is very different from Romeo and Juliet as she sees money as coming before love and marriage. When Romeo first questions the Nurse as to who Juliet is she makes a sleigh comment telling Romeo whoever marries her ‘Shall have the chinks’. Despite this attitude towards love, the Nurse does express genuine love for Juliet. The love she shows is maternal, caring love, which contrasts to her crude love. She is very protective over Juliet, warning Romeo not to lead Juliet into a ‘fool’s paradise’ for if he does it would be a ‘very weak dealing’.The Nurse looks at appearances, making it seem as though along with money it makes a marriage. Before the wedding the nurse talks of Romeos body as ‘better than any man’s’ informing Juliet that his legs ‘excel all men’s’. There is evidence however that the Nurse has indeed experienced true love. She often speaks highly of her former husband who died some years ago.Benvolio has the most similar views to the Nurse than anyone else. He focuses on looks more than anything else, which is shown when he tells Romeo to ‘Examine other beauties’, in order to get over Rosaline. However he has a caring, friendly love for Rosaline, for although he tells Romeo to ‘take thou new infection to thy eye’, he only wants Romeo to do this so that he is happy. Perhaps the problem is that he has never experienced love like Romeo has for both Rosaline and Juliet, which is why he can’t help or understand Romeo.Mercutio is often very bawdy and makes it clear that he hasn’t experienced love by jeering at Romeo, ‘Romeo! Humours! Madman! Passion! Lover!’ he cries, ‘Cry but ‘Ay me,’ pronounce but ‘love’ and ‘dove’;’. Like Benvolio, Mercuito doesn’t understand why Romeo feels the way he feels. Mercutio, like the Nurse focuses on sex, which he strongly express when he shouts, ‘If love be blind, love cannot hit the mark’.

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