‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a play set in Verona – the city of love. Love is a prominent theme that runs throughout the play and Shakespeare manages to portray every form of love. The courtly love tradition embodied in Romeo’s infatuation with Rosaline, is ridiculed by Shakespeare. There is also the passionate, youthful love of Romeo and Juliet that contrasts greatly with the harsh reality of an arranged marriage. Shakespeare’s main aim was to illustrate the tragedy of love but also the Elizabethan attitude towards love at the time.
The love shared between Romeo and Juliet was doomed to fail from the beginning. In the prologue Shakespeare writes ” From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life,”. Immediately, the audience is told that the lovers are from “fatal loins”. Shakespeare uses the word “fatal” to show that the love between Romeo and Juliet will eventually come to a disastrous end. Their love is “death-marked” therefore there is little that Romeo and Juliet can do to save themselves.
Shakespeare makes it clear that all odds are against them and that there is no place for hope. In Act 1 scene 3, Lady Capulet declares that Juliet is “not yet fourteen”. Juliet is very young of age and has only just started puberty. Shakespeare tries to tell the audience that Juliet’s abundant naivety will mean that her heart has the power to override her head. Both Romeo and Juliet are impulsive, as is shown by their rash decision to get married after just one meeting. At the beginning of the play we hear about Romeo’s idealised love for Rosaline – a woman he hasn’t met. Many a morning… dew. ”
Romeo is so consumed in his feelings of love that he weeps each day. Shakespeare puts the emphasis on Romeo’s sighs and distress, referring to them as “deep”. He tries to construct the image of a typical courtly lover suffering from the cruel, authenticity of love. Romeo “shuts up his windows.. artificial night”. Romeo tries to create a barrier, isolating himself from his family and friends. The word “artificial” seems unhealthy and unnatural, as if this love doesn’t make him happy and joyous, like it should.
Shakespeare makes it evident that Romeo’s feelings are too stereo-typical to be of any real value and he wants the audience to identify the differentiation between Romeo’s fake love for Rosaline, and his passionate love with Juliet. This mirroring technique is used consistently in the play to hint at a possible outcome in the plot. This helps engage the audience and keep them engrossed. Romeo uses religious imagery when he first speaks to Juliet; this highlights his innocence and wholesomeness. “my lips.. His frequent use of words such as “saint” and “angel” depict his immense love for Juliet and his high opinion of her. He believes that she can do no wrong and is captured by her angelic mannerism. Throughout the sonnet Romeo and Juliet finish each other’s lines creating a sense of unity. “o saint let lips do… ”
Although Romeo possesses the emotions of a courtly lover, his language has become more harmonious and sincere. Light is also used to convey Juliet’s purity. “But soft, what light.. ” “it is the east… ” Light is often seen as an essence of hope, and Juliet is Romeo’s only hope of happiness. “O Romeo Romeo… Shakespeare demonstrates how Juliet is willing to sacrifice a place in her prestigious family for the love of Romeo. She is so engrossed in her feelings that she doesn’t acknowledge the reality of what she has said. As her love for Romeo develops, we see her confidence grow. “If thy bent love… ” It is clear that Juliet has matured as she decides to take the initiative. This is a significant point in the play because she has gone against the customary idea that a man should propose. A wedding is normally an exciting event shared with your loved ones but Juliet is happy to give up every girl’s dream.
This scene makes their blossoming love seem extremely tangible and real. Shakespeare structures Act 3 Scene 5 in such a way that illuminates the harsh reality of Juliet’s situation. “It was the nightingale, and not the lark. ” The “lark” is usually a symbol of dawn and happiness. However Shakespeare tries to emphasise Juliet’s pain by making the “lark” have a negative meaning. “Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day. ” Juliet cannot bear to be separated from Romeo which tells the audience that she is dependent on his love.
Shakespeare demonstrates this through Juliet’s desperate tone of voice. In Elizabethan times, children were expected to listen to their parents and treat their elders with respect. Lord and Lady Capulet planned for Juliet to marry Paris, a wealthy man of high social standing. “Well, well, thou hast a careful father, child. One who, to put thee from thy heaviness, Hath sorted out a sudden day of joy. ” Lord Capulet made this “sudden day of joy” to make Juliet happy after Tybalt’s death. “But for the sunset of my brother’s son. It rains downright. How now? A conduit, girl?
What, still in tears? ” When Juliet refuses to accept his proposition, Lord Capulet reveals his aggressive temperament. “You green-sickness carrion! ” He insults her by saying that she is pale faced rotting meat. Shakespeare shows the vast change in Lord Capulet’s personality. At the beginning, the audience gets the impression that Capulet is the perfect father who dreams of his child’s happiness . But as the scene continues we witness the selfish and controlling nature of the man. He cares more about his position in the social hierarchy than the welfare of his daughter.
All the adults in Juliet’s life have abandoned her, reinforcing the idea that her love is doomed and fatal. “Talk not to me, for I’ll not speak a word. Do as thou wilt for I have done with thee. ” Lady Capulet feels that her obligations lie with her husband, so she claims to not care for Juliet. The nurse also rejects Juliet and tells her to marry “the county”. Juliet feels betrayed because the nurse was her last strand of hope. Throughout the play, Shakespeare reinforces the idea that Romeo and Juliet’s love is doomed and “death marked”.
Shakespeare has tried to confront the audience with the consequences of a forbidden love within a traditional society. It is clear that the selfishness and immaturity of Romeo and Juliet played a part in their deaths. As an audience, we are made aware of the sacrifices involved in their passionate but hopeless love. Furthermore, we are forced to evaluate the expectations of love in Elizabethan England and we must acknowledge their contribution towards the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. This tale “of two star-crossed lovers” will forever be the most famous love story of all time.
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