William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” is a romantic tragedy. It is one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays because even though the plot is not unique, Shakespeare wrote it so that the audience would get more involved in the play emotionally. An example of this is when the audience wants Romeo to receive the note from Friar Lawrence saying that Juliet is not actually dead. The audience would experience feelings of dread in Act 5 Scene 3, where Romeo is going to kill himself at Juliet’s tomb. The audience already knows that Romeo is going to kill himself (from the prologue), yet they do not want him to die because Shakespeare has made the love between Romeo and Juliet precious.
Shakespeare makes the love between Romeo and Juliet romantic because of the way he makes Romeo describe Juliet as a bright angel with stars in her eyes:
“Two of the fairest stars in all heaven
Having some business, do entreat her eyes.”
Act 2 Scene 2 Line 55-56
A major issue that the play deals with is the question, “what is love?”, the consequences of a grudge and fate.
Love in the play conquers all because even though two lives are lost, love vanquishes the hate between the Capulets and Montagues. Also, Romeo and Juliet’s love for each other makes them want to kill themselves, so they did not die for an evil reason. I think that the whole play stems from the power and influence of love because it is about different aspects of love. It includes physical love. This is shown at the beginning of the play in the conversation between Sampson and Gregory, where they talk about virginity. They are boasting about who is more sexually active:
“Me they will feel while I am able to stand; and tis
known I am a pretty piece of flesh.”
Act 1 Scene 1 Line 29
Another aspect of love that Shakespeare writes about is the love between Romeo and Rosaline. This love is only from one person in the relationship, Romeo. It is more of an obsession than love, because Rosaline does not actually love Romeo and she does not care about him. We never see her in the play because she is only there to show Romeo’s infatuation, and the different types of love that he experiences. His obsession is shown when he wakes up early thinking about her:
“A right good markman! And she’s fair I love.”
Act 1 Scene 1 Line 204
This love is different from the love he has for Juliet later in the play because here he describes Rosaline as just beautiful. His description of his love for Juliet is much more detailed – he compares Juliet to the sun, and metaphorically describes Juliet’s eyes as stars.
The love between Romeo and Mercutio is different side of love. This is Philos love, which is love between friends, and is particularly expressed when Tybalt accidentally kills Mercutio, and Romeo decides to take revenge.
“And fir-ey’d fury be my conduct now!”
Act 3 Scene 1 Line 124
Romeo is extremely angry at this point and is not thinking straight. Romeo loves Mercutio so much that he is willing to take Tybalt’s life for him. He also forgets the fact that Tybalt is his wife’s cousin.
I think that the truest love is between Romeo and Juliet. At first, the love between them is lust. This is shown when they first see each other. When he sees Juliet, Romeo says:
“Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!
So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows.”
Act 1 Scene 5 Line 46-47
This means that Juliet’s beauty is too intense for the earth, and she stands out like a white dove in a crowd of black crows. Here, Shakespeare has made Romeo describe Juliet in a much more complex way than he describes Rosaline.
Romeo also shows lust and also love at first sight when he says:
“Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!
For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.”
Act 1 Scene 5 Line 51-52
This means that Romeo feels more lust here than he did for Rosaline, and he thinks that his lust is true love, because his emotions are powerful. This lust is so extreme that Romeo and Juliet get married.
The lust soon develops into love because Juliet describes Romeo as not only her lover but her friend as well:
“Art thou gone so? Love, lord, ay husband, friend!”
Act 3 Scene 5 line 43
The fact that Juliet describes Romeo as her “friend” tells us that Juliet is in love with Romeo’s personality. This is true love because Juliet not only is attracted to Romeo’s looks but is also at ease with his company.
The play also tells us what others think of love. At the beginning of the play, before Tybalt dies, Old Capulet thought that Juliet should marry someone she loves and have a good marriage. He tells this to Paris and tells him to catch her eye. I think that he wants Juliet to find true love because his own marriage was rushed and turned sour. However, after Tybalt is dead, Capulet arranges for Juliet to marry Paris. This is because he thinks that he and Lady Capulet have run out of time to encourage Juliet to meet someone, now that Tybalt is dead.
“Things have fall’n out, sir, so unluckily,
that we have had no time to move our daughter.”
Act 3 Scene 4 Lines 1-2
Capulet deeply cares for his daughter because he wants her to experience life before something as unlucky as death could occur.
During Shakespeare’s time, people believed that women had less status than men. In many of Shakespeare’s plays, he deals with disorder. Like many people in his time, they feared and disliked disorder. An example of preventing disorder in “Romeo And Juliet” is when Tybalt spots Romeo at the party (Act 1 Scene 5 Line 54). Capulet hears what Tybalt says but does not want to cause disorder by revealing him.
People in Shakespeare’s time also believed in fate and what the stars told them. In the play, fate showed that Romeo and Juliet’s relationship was doomed because their stars were crossed.