An Analysis of Romantic Love in Romeo and Juliet, a Play by William Shakespeare
Today the idea of romantic love is considered normal and acceptable to most people. It is ironic that when we think of romantic love, we think of Romeo and Juliet, the ideally romantic couple. William Shakespeare, author of the play Romeo and Juliet, gives us an outline of the absurdity of this thinking. This idea of romantic love results in destruction, disaster, and death. Shakespeare’s criticism of this type of love is shown by many examples throughout the play.
One of the ways that Shakespeare criticizes Romeo and Juliet’s idea of love is by showing how Romeo and Juliet are willing to go against tradition and parental guidance in order to pursue this love. When Juliet’s mother tells her that Juliet is ready to be married and could marry Paris, a perfect match for her who is wealthy, Juliet refuses and explains that she does not want to be married. Juliet is already thirteen years old, a perfect age to be married. By refusing, Juliet is putting herself first, rather than listening to her parents who would like her to be married, and not only that but she is the perfect age where many other girls were getting married. Traditionally she would be getting married by now.
In the play Lady Capulet’s view of love is based on materialism, while Juliet’s is more about her happiness. Today love is more towards Juliet’s view, but in that time, Lady Capulet’s thinking was normal. It was traditional to get married at that age, and even younger, and by Juliet refusing, she is not following tradition. In this quote, “I’ll look to like if looking liking move: but no more deep will I endart mine eye than your consent gives it strength to make it fly.” Juliet appears to be very mature for her age, which she is, and she decides that she can make her own decisions and while her decisions may seem rational to the reader, we have to understand that this takes place in a different time, when it is unlikely to refuse a marriage and to not listen to your elders. By refusing to marry a man that would please her family, Juliet shows that she is willing to refuse her parents wishes, while also going against tradition to pursue her own selfish wishes.
Another example of Shakespeare criticizing this notion of romantic love is by having Romeo and Juliet break rules and pursue ideas that could potentially result in the deaths of others. Even after learning that Juliet is a Capulet, his family’s only foe, Romeo jumps over the boundary wall around the Capulet’s home to go back and see her again. By doing this Romeo is knowingly breaking the rules of both families and making way for more rule-breaking and pursuing dangerous ideas in the future. At a time like this, most young men would have tried to steer clear of this situation in order to avoid more conflict in the future, but Romeo does not, thereby starting the domino effect of breaking rules and making way for more conflict.
“Can i go forward when my heart is here? Turn back, dull earth, and find thy center out.” (2.1, 1-2) In this quote, Romeo has just left the party at the Capulet’s home, where he was not supposed to be, and has just made the decision to jump over the boundary wall to go back and see Juliet. He claims that he is in love with her after just meeting her for the first time. Romeo still decides to go back even though he knows that there are rules stating that if Capulets and Montagues are ever caught fighting in Verona again, they would be punished with death.
He knows that if he gets caught with Juliet he would start a fight between the two familes, therefore putting their lives in danger, yet he still pursues this selfish idea of romantic love at first sight with Juliet. This is selfish of Romeo because not only is he breaking rules for his own hopes and dreams, he is doing it with the knowledge that he is risking the lives of his family, and his newly found true love’s family. The moment Romeo jumps over the boundary wall of the Capulet’s property, he is starting the domino effect of the rule breaking about to come, just so that he can pursue this idea of romantic love with Juliet.
One more way that Shakespeare criticizes Romeo and Juliet’s selfish pursuit of romantic love is by ending the play with a pile of dead bodies, thereby showing the consequences of their selfishness. By Romeo and Juliet breaking rules and dishonoring their families and traditions, they created a conflicted future for themselves that could’ve potentially ended in many people dying. Shakespeare decided to end with many people dying to show the consequences of their selfish acts, thereby showing that he is critical of this type of love.
Through many examples in the play, Romeo and Juliet put the lives of many others in danger, just to be able to share this idea of romantic love with each other. There are times in books when characters put other character’s lives at risk, but not always does it necessarily follow through. In the play Romeo and Juliet, from the beginning Shakespeare shows Romeo and Juliet putting the lives of others in danger, and then follows through with these acts by ending the play in the outcome we knew could have resulted from the beginning, with the risks they were willing to take. By ending the play with many deaths, Shakespeare is able to emphasize his criticism of his notion of romantic love and what its extreme consequences might be. When passions, such as romantic love, are allowed to rule people, Shakespeare was able to show what can happen.
Shakespeare shows how he is critical of Romeo and Juliet’s idea of love in many ways. One of the ways he shows this is by showing how Romeo and Juliet are willing to go against their parents and traditions just so that they can pursue this notion of love,although it goes completely against their parent’s morals. Another way Shakespeare shows how he is critical, is by showing the reader how Romeo and Juliet pursue dangerous ideas and break many rules by being together, which jeopardizes the lives of many others. A third way that Shakespeare shows his criticism is by ending the play with a pile of dead bodies. By doing this Shakespeare is showing everything that could have potentially happened from this idea of love that Romeo and Juliet decided to pursue.
Writing this essay made me truly understand that writers do not always write about what they agree with or believe in, but are much of the time trying to make a point about their beliefs. My thesis shows that Shakespeare was actually critical of Romeo and Juliet’s love although he did write this play. He disagrees with things that they did even though he wrote them doing that. Shakespeare did this to portray a message showing his beliefs, which in this case, is him being critical of their notion of romantic love. By writing this play, Shakespeare intended to wake people up to real life and explain that you should stick to what your parents tell you, and to follow the rules even if your heart says something different. Shakespeare is sending the message to the reader to follow your brain, not your heart.
Throughout the whole play, Romeo and Juliet know from the beginning that they are doing wrong and that their actions could potentially result in the deaths of others, but continue down this road of destruction. By the end of the play, Shakespeare shows that everything that could possibly turn out bad from this relationship did turn out bad. In William Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet, he criticizes this love by showing how Romeo and Juliet are willing to go against tradition and their parental guidance to pursue this love, by having them pursue ideas that are dangerous and could result in the deaths of others, and by ending the play with a pile of dead bodies.