Love is just one word, but has a variety of meanings in the English language, from something that gives little pleasure (“I loved that movie”) to something one would die for such as patriotism or pair bonding. I view love as a feeling of deepened affection between two people. Oxford’s dictionary describes love as “an intense feeling of affection, an emotion or an emotional state”. The Greek also have separate words to describe different types of love.
‘Eros’, which translates to physical/sexual love, ‘Agape’, which translates to religious love and ‘Filial’, which translates to maternal or family love. One could argue that that William Shakespeare explicitly contradicts the dictionary’s definition of love in Romeo & Juliet by representing it in a combination of good and evil, eradicating the fact that love has no evil or violent side. In William Shakespeare’s Romeo ; Juliet, different types and different interpretations of love are inscribed within each unique scene within the play.
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Also different characters and their language contain these inscriptions, each uniquely put there by William Shakespeare. Before Romeo and Juliet are even introduced properly in the play, we can see that their journey through love was destined and it was going to be special. “A pair of star-cross’d lovers”. This shows that people believed their future was written in the stars because in Shakespeare’s time, people usually believed in destiny and fate.
But when observe this line circumspectly, we will find out that the use of the word ‘star-cross’d’ gives an unambiguous intimation that it was such a bad idea from the start for them to fall in love because ‘star-cross’d’ is directly associated with negativity; i. e. ill-fated, unlucky and doomed, which is quite what Romeo and Juliet were from the beginning. At the beginning of the play, one of the first themes of love is intertwined with the theme of violence. “My naked weapon is out, quarrel, I will back thee”. This quotation is used to create a sexual innuendo.
Shakespeare creates a contrasting image because the word ‘naked’ suggests romance, while the word ‘weapon’ suggests violence, which connects to the theme of love fused with violence. Although Romeo and Juliet is a serious play with absorbing events and themes, Shakespeare chose to begin this remarkable play with a scene that momentarily distracts the viewer from the real tragedy that is about to befall Romeo and Juliet. An additional theme of combined love is the theme of love fused with evil. This can be said because Romeo and Juliet are only able to meet at night.
In most stories or plays, almost everything evil or associated with evil occur in the night, so the fact that Romeo and Juliet are only allowed or are only able to meet at night facilitates the fact that although their love is destined, it is also foretold that it will end in tears and sadness. It could also make the audience become scared for Romeo and Juliet because when they meet in the night, it seems as though there is a form of evil lurking somewhere in the dark around them, ready to pounce and create devastation on their relationship.
This is quite usual for Shakespeare to create this image because in all of Shakespeare’s plays, night is usually associated with violence. For example in Macbeth, King Duncan was killed at night. Also this was common in Shakespearian times because people where usually superstitious. However, despite the fact that meeting in the night could connote evil, it could also suggest romance. This can be alleged because most of the times when couples congregate at night, it usually means that are about to be engaged with romance, and not evil. One theme of love that is shown in Romeo and Juliet is high status love.
When Romeo and Juliet first get acquainted, they address themselves with language that suggests they have a special connection. They talk to each other in sonnets, finish each other’s sentences and speak in iambic pentameter which suggests they have a quite a high status love. It could also show that they respect each other dearly. Yet another theme of love that links in with the language they use to address themselves is religious and spiritual. Romeo uses hyperbole language when he first meets Juliet, and talks about sinning and ‘Holy Shrines’.
“Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged”. This line could suggest that Romeo thinks Juliet as a Goddess that has the ability to purge sins with a kiss from her lips. The use of the word ‘purged’, shows that Romeo truly believes in Juliet’s ‘power’ to erase his ‘sins’. However, despite the fact that Romeo believes in Juliet or their language show that they have a special connection, one could argue that all Romeo is after is the sex. This brings in another interpretation of love in the play: ‘Eros’ or physical love.
Although Romeo appears to have fallen completely in love with Juliet, certain points during the play conjure a bubble of doubt in the viewer’s mind that maybe all Romeo wants is her body. “See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand! O, that I were a glove upon that hand, that I might touch that cheek! “. Seemingly the most famous scene in the whole play, ‘the balcony scene’, Romeo here, is watching Juliet from a hiding place. In this scene, Romeo is fantasising about becoming the glove upon Juliet’s hand so he can feel her face, which shows he is quite desperate just to feel her body. “My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss”. Also, when they first meet, the first thing Romeo says to her is about kissing her, which might portray Romeo in a desperate manner because they haven’t even met properly and he is already lusting after the flesh of Juliet, which again shows that all Romeo is after is her body and he really doesn’t love Juliet. In the end, Romeo killed himself over Juliet, and ambiguously, Juliet did the same. Due to these events that fulfilled the prophecies that steered the paths of Romeo and Juliet, anyone can argue that the love they shared was unquestionably and doubtlessly genuine, without any issues.
However, hard evidence also points to the direction of the opposite opinion because one could also argue that Romeo never really loved Juliet because, during the play he perceptibly showed that he loved Rozaline, but also says that Juliet is more appealing than Rozaline, so the argument here is that Romeo took advantage of Juliet’s prettiness, age, and even her gullibility and used her to get over Rozaline, then in the end, when all was lost he couldn’t take it anymore and committed suicide.
Also, in act 3:1, Romeo is irritated at Juliet apparently for being too beautiful, and that her beauty has made him effeminate. “O sweet Juliet, Thy beauty hath made me effeminate And in my temper soften’d valour’s steel!. I think that Romeo and Juliet’s love is questionable, but genuine. This is because as Oxfords dictionary defines love as ” an intense feeling affection, an emotion or an emotional state”, nothing defines an intense feeling of affection quite like committing suicide over the one you truly love from the bottom of your heart.