Romeo and Juliet has become ‘the’ love story; the historical epitome that has stayed culturally relevant for centuries influencing many, from The Lion King II to High School Musical. The theme of love is displayed in a manner of ways. With its notoriety for romantic passion, the infatuation between Romeo and Juliet takes a strong standing in the play yet, it can be interpreted as risky teenage drama through a modern lens. However, romantic love is not the only type of affection that exists. Romeo shares a close relationship with his friends, choosing to spend significant time with them. One of the most conflicting loves in the play could be that of Juliet and her parental figures, especially with her father. Love comes in many forms and each relationship may use it in a unique way in Romeo and Juliet.
Comparing a couple to Romeo and Juliet conveys said couple are destined to be but, separated by feuding sides. The other belief being that Romeo and Juliet’s ‘love’ is only one that was fueled with adolescent hormones. It is evident that both Juliet and Romeo wholeheartedly believed that they themselves were ‘in love’, “My love as deep; the more I give to thee”. As the brain rapidly develops in the teenage years, the amygdala, responsible for impulses and emotional control, follows behind. This contributes to the rashness that is associated with Romeo and Juliet’s romances. Experiencing the adventure of teenage hood, Romeo and Juliet’s blossoming relationship is similar to ‘romances’ that are seen in the modern adolescent population. Being stereotyped as quick to jump into romantic endeavours and teenage romance being a trope in media. This aspect of teenage behaviour could be an effect of romanticisation of love or ‘TV Love’. Having a romantic subplot has become the default state for many forms of media. This creates a mentality of having a relationship into a compulsory accessory and idolizes love. Consequently, this implies having a romantic partner will ultimately bring all the fulfilment in life one would wish for. These ideas are often influential in how young people view love with limited experience in their own life, pining for an idealized story.
Although, Romeo and Juliet’s relationship could be an after effect of ‘T.V. Love’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ was written in 1589. During The cultural landscape of Shakesphere’s time, debate on whether marriage should be for societal leverage or love often collided. Which perspective Shakesphere agrees with is unclear, as six people did die within the events of the play. This could indicate that marrying for love is foolish or that forcing others to conform will only lead to tragedy. Shakesphere’s own marriage could also be read as rocky or a loving one itself, further making Shakespeare’s beliefs nebulous. Ideas of love could spread through plays and poems, as they were sources of entertainment for all classes. Perhaps, Romeo and Juliet’s love could only exist in the universe they are in, an Elizabeth play. A story to ride waves of debate for centuries yet, touch people’s emotionally uneducated hearts.
Although romantic love creates the fame of the text, platonic love exists in the background. Romeo’s more prominent friends have contrasting personalities creating a complementary dynamic between them. Mercutio is characterized as quick to temper, risky and humorous, while Benvolio is portrayed as calm and the voice of reason. Mercutio duels Tybalt with the Montagues, exhibiting loyalty to his friends, even when his relation to the Prince gives him motivation to stay out of the argument. Once Mercutio dies, Romeo instantly loses his love-struck personality with the loss of one of his best friends and murders Tybalt in revenge. In comparison, Benvolio tries to be cautious in the eventful days of the play, not wanting him or his friends to die, albeit his attempts were in vain. Nevertheless, Benvolio revealed Romeo’s involvement to the prince, “There lies the man, slain by young Romeo, That slew thy kinsman, brave Mercutio”, which lead to his banishment. As Mercutio is dying he calls, “Help me into some house, Benvolio, Or I shall faint.” as such, Benvolio witnessed his friend dying. After such a traumatic event he may have felt resentful at the events that have just unfolded but even filled with emotions he tells Romeo to run, “the prince will doom thee death, If thou art taken: hence, be gone, away!”. Benvolio’s fate leaves him alive with his friends dead, the remorse he must feel for their deaths must be immeasurable.
Alike Romeo and Juliet’s relationship, newer perceptions include seeing some of these friendships as homosexual relationships, leading to shipping and an overrall fandom. Looking at the statistics on ‘Archive Of Our Own’, 2 out of the 4 top ships are between the friends, both consisting of Mercutio . It is a popular theory that the character Mercutio is gay, especially with lines like,” Mercutio, thou consort’st with Romeo,—”. Benvolio also has the habit of always referring to Mercutio as good Mercutio or brave Mercutio. Members of the LGBTQ+ community often relate to Mercutio and his personality. This interpretation could also be wishful thinking as a story with slight homosexual subtext seems unlikely for the era. Though Shakesphere did have a wife, his sexuality has still been questioned for decades. Multiple historians say he was bisexual based on a series of sonnets he wrote which pined after, presumbly, another man, while other disagree. The Elizabethan view towards homosexuals was that it was not the love that was forbidden but the act of sodomy that was illegal. Regardless if Shakesphere wrote the characters in for that purpose, their bond is substantial and meaningful detail of them even when it is not a substantial component of the story.
Juliet’s family takes on a considerable role in the story, especially as the audience watches Juliet struggle to leave her father’s control. Early on, Capulet expresses desire for Juliet to make her own choices and not to marry her so young, “My child is yet a stranger in the world;”. Seemingly regarding his prior sentiment, he yells at Juliet to marry Paris, even using violent threats “Or I will drag thee on a hurdle thither.”, showing a situation reminiscent of an abusive household. This 180 flip in personality not only is surprising but pulls into question if he truly loves Juliet. Perhaps he believes stems the wedding will bring her delight but once it is evident that is not the case he clearly disregards her distress, “Or never after look me in the face. Speak not, reply not, do not answer me.” It may also be relevant to look at Juliet’s age. Juliet is turning fourteen soon, “She hath not seen the change of fourteen years; Let two more summers wither in their pride,” which would not be an acceptable age to marry today. In Shakesphere’s time, 14 was the age a female could get legally married without her parent’s consent, even if this would lead to being disowned. Aristocrats would also marry girls off young because it was believed that the womb must be ‘filled’ for the female’s health. It was not uncommon for working class women to marry after the age of 18. Forcing a girl into marriage was still frowned upon to a degree and seen only as a last resort, a real father would do this to a daughter they love.
Juliet’s mother is another case, being only around 12 when she got married and seeing Capulet’s temperament when he threatens Juliet, her life would not have been uncomplicated. When Lord Capulet starts screaming at Juliet, Lady seems to try to stop him for a moment “Fie, fie! what, are you mad?” before becoming seemingly indifferent and silent. She still dies of heartbreak showing she did care for her daughter deeply. Her position would not let her have the motherly bond with Juliet, who would have been an important companion in her life.Instead of her actual mother Juliet seems to have the Nurse as the motherly figure instead. The Nurse talks about males with her, keeps her secret and still unconditionally supports her. With her own biological child dead and having raised Juliet she is more a parent than her father is. Juliet’s family is troubled but she still has people who love her.
Human emotions and representations of them can be very complicated. From every type of love, romantic, platonic and familial. The teenage relationship between Romeo and Juliet could be a byproduct of hormones and media representation. While Romeo and his friends have a close enough bond that they would die for each other, it is never the focus of the story. Juliet lived in a troubled household exploring how her family loved each other yet failed to do the best for each other. Romeo and Juliet has withstood the test of time and the character’s relationships reflect the complex nature of love itself.