Types of Love in 'Romeo and Juliet'

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The concept is famous in Disney movies, scientists today still struggle with identifying it, and for the lucky ones, it is first experienced the moment they reach safe arms. This concept is known as ‘love’ and in William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, love is made notorious in the tragedy of the play’s plot. While the romance between Romeo and Juliet is undeniably significant to the storyline, various types of love play their role as well. Through these different forms of love, Shakespeare manages to create an intriguing conflict arising in the play’s development.

In order to grasp the concept of love, the Oxford English Dictionary defines the term as “senses relating to affection and attachment”, and when that feeling is one-sided, it is considered unrequited love. Unrequited love appears as early as the first scene of Act I, the instance being Romeo and Rosaline. Romeo’s unrequited love for Rosaline marks the beginning of plot development, since his heartbroken state eventually leads him to his encounter with Juliet. This is depicted when Romeo expresses his sorrows about Rosaline to Benvolio, which Benvolio advises him to “examine other beauties” (I.i.224) and convinces him to attend the Capulet party in hopes of curing his unrequited love (I.ii.84-89). Another instance is Paris’ unrequited feelings for Juliet, which builds tension within the plot as he poses an obstacle for the couple and a rival to Romeo. This tension surfaces when Juliet’s arranged marriage to Paris causes her to fake her death, as she claims she finds suicide as a better alternative than marrying him (IV.i.77-88), stating, “O, bid me leap rather than marry Paris / From off the battlements of any tower” (IV.i.77-78). Additionally, Paris’ unrequited feelings guide him to a rivalry against Romeo, when he mourns Juliet’s death (V.iii.12-16) and engages in a duel with Romeo which ultimately ends with his demise. Despite the seldom appearance of unrequited love, it fulfills its role of arising conflict in the play.

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Shakespeare portrays familial love as another barrier in Romeo and Juliet’s relationship, pressuring the plot to turn on a happy end for the couple. Familial love is distinguished as the love between family, a prominent example would be between Juliet and her father, Lord Capulet. Initially, Lord Capulet displays his love for Juliet by informing Paris that his daughter is too young for marriage when Paris requests Juliet’s hand, he then proceeds to state, “But woo her, gentle Paris, get her heart/ My will to consent is but a part/ An she agree, within her scope of choice/ Lies my consent and fair according voice” (I.ii.16-20), claiming the option of marrying Paris is determined by Juliet’s feelings and not his own. However, Lord Capulet’s affection twists the plot when he forces Juliet to wed Paris despite her wishes against it due to her affair with Romeo. As a result, this sparks a heated argument between the two in Act III Scene 5 and only offers an additional reason for Juliet to fake her death. For Juliet, her familial love for the Capulets affects the play’s plot because it compels her to decide between familial love and romantic love, a crucial decision that eventually unravels the plot leading to its tragedy: the deaths of the star-crossed lovers.

Throughout the play, one major type of love is romantic as it contributes the greatest in terms of plot development. According to the Collins Dictionary, this form of love is “characterized by romance and involving sexual attraction”. The evident example being Romeo and Juliet, as their attraction for one another transpires countless conflicts throughout the course of the play. One instance is the lovers concealing their relationship from their respective families, going to great lengths such as marrying in secret in Act II Scene 6, despite Juliet’s engagement with Paris. Because their romantic love is incredibly overwhelming, they prioritize pursuing each other over their own values, even if it means defying their families, which causes the plot to develop further tension and suspense. Dark themes also arise in the plot following Romeo’s banishment when the couple ultimately seeks suicide if they cannot be reunited. For instance, the moment Romeo decided to poison himself in front of Juliet’s tomb upon hearing of her death, “Come, cordinal and not poison, go with me/ To Juliet’s grave; for there I must use thee” (V.i.85-86), followed by Juliet’s suicide after she discovers Romeo dead in her arms. In this scene, rather than escaping with the Friar, she wishes to stay, stating, “Go, get thee hence, for I will not away” (V.iii.160). Considering these events, romantic love ensues the growth of suspense in the play’s conflicts.

In ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Shakespeare accomplishes to illustrate an engaging series of conflicts using various types of love in the play. Although each form of love appears to contribute in varying amounts, whether to initiate tension, suspense, or simply advance the conflict, Shakespeare is able to present each type with a task in the play’s development. Any type of love can be an enigma, especially the romantic type, but is love a feasible explanation to drive others to suicide?

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Types of Love in ‘Romeo and Juliet’. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 19, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/types-of-love-in-romeo-and-juliet/
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Types of Love in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 15 [cited 2024 Apr 19]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/types-of-love-in-romeo-and-juliet/

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