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Romeo and Juliet -Comparing Different Attitudes Towards Love and Marriage

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Romeo and Juliet -Comparing Different Attitudes Towards Love and Marriage

In the Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” different characters attitudes towards love and marriage are pivotal in contributing towards the play’s tragic events.

The chorus opens the play with a reference to Fate, and describes the lovers as: “A pair of star-crossed lovers”. This suggests that the fate who determines the characters lives and this sense of pre-determines doom echoes throughout the play. Even Romeo and Juliet met each other by a prediction of stars and fate. The main protagonists feel the operation of Fate behind his or her actions. Romeo fears that fate is working against him, as he goes to the Capulet Masque: “I fear to early for my mind misgives / Some consequence yet hanging in the stars / Shall bitterly begin his fearful date”. Here Romeo actually believes in Fate and that all that “this fearful date” is foretold by the stars and predetermined by Fate. The alliterated “mind misgives” shows that the dream has been brought by Fate hence Shakespeare tries to suggest that but he cannot stop himself from progressing towards his own tragic end and his attendance of the Capulet Masque is the first step towards fulfilling that destiny.

There can be no doubt that Romeo’s rashness and suddenness throughout the play lead to the tragedy at the end. At the start of the play Shakespeare presents Romeo as an Elizabethan lover, as a person who is impetuous and quick in his passions. His father comments on his grief stricken son at the initial start of the play: “Many a morning hath he there be seen / with tears augmenting the fresh morning’s dew”. His father Montague is worried about Romeo and he uses a natural image to reflect Romeo’s unnatural and exaggerated feelings towards Rosaline. Romeo’s attitude reflects that of the courtly lover vainly attempting and ensnare the attentions of an unattainable lover. However, it is thus the same extremity of behaviour that later defines his relationship with Juliet.

There is no doubt that Romeo is very passionate about love that this intensity plays a role in the tragedy. When in love with Rosaline, Romeo is very subdued and depressed. "Under love's heavy burden do I sink." When Romeo speaks of his love to Rosaline and he expresses how unhappy he is in love. Significantly, Romeo is reasonably young and inexperienced in life and so he is easily confused by love. This confusion towards love is shown in Act 1 Scene one by him using oxymoronic phrases, such as “bright smoke” and “cold fire” which reflect the exaggerated artificially of his love as well as the inner confusion he experiences.

Romeo soon falls out of love with Rosaline, however and as soon as he sees Juliet it is love at first sight, which is alive, real and reciprocated. Love is therefore an inconstant and extreme emotion, according to Shakespeare. His new found love "So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows." Juliet represents the white dove that is among black crows. This shows us that although Romeo thinks he is wise on the subject of love his inexperience and immaturity shines through because he is always falling in and out of love. When Romeo meets Juliet for the first time the first fourteen lines, which they exchange, are written in sonnet form. This use of religious imagery adds a spiritual dimension and shows the more serious nature of Romeo’s love. This is suggested by “If I profane with my unworthiest hand / This holy shrine, the gentle sun is this, / My lips two blushing pilgrims, ready stand / To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss”. Religions imagery reflects the depth of feeling despite the swiftness of his love. It is also ironic that he is using the spiritual language to reflect his new founded love for Juliet, a love that is based on profound physical attention.

Romeo’s intensity of feeling is now reciprocated and he uses images of light to convey the bright beauty and heavenly status of Juliet. Hence he describes Juliet as “the sun”, and himself walking on the east toward this sun despite being far away, he is blinded by the beauty of Juliet: “Juliet is the sun / Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon”. Furthermore, in this scene, when he is in the Capulet’s orchard he looks at the balcony where Juliet stands and looks up at her. This shows us that he worships her and portrays her as his only love, “Juliet is the sun”.

Romeo is also quite hasty and impetuous in love and marriage and this equally can be seen as a contribution to the final tragedy. His moods change quickly, and he falls in love at first sight when he meets Juliet, marries her next day and revenges Mercutio’s death by slaying Tybalt. The language he uses is invariably hyperbolic – “that vast shore vast with farthest sea”, which suggests that Romeo sometimes misjudges the situation

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