In the play Romeo and Juliet written in the 1600s by William Shakespeare displays conflicting attitudes to love. In his play he demonstrates how there are many more definitions of love which gives the play more complexity and helps add intensity to the audience. In Shakespeare’s day men and women were expected to flirt with one another, it was a regular and frequent act that would show a man confidence and a women’s fun side. The idea of courtly love was a European tradition and there were rules for every flirtatious male and female to follow.
These rules applied mainly for men because usually the female is unattainable or married, usually of a much higher class in most cases. Another stage of courtly love is where the lover is consumed by there melancholy because they cannot have they’re man or lady, and they write poems for their chosen one. The lover become possessed by their own constant thoughts about there love and cannot escape from it. There are several couples in the play that fall into the category of courtly love; for example Romeo’s love for Rosaline at the start of the play or Paris’ love for Juliet.
What Is Romeo’s Attitude Toward Love?
Shakespeare uses the work of a poet called Petrach in the play. Petrach began his work in the 1300s, he wrote a particular type of poem which portrays all the characteristics of courtly love these were called Petrachian sonnets and Shakespeare uses these sonnets in the play and mainly in the poem Romeo writes to Rosaline confessing his love for her. Courtly love involves a lot of joy and pain and Romeo experiences the painful side in the first few scenes of the play when he is consumed by his love for Rosaline. In act one, scene one, Romeo is talking with Benvolio; Romeo uses oxymorons like ‘O brawling love’ and ‘O loving hate’.
These words contradict each other giving the audience a sense of Romeo’s feelings and emotions. Romeo is possessed by love but is also scared of it. He is controlled by his emotions and shuts himself away by day and only leaves his house at night. ‘His chamber shuts up his windows, locks fair daylight out’. This was said by Montague to Benvolio as Montague is complaining about how he never sees his own son. In a way, Montague is crying out for help, he knows that Benvolio is wise and he plays the role of peace maker. Romeo speaks to Benvolio and Romeo confesses his love for Rosaline.
He tells Benvolio about how it made him so sad, full of sorrow. Courtly love is also a factoring the relationship of Paris and Juliet. In Act one, Scene two, Paris is talking to Capulet and asks his permission to take his daughter’s hand in marriage. Paris, however, doesn’t know Juliet; they haven’t met, and his love for her may be based on her appearance. Because Paris loves Juliet from a distance Capulet is unsure about handing her over to Paris straight away but he invites Paris to the Capulet ball. At the ball nothing really changes.
Paris dances with Juliet and flirts a little however his love for her remains false as he has only known her for a little while. Another type of love portrayed in the play is unromantic love, love that is related to romance such as brotherly love or motherly love. In Shakespeare’s time period men and women often had a lot of free time on their hands, especially people of an upper class. This time was spent on writing romantic poetry. In the play Capulet and Paris talk about Juliet marrying without consulting her personally, here Shakespeare manages to follow rules and conventions and here it is the conventions of parents.
In this situation to Paris love is not an issue. He wants to be married to a beautiful girl and Capulet wants his daughter to be married into a wealthy family. Talking about Juliet’s age does not matter to Paris because he states in his conversation with Capulet that young girls make “mothers and maids”. “Younger than she are happy mothers maid”. In the 17th centaury this was the attitude to marriage and females and sexism seems to be a common thing that happened then. This attitude to love and sexism in the play gives a clue to Shakespeare’s life and what was common and acceptable then.
The Nurses relationship with Juliet is of the Unromantic love variety. Juliet did not get love and affection from her mother at a young age because as the family is wealthy they can pay someone to do this for them. But the Nurse has always been there for Juliet, she speaks in a very different way to Juliet than Lady Capulet does. Lady Capulet speaks to Juliet in a very formal manor and Juliet replies as if she were her mother’s mistress. For example Juliet is address by her mother as ‘daughter’ ‘lady’ and ‘girl’
Also when Juliet is discussing her marriage plans with her father, Capulet is extremely forceful, he speaks in a very threatening way to Juliet which let the audience know that marriage in those days was maybe treated as more of a business arrangement. The opening scenes in the play explore a very crude attitude to love. In Act one scene one the servants are joking and bragging about how they are going to take the opposing families women and have sex with them. The servants demonstrate a raw opinion on love.
They continue to boast about sex and another servant says how he is going to ‘cut of their heads’ in other words cut of their maiden heads, take their virginity. Shakespeare reveals the men in the plays obsession with sex very openly, he does this because by creating a crude and rude factor in the play it appeals a lot to the audience, they found it both humorous and exciting. Also in the play Juliet is very the opposite when talking about sex and Romeo. I believe Shakespeare has taken a different approach to females’ attitudes toward sex to demonstrate how a female’s thoughts and priorities differ from males.
Shakespeare creates a huge contrast when talking about men and women and sex, maybe he does this to let the audience see how different relationships are made and broken. The idea of sex does also bring people together in the play as it provides a social subject for the characters to talk about ‘maids lie on their backs’. This proves that sexual love is not the strongest type of love as it is not a part of the Montague’s friendships. I believe Shakespeare has deliberately contradicted himself to create a mysterious effect in the play. True love is the final type of love shown in the play.
Although violence is a main factor in the play, so is the passionate love between Romeo and Juliet. Juliet does talk alone and does fantasize about her physical desire for Romeo however her feelings are not only controlled by lust but also by true love. The audience can tell how by the way both characters moods change when the two first meet. The way that they talk about each other is different to the way that they have spoken up to this point. Even when Romeo believes that his love for Rosaline is true he speaks as though he is in love but has not found love.
The words that Romeo uses to describe Rosaline do not compare to when he is describing Juliet he calls Rosaline ‘rich in beauty’ and ‘too fair’ notice that most of the words describing Rosaline mention her beauty and physical attributes but when Romeo is describing Juliet Shakespeare uses very strong imagery and empathy which allows the audience to explore in much more depth Romeo’s feelings, emotions and this new type of love. ‘My hearts dear love is set on rich Capulets daughter’ ‘I cannot live without my lady’.
The created imagery when describing Juliet sometimes links to religious things and is designed to create ceremonial pictures in the audience mind. This differs to the imagery created when Romeo is talking about Rosaline as later in the play Romeo and Juliet marry hence the religious links and imagery. In act two scenes two Romeo speaks in sonnet form and the scene reveals very open and beautiful poetry, it reveals the extent of Romeo and Juliet’s love for one another. The words that Romeo speaks often rhyme with Juliets this shows their compatibility and how they are a perfect couple in love. ‘Have saints not lips and holy palmers too?
‘O then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do:’ In conclusion I believe that when Shakespeare presents conflicting attitudes to love in different ways. Firstly he does this to create the effect of tension and humour for the audience. He creates this effect in many different ways, a different way for each type of love. I believe this play is so successful and the different attitudes to love come across very well because Shakespeare uses different techniques when writing for example creating heavy imagery linking to later plots when describing a physical appearance or creating humour by using crude comments with a sexual connotation.