The Different Definitions of Love in Romeo and Juliet
How it works
Love is a feeling similar to sadness, anger, or happiness. Mentioning these adjectives helps the people around you understand your emotions. They accurately describe your feelings, but love, on the other hand, is often explained as an indescribable emotion. Love supposedly comes in all shapes and sizes, yet people are often directed towards one kind of love. There are many different definitions and types of love, as shown in William Shakespeare’s play,”Romeo and Juliet”, a drama about a pair of star-crossed lovers caught in a forbidden love.
Shakespeare narrates the adventures of these young lovers, who strive to be together forever. While Romeo and Juliet are the play’s main characters, there are many different definitions of love shown by surrounding characters. This presents readers with a variety of perspectives on love, beyond the stereotype commonly portrayed.
Experiencing love at a young age, as Romeo and Juliet did, is often easier said than done. Theirs is a classic romantic love, in which they would do anything to be together. The depth of their love is revealed through their conversations. In Act 2, Scene 2, Romeo states, “O speak again, bright angel, for thou art as glorious to this night… as a winged messenger of heaven” (lines 29-31). In the same scene, Juliet declares, “Be sworn my love, and I’ll no longer be a Capulet” (lines 38-39). These lines convey their love for each other, with Romeo comparing her to a bright angel and Juliet willing to forfeit her name to be with Romeo.
Although the couple is usually the sole focus of the play, other perspectives of love exist within the tragedy. The feuding families of the Montagues and Capulets exemplify a love for hatred, pride taken in an ancient grudge. The feud runs so deep in the families that even the servants harbor mutual animosity. As stated in Act 1, Scene 1, a Capulet servant, Sampson, says to a Montague servant, “No sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir, but I bite my thumb, sir” (lines 51-52). This scene demonstrates the deep-seated hatred between the families, and their love for this hatred, as the servants choose to engage in conflict despite not being required to communicate at all. It is further evident when Tybalt, a Capulet, challenges Romeo to a duel. As stated in Act 3, Scene 1, Tybalt declares, “Boy, this shall not excuse the injuries that thou hast done me. Therefore, turn and draw” (lines 67-68). This indicates their love for hatred; Tybalt, defending his family’s honor, chooses to fight Romeo, even though no one remembers why the families are feuding. It shows that both families reveled in their mutual animosity, using it to provoke one another.
In addition, another type of love demonstrated in the play is a friendly love between the kinsmen of the Montague family: Benvolio and Romeo. When Romeo is upset over his “first love,” he turns to Benvolio for advice. In Act 1, Scene 1, Romeo tells Benvolio, “Griefs of mine own lie heavy in my breast/ Which thou wilt propagate to have it pressed with more of thine. This love that thou hast shown/ Doth add more grief to too much of mine own.” (Lines 193-196) This was a direct response to Benvolio expressing that Romeo’s sadness and griefs were also his own. This demonstrates their friendly love because Benvolio was always willing to give Romeo advice and wants what’s best for him. Another familiar kind of love that some people go through is a one-sided love. This love is clearly shown between Paris and Juliet. Paris is the man who asks for Juliet’s hand in marriage. In Act 5, Scene 3, Paris dies at the hand of Romeo and he states, “Open the tomb; lay me with Juliet.” (Line 73) This quote is towards the end of the play, when Juliet “dies” to not marry Paris. Even in death, Paris wants to be with Juliet, which shows his love for her. Juliet, however, does not return this feeling; she loves Romeo.
Furthermore, the love expressed within the play shows similarities between each character’s kind of love. The romantic love expressed by Romeo and Juliet resembles the friendly love between Benvolio and Romeo. These relationships are alike because while the young lovers establish an emotional connection and get married, the friendly love between Benvolio and Romeo express understanding of each other’s pain. This emphasizes the emotional connection on both levels and the want for what is best for the other. With similarities, however, come differences in the types of love expressed in the play. The hate-filled love between the feuding families differs from the unreciprocated love between Paris and Juliet. Both families choose pride over resolving their grudge, their feeling of hate is mutual. Paris and Juliet’s type of love differs, Paris gives all his love to her, but she does not return his love in kind.
In summation, love is often perceived under one definition: an intense feeling of deep attraction. Many kinds of love exist, not only in the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, but also in the real world. This play gives readers a window to observe the varying definitions of love shown by the characters. A classic romantic love shown by a pair of rebellious teenagers versus the love for hate expressed by feuding families illustrates that life should not be viewed in just one perception; things should be further analyzed to open a world full of possibilities. Who would’ve thought that the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet could lay the foundation of the stereotypical love everyone searches for.