Attitudes Towards Love in Romeo and JulietWhat are the attitudes toward love in this play?

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shaketeach's profile pic

shaketeach | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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In Romeo and Juliet, you can't talk about love without talking about hate.  Shakespeare loved to deal with contrasting and opposing ideas dramatically.

He explores various kinds of love through this contrast.

Teenage love has baffled teenagers and adults alike since the beginning of time.  Since romantic love is a new emotion, it is difficult for all concerned.  Is Romeo truly in love at the beginning of the play or does he just think he is in love?  He seems to enjoy the self indulgences that accompanies his unrequited love.

With Juliet, he seems to experience something quite different.  Is there such a thing as love at first sight?  In Romeo and Juliet there is.  From the moment they meet, the are in sync.  Shakespeare ingeniously accomplishes this by having them share a sonnet.  Romeo begins it and Juliet picks right up on it.  Not only does she pick up on it, she continues the metaphor Romeo started.

Since neither Mercutio or Benvolio have ever been in love, they mock their friend.  Or as Romeo says in Act II, scene 2, "He jests at scars that never felt a wound."

As for parental love, we see two teenagers and their relationship with their parents.  Both set of parents seem to want only the best for their children.

In Act I, scene 1, Romeo's parents are concerned about his odd behavior and ask Benvolio to find out the cause.  Like most teenagers, the last person they want to consult about an emotional problem are the parents.  Instead he confides in Friar Laurence.

As for Juliet and her parents, it would appear that they want only the best for their daughter.  Marriages were arranged by parents.  A match with Partis is desirable for many reasons, he is a member of the Prince's family (a step up socially), he is rich, and he is young and well liked.  He seems to be perfect.

Lord Capulet in the beginning, encourages Paris to take his time and gain Juliet's love.   Tybalt's death changes all of that.  By moving up the wedding, Lord Capulet is hoping to replace Juliet's grief with joy.  He is a father looking out for what he believes to be the best interest of his daughter.  Her defiance is unheard of in that world.  Simply, children obeyed their parents, no questions asked, no arguments.  Lord Capulet seems to over react but we must understand their world in order to truly understand what is going on.

Hatred has divided these two families and the two younger lovers, Romeo and Juliet.

In this respect I'll thy assistant be;

For this alliance may so happy prove
To turn your households' rancor to pure love.


cldbentley's profile pic

cldbentley | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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In Romeo and Juliet, many attitudes toward love are represented.  It is this variety in outlooks that allows Shakespeare to create certain events and relationships.  Had every character had the same attitude regarding the idea of love, there would have been no secret romance; if Romeo and Juliet believed love was unimportant, as Juliet's mother (and father, later in the play) did, they would not have given their lives for their relationship.

Romeo and Juliet are both hopeless romantics who believe that life is (literally) not worth living without their loved one.  The depth of their feeling for one another drives each to his or her death.  On the other hand, Mercutio seems to feel that love is a joke, as evidenced in the way he teases Romeo.  Lord and Lady Capulet, despite Lord Capulet's earliest talk with County Paris, do not care whether their daughter is in love with her husband, which is an attitude reflective of their own marriage.  Friar Lawrence looks at the relationship of Romeo and Juliet as a solution to a problem; he cares for them, especially Romeo, but finds value in the marriage of the two as the potential source of peace between the Montague and Capulet households.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Outside of romantic love in Romeo and Juliet, there are all kinds of love demonstrated in the play.  Romeo's parents love him and want to know how best to help him through his depression at the beginning of the play. (His mother even dies, apparently, because her son has been banished.)  Benvolio obviously loves his friend Romeo, as he attempts to both lure him out of his "Rosaline funk" and save him from capture after he has murdered Tybalt.  Juliet's father does love her, at least at first, when he tells Paris she is too young and she must be in love before he will give her away in marriage.  The Nurse does love Juliet, though she is fairly irresponsible as a counselor to her young charge.  All kinds of love exist in this play.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Is Shakespeare presenting love in all his scenes?  At times there seems a presentation of love that is not really love.  Romeo's unrequited love is a sentiment rather than an emotion, a feeling that finds comfort in antithetical conceits about its misery.  On the other hand, his love for Juliet is an emotion rather than any intellectual thought; it is a spontaneous reaction, sensual and impetuous.

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