Compare and contrast the ways Shakespeare and Orwell present forbidden love.

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Jacob Christiansen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Orwell's 1984 are both stories of forbidden love, among other things. 

In Shakespeare's play, the two young lovers are members of fighting families and they must escape the grip of their parents to be with each other. 

In Orwell's book, Winston and Julia live under the ever-watchful Big Brother. When they rebel and try to love each other as they want to, they are captured, separated, and tortured. 

In both stories, love comes as a rebellion. It is a defiant act to the powers that rule the characters' lives. Love is a political act. Romeo and Juliet defy their families' longstanding feuds. Winston and Julia defy the powerful Big Brother. 

Obviously, there are huge differences in plot between the books. But one of the biggest differences in the portrayal of forbidden love comes in the conclusion of both love stories. 

In Romeo and Juliet, the lovers end up killing themselves for the sake of their love. The famous "Thus with a kiss I die" (V.iii) marks Romeo's suicide at the sight of poor Juliet (who is actually only sleeping...whoops). When Juliet discovers Romeo, she plunges his dagger into her chest. For these two lovers, nothing is worse than the thought of living without the other. Their forbidden love can only have one of two conclusions: they will live together or they will die.

By contrast, in 1984 Winston gives in to his torture and asks the torturer to "Do it to Julia!" Forbidden love in this novel is broken, beaten by the powers that be. Unlike Romeo and Juliet, who carry their love to their deaths, Winston's love is undone by the torturers. 

In both stories, love leads to hardship and pain. In both stories, love is ended somehow--in Shakespeare by death and in Orwell by torture. But in Romeo and Juliet, love is something that is worth dying for. That does not seem to be Orwell's interpretation.