Compare the love that Romeo feels for Juliet with the love he felt for Rosaline in Romeo and Juliet.

Though modern interpretations of Romeo's feelings for Juliet in Romeo and Juliet are likely to be somewhat cynical, Romeo's love for Juliet is distinguished from his love for Rosaline by his willingness to marry her.

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While we might want to believe there is an ocean of difference between the love Romeo felt for Rosaline and the love he felt for Juliet, it is almost impossible to say that there is any difference at all.

Romeo is an impulsive adolescent who is in love with the idea of being in love. As the play opens, he pines away because Rosaline will not return his love. His father is so worried about him being up at night and asleep by day that he comes to Benvolio to find out what is going on. While Romeo agrees to go to the Capulet party, where Mercutio and Benvolio hope he will meet another girl, Romeo insists there could never, ever, ever possibly be another woman in the world for him.

That is, until he sets eyes on Juliet. At that point, Rosaline is completely forgotten, and Romeo is wholly in love with Juliet. The big difference between Rosaline and Juliet is not the quality of Romeo's love, but the quality of Juliet's response. While Rosaline rejected Romeo, Juliet falls in love with him.

The head-over-heels, all-or-nothing quality of Romeo's love for Juliet is very similar to what he expressed for Rosaline. It is difficult to know if it would have been any more substantial because the couple is only together forty-eight hours. The two hardly know each other, and we have no way of knowing if Romeo might not have fallen head over heels over another pretty girl a month or so after the marriage.

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Interestingly, Romeo's friends seem to suggest that Romeo falls in love a lot, and they do not appear to believe that his love for Juliet is enormously different from his love for Rosaline. Mercutio and Benvolio joke about Romeo's tendency to romanticize his obsessions; Benvolio says that Romeo's love is "blind," and Mercutio mocks Romeo's flowery language by describing Rosaline's "bright eyes" and "quivering thigh."

This certainly seems to anticipate the language Romeo uses when he approaches Juliet later in the play, declaring that she is a "holy shrine" to him and presenting his lips to her as "blushing pilgrims." The language itself is aureate and religious in its imagery, but the intention is not: he is asking to kiss her. The primary difference between Romeo's love for Juliet and his love for Rosaline, in many ways, may lie in the fact that his love for Juliet is declared and requited.

Throughout the play, it is really Juliet who appears to be the grounding influence. We might argue that, had any previous woman reciprocated Romeo's love and been similarly inclined towards flights of fancy and elaborate courtships, Romeo might have behaved in a similar fashion. Juliet thinks about the long-term consequences of things, to an extent, but she is only thirteen, after all.

Do Romeo and Juliet really love each other? Unfortunately their actions prevent us from ever discovering whether this was love or simply another of Romeo's typical infatuations.

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Actually, to be totally frank, there is one school of thought that says we never really find out if Romeo and Juliet had 'true love' for each other. The tragedy of the play 'Romeo and Juliet'by William Shakespeare is, of course, that they both die so young that they (and we) never get to find out if it was lasting love or infatuation. Romeo, though, knows what infatuative 'love' is. It is more like 'love of self' and often people are in love with the way the other special person makes them feel, rather than experiencing a 'giving' kind of love which relies more on caring for the other person and their needs. Many readers like to believe that Romeo has already experienced this kind of infatuative love and so would recognise it if turned up again - if his love for Juliet feels different, then we can hope he realises it is not the same as the superficial feelings he had for Rosaline.

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At the beginning of the play, Romeo is lovesick over Rosaline.  Benvolio says he is full of sorrow.  Romeo says that he is in love with Rosaline, but out of her favor.  She has obviously not requited his love, and he is very depressed.  When Romeo sees Juliet at the Capulet's party, he forgets about Rosaline, so his "love" for Rosaline was more like infatuation, puppy love.

Romeo's love for Juliet is more than infatuation.  Romeo woos her with religious imagery:

If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

AND

O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do; They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.

It's one of the great pickup lines of all-time.  Although it's love-at-first sight, Romeo does commit to marry her the next day.  He also gives up his identity (name) to be with her, which is usually what the wife does for her husband.  Whereas his infatuation with Rosaline was not expressed verbally (only emotionally), Romeo's love for Juliet is poetic--full of fire, imagery, and metaphysical conceits--suggesting it will last.

 

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