How is the concept of Courtly Love exhibited in Romeo and Juliet ?

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shake99 | Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the relationship between the two principal actors fulfills the idea of “courtly love” in several ways.

First of all, courtly love was usually a secret between the two lovers and a few close confidants. Usually the two were forbidden to be together for some reason (sometimes because they were already married to others!). In Romeo and Juliet we know that the relationship must be hidden because of the feud between the Montagues and Capulets. Romeo and Juliet have to sneak around to communicate and see each other.

In courtly love it is also customary for the male to be very lavish and “over-the-top” in his praise of the female. In the passage from Act II below, Romeo has seen Juliet step out onto her balcony. Notice how he describes the beauty of her eyes and cheek:

The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.

The play departs from one tenet of courtly love when they actually do spend a night together. Often courtly lovers were never able to actually have a physical relationship.


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