How does Shakespeare present love in Romeo and Juliet ?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are different forms of love in Romeo and Juliet: 

—Petrarchan Love

At the beginning of the drama, Romeo is the Petrarchan lover who bemoans his unrequited love. Petrarchan love is not a physical love, and it is unrequited as is Romeo's love for Rosaline, who has chosen to never to give up her "chastity" and to remain celibate. Romeo expresses the emotions of his suffering heart in oxymorons such as "cold fire" and "sick health." 

—Courtly Love

Courtly love is the love of a knight for his lady, who is a married noblewoman. It is unconsummated but passionate and elaborate in words. While Romeo's love for Juliet is not courtly love, Romeo speaks in terms of courtly love as he stands beneath Juliet's balcony in Act II, Scene 2:

Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
Oh, that I were a glove upon that hand
That I might touch that cheek! (2.2.21-25).

—Passionate Love

Romeo and Juliet's love is intensely emotional. As Juliet speaks to Romeo from her balcony, she declares her passion for him:

I must confess
But that thou overheard'st, ere I was ware,
My true love's passion. And pardon me,
And not impute this yielding to light love (2.2.102-105).

Romeo responds to Juliet's declaration of her passionate love with great emotion as he swears his love "by yonder blessed moon" (2.2.107).

—Violent Love 

When the impetuous Romeo speaks to Friar Laurence about performing the marriage ceremony for Juliet and him, Friar Laurence cautions Romeo about such "violent delights":

These violent delights have violent ends,
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder
Which as they kiss consume. (2.6.9-11)

Friar Laurence urges Romeo not to be impetuous, warning that such strong passion often "burns out" like fire. The friar advises Romeo to be patient, but Romeo refuses to heed this advice. Unfortunately, in the first scene of the following act, Romeo reacts impetuously and with intense feelings to Tybalt's insults when he kills Tybalt after the stabbing of Romeo's dear friend Mercutio. 

As the drama progresses, Romeo and Juliet's emotion-driven love leads tragically to the death of both lovers. In the Capulet tomb, Romeo and then Juliet meet violent deaths with the use of Romeo's dagger as they feel that they cannot live without each other and they kill themselves.

mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Love is presented in numerous ways.  The first we see of love is in Romeo's infatuation with the beautiful Rosaline.  He is obsessed with her and loves her, so much to the point that he spends most of his days moping about, thinking about her and wishing that she returned his love.  Rosaline doesn't return his love, so he is left in misery.  Through this example, we see Shakespeare saying that love is an intense emotional experience, and if it isn't returned, it can be horribly painful and exhausting.

Then, the love between Romeo and Juliet is also intense and all-consuming, but instead of causing them misery, it causes them incredible happiness and joy, because they feel the same way for each other.  They are elated, giddy, and high on their love.  Through their love, Shakespeare recreates that power and intensity of first love, especially first love as a youth, which is filled with so much innocence, joy, and lack of any sense of doom or hopelessness.  So, love can lift us up and fill us with hope, joy and elation.

Lastly, as their love is, in the end, doomed, Shakespeare seems to say that love can indeed lead us to do dramatic things.  In the name of love, wars have been fought, crazy deeds have been done, and in the case of Romeo and Juliet, death won them in the end, because they would rather die than live without each other.  This is Shakespeare saying how powerful love is; when in love's throws, we often do extremely dramatic and foolish things. But consider this also--the example of Romeo and Juliet's love also mended the generations-long rift between their two families.  So, love also has the power to heal and solve the seeming impossible.

I hope that those thought helped; good luck!