In Romeo and Juliet, how does Shakespeare show love at first sight, and is it effective and believable?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Romeo first catches sight of Juliet at the Capulet ball, he refers to her as the brightest thing in the room and compares her beauty to a "snowy dove trooping with crows." He also asks himself, "Did my heart love till now?" and calls his eyes liars in the line, "forswear it, sight!" He further declares, "I ne'er saw true beauty till this night" (Act I, Scene 5). In other words, just like with Rosaline, Romeo is equating feelings of love with lust, or an acknowledgement of beauty, and it is these lines that portray Romeo as falling in love at first sight. We must remember that Romeo is very young in this play; he is most likely in his late teens or early 20s. As people grow older, they are more likely to begin placing value on other character traits, such as personality and wisdom, as well as valuing beauty. Older people can even find a person beautiful because of their personality. But at a young age, young men are likely to do as Romeo does, and feel like they have fallen in love with a beautiful girl, simply because she is beautiful. Therefore, it is not a stretch for Shakespeare to portray Romeo as loving with his eyes, rather than with his heart. This is actually a very true and wise portrayal of human nature on Shakespeare's part.

Likewise, it is a true account to portray Juliet as falling in love with Romeo so quickly. Shakespeare also depicts Juliet as falling in love with Romeo at first sight based on looks, in the one simple Chorus line, "Alike bewitched by the charm of looks (Act 2, Prologue). However, for Juliet, more than just looks has governed her attraction. Romeo was very forward with her at the party; he grabbed her hand and even kissed her twice. We must remember that Juliet is even younger than Romeo--her nurse states that she is only thirteen--therefore, she has never been treated by a man like this before. She has never been flirted with and she has certainly never been kissed before. It is very easy to understand that the hormones released from such flirtation and kissing can easily make a person feel like they are in love. Hence, it is also not a stretch of the imagination to see Juliet so quickly fall in love with Romeo.

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Romeo and Juliet

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