Discuss Romeo's love in Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. 

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Of course Romeo is one of the two primary characters in William Shakespeare's famous play Romeo and Juliet. From the beginning of the play, we learn that Romeo is a young man who feels things very deeply.

Romeo is a Montague, and the Montagues are in a serious feud with another family in Verona, the Capulets. The feud is serious enough that there has been violence in the streets at least three times, and this last time the Prince had to threaten them with death in an attempt to put an end to this bitter feud.

While Romeo may or may not have been involved in the other inter-family altercations, he was not present for this latest one, the scene which opens the play. Instead he has been in the woods (a grove of sycamore trees), something he does all the time lately. He spends his days in his bedroom, moping around and pining away for Rosaline; he spends his nights doing the same thing out in the woods. In short, he acts like a crying, lovestruck young boy.

His cousin, Benvolio, asks Romeo what is wrong, and Romeo is a bit enigmatic (mysterious) when he answers, though we gather from all of Romeo's sighing that he is unhappy about what is happening in his life. Finally he explains, as much as he is going to explain, that the woman he loves, Rosaline, has vowed to remain chaste and is therefore out of his reach.

In the entire conversation he has with Benvolio, Romeo talks about love as some kind of crazy, heavy burden. He says:

Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs;
Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers' eyes;
Being vex'd a sea nourish'd with lovers' tears:
What is it else? a madness most discreet,
A choking gall and a preserving sweet.

Romeo is so young that we wonder how much he can really know about true love. This is dramatic language--most might say overly dramatic. Romeo sounds like a young boy who, after being in love for the first time, has gotten his heart broken. Though we sympathize with him, it is difficult to take him too seriously because he is so dramatic here.

This becomes an even bigger question for us when he attends the Capulet ball (with the sole intention of catching a mere glimpse of his beautiful but unattainable Rosaline) and falls immediately "in love" with Juliet simply seeing her across the room.

Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight!
For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.

Interestingly enough, Romeo uses spiritual language to describe Rosaline, and he does the same thing when he sees Juliet. He says Rosaline is the "devout religion of mine eye," for example. Later he compares Juliet's hands to a shrine and his lips to pilgrims. In fact their entire first conversation is a sonnet which utilizes strong religious imagery. 

The actions he takes after this initial meeting suggest that Romeo is in some kind of love, for he acts impetuously and even foolishly. Within hours, he meets, falls in love, makes plans to marry, and then marries the equally young Juliet Capulet--daughter of his father's sworn enemy. He is rash and acts with little serious thought about his actions, reminding us that he is just a boy who reacts with his heart more than his head. 

Of course everything that happens after the wedding demonstrates that he and Juliet are "star-cross'd lovers," according to Shakespeare. 

When measured by rational thinkers, Romeo's "love" is based solely on emotion with little reason or discernment. When measured by romantic thinkers, Romeo's impetuousness is actually his being swept away by his love for Juliet.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From beginning to end, Romeo's love is violent, violent in its expression, violent in its delights, violent in its demise. For, there is a turbulence of passion which engenders the "violent delights" and violent acts connected with a violently overpowering love.

  • In his turbulent angst over his loss of Rosaline, Romeo employs oxymorons that "brawl" with each other:

...O brawling love! O loving hate!....
Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms!
...bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!....(1.1.)

  • In his passionate discourse with Juliet in her garden beneath her balcony, in response to Juliet's regret that Romeo must be a Montague, he replies,

My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself
Because it is an enemy to thee.
Had I it written, I would tear the word. (2.2.)

  • After Romeo rushes to the cell of Friar Laurence in order to ask him to perform the marriage ceremony for Juliet and him, the friar cautions him,

These violent delights have violent ends,
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder
Which as they kiss consume. The sweetest honey
Is loathsome in his own deliciousness....(2.6)

  • His impassioned pleas with Tybalt are repaid with only violence. Mercutio draws his sword and exclaims, "Oh, calm, dishonorable, vile submission!" And, as he fights Tybalt, Romeo urges Benvolio, "...beat down their weapons." Then, as Tybalt attacks him, Romeo fights back,"This shall determine that" and the "bloody fray" ends (3.1.).
  • As he parts from Juliet in Act III, Romeo defies death:

Le me be ta'en, let me be put to death, 
I am content.... (3.5)

  • When he learns of Juliet's body interned in the Capulet "monument," Romeo violently exclaims, "Then I defy you, stars!"(5.1.) and he purchases poison from a poor, desperate apothecary, and Romeo hurries to Juliet's tomb. There, he encounters Paris and peremptorily slays him. Seeing Juliet's body throws Romeo into a violent despair. As he drinks the poison, Romeo speaks of himself in violent terms,

Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on
The dashing rocks thy seasick weary bark....(5.3) 

and dies a self-imposed violent death.

eli468 | Student

I would have to say Romeo's love, from a more scientific and psychological standpoint, is merely very strong feelings due to hormones mainly. Romeo is a young man(thus the increase of hormones) who falls very hard and VERY fast. He is quick to take action for something he wants and when he can't have that he feels such a deep heart ache. If you look at it from a "romance" notion, he is just someone who falls in love truly and all at once. However, from a realistic standpoint, he is too quick to let his initial feelings that come to him in a large wave take over his mind without really looking into the future. Romeo falls in love, or at least develops strong feelings, very quickly without getting to really know someone. He feeds off of that initial "spark" with someone and believes it to be love. He seemed to have completely forgotten about his "love" for Rosaline as soon as he saw Juliet, despite it being such a short amount of time in between the two. This can show that Romeo's "love" is more or less just strong feelings and a spark between him and Juliet.