Is Romeo's love for Juliet based on physical appearance in Romeo and Juliet?|I am analyzing attitudes toward women at the time of the play.

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coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The words "I ne'er saw true beauty til this night" spoken by Romeo in the play by William Shakespeare tell us in no uncertain terms that he does indeed find Juliet attractive. He also says that she doth teach the very torches to burn bright. The initial attraction may have been physical appearance, but in love situations that always has to be backed up or followed on by other things. For example, had Juliet spoken in a coarse and offensive way, or a snide and derisive way to Romeo - he would have disliked her. Go through the text word by word and look at the dialog between the two. Note down the ways in which their speech enhances the other person's words, any teasing or flirtatious comments and the affection in the dialog. There you will see how the initial spark of physical attraction and beauty is fanned into the flames of love by their further romantic conversation.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would think that this is certainly a part of his attraction to her.  It would be more challenging to envision Juliet as physically repulsive and Romeo's "love" be as strong as it purports to be.  Naturally, he finds her physically attractive, which allows him to envision himself as being with her.  If we analyze the first time he sees her, there is the description of as being attractive.  The language used suggests that Romeo is entranced with her appearance, indicating that physicality plays a large role in Romeo's "love" for Juliet.  If this is so, then there might have to be a reconfiguring of whether or not this is actually love, or mere infatuation.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the first two answers' conclusions -- that Romeo is attracted to Juliet because of her looks.  But I think you don't even have to analyze what he says to know that this is true.

Just look at how it is that he falls in love.  Is it after he talks to her?  After he watches her for a while and sees that she treats people nicely?  No.  He falls in love with her as soon as he even sees her.  So if he falls for her as soon as he sees her, what could he be in love with other than her looks?

stella-lily-rothe | Student

The play itself is the classic example of "love at first sight."  Considering that love builds up after a long period of time, physical attraction certainly played a major factor in Romeo and Juliet.  Now, was it purely pysical?  The relationship was consummated after marriage, and the couple definately  enjoyed their time together.  There are other factors to consider:

  • Romeo's love for another woman (Rosaline) was lost the moment he layed eyes on Juliet.
  • Juliet was betrothed to Paris, and may have done anything to get out of marrying him.
  • Teenagers often think they have experienced love instead of infactuation.  Juliet is only 13.
  • Romeo and Juliet had no time at all to get to know each other.

Professor Gayle Whittier writes that "Juliet ... suggests that she both represents and defeats a translation of sonnet into flesh."  It could be true that Shakespeare tried to create a "soul mate" story but, because he worked within the realms of a play, may not have been able to prove to every reader that the plot was sincere.

Romeo and Juliet is one of my all-time favorite plays.  The sheer beauty of the of the prose within the play is breath-taking on its own.  I do think that Romeo's love for Juliet was, on many levels, physical: but this is all Shakespeare really had to work with.  

I suppose it all depends on whether or not one believes that soul mates exist, and that they can love each other in a very short amount of time. 

Finally, ask yourself: would superficial love cause lovers to end their lives?  I think this is a vital question, and will be different for each of us depending on our life experience and outlook towards romantic love.  Perhaps that is how Shakespeare wanted it.