Student Question

How is love explored in Romeo and Juliet and Pride and Prejudice?

Quick answer:

The major themes of both William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice revolve around love. In both cases, family and social circumstances provide obstacles to love, but they differ in that Austen offers a happy ending and Shakespeare an unhappy one, and in Shakespeare's case the obstacles to love appear purely external and in Austen's internalized. Themes 1. The first theme is Similarities in Romeo and Juliet & Pride and Prejudice are that most of the characters had... 2. The second theme is Differences in Romeo and Juliet & Pride and Prejudice are that Elizabeth has the...

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The major themes of both William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice revolve around love. In both cases, family and social circumstances provide obstacles to love, but they differ in that Austen offers a happy ending and Shakespeare an unhappy one, and in Shakespeare's case the obstacles to love appear purely external and in Austen's internalized.

In Romeo and Juliet, the two young lovers belong to feuding families and decide to elope. Their elopement scheme goes horribly wrong through accidents of miscommunication, and both young lovers commit suicide. Although the play can be read as an example of true love, the unhappy ending also suggests another reading, in which the characters are seen as infatuated with each other and overly impatient. The illicit aspect to the relationship also has to do with Juliet being an impressionable 13-year old and Romeo perhaps in his twenties, and the elopement almost seeming a form of sexual exploitation of a very young girl by an older man.

The couple most resembling Romeo and Juliet in Austen's Pride and Prejudice is not the Darcy/Elizabeth pair, who are both fully adult and do not marry until they have the consent of Elizabeth's family, but rather Lydia and Wickham, a pairing between an older man and young girl involving an illicit elopement and an unhappy marriage. As in Shakespeare's play, these two are emotional and impulsive, have not internalized social conventions, and tend to act on impulse rather than out of rational thought. Like Romeo, Wickham is fickle in his affections. One rather wonders if the two lovers of Shakespeare, had they lived, would have settled into the sort of bad marriage that evolves between Lydia and Wickham.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How do Shakespeare and Jane Austen present love within love triangles in Romeo and Juliet and Pride and Prejudice?

Both Shakespeare and Jane Austen portray love within love triangles as a hardship for at least one member of the triangle. One thing they share in common is that within the love triangles in both Romeo and Juliet and Pride and Prejudice it is one of the men in the triangles that takes the worst blow.

The love triangle Shakespeare portrays in Romeo and Juliet consists of Juliet, Romeo, and Paris. We learn that Paris truly does deeply love Juliet and, by the end of the play, we see him in profound mourning. We see him visit Juliet's tomb late at night to privately cry and "strew" flowers on her tomb, as we see in the lines,

Sweet flower, with flowers thy bridal bed I strew
(O woe! thy canopy is dust and stones)
Which with sweet water nightly I will dew;
Or, wanting that, with tears distill'd by moans
...
Nightly shall be to strew thy grave and weep. (12-17)

These lines show us that Paris is truly in grief and that he truly did love Juliet, but not only that, we see that Paris is the one in the love triangle who took a blow from love by loosing Juliet to death and by loosing Juliet to Romeo.

Similarly, in Pride and Prejudice, one prominent love triangle is between Elizabeth, Darcy, and Mr. Collins. Although, like Paris, Mr. Collins is the one who suffers due to love, Mr. Collins's suffering is not truly genuine, nor is it long lasting. Mr. Collins chooses Elizabeth as a wife because Lady Catherine has told him to marry, because she is beautiful, and because he wants to do a service to the Bennet family by keeping the entailed estate in the Bennet family through marriage (Vol. 1, Ch. 15). Elizabeth knows very well that his professed affections for Elizabeth are not truly genuine, as we see in the line,

The idea of Mr. Collins, with all his solemn composure, being run away with by his feelings, made Elizabeth so near laughing.... (Vol. 1, Ch. 19)

While Mr. Collins's pride is very much hurt by Elizabeth's refusal, because his love is not as genuine as Paris's, he quickly recovers and soon proposes to Charlotte Lucas instead.

Hence, in both love triangles, the authors choose to show gentleman characters as being hurt by love, though the story lines and characters are very different.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on