The romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet contains many different types of romantic love and marriage. The examples of romantic love contained in this play are chivalric, dynastic, infatuation and true love. The types of marriage are passionate and impulsive and arranged and forced. These types of love and marriage are quite different from modern ideas. Courtly and dynastic loves occur infrequently, although there are still couples who are smitten with each other and in true love. Passionate, impulsive or arranged marriages are uncommon, in favour of well planned, thought out marriages, between people who really love each other.
At the beginning of the play, Romeo is besotted with Rosaline, so much so that he cannot talk of anything else. He is trying to woe Rosaline, but is “Out of favour where I am in love”. We learn that Romeo is sad as Rosaline rejects him and “she’ll not be hit
With Cupid’s arrow.”Order now
The way that Romeo speaks suggests that he is very sensitive. The audience are also led to believe that Romeo is confused by his emotions, by the line: “O brawling love, O loving hate”. He loves being in love, rather than actually loving Rosaline. Shakespeare uses this to create a contrast with Romeo’s love for Juliet. Romeo’s behaviour relates to the idea of courtly love as he believes that his love is perfect and he is pining over a girl he does not even know.
Benvolio has a calm attitude to love. He talks sensibly when he comforts Romeo. His advice is that there are ‘plenty more fish in the sea’ so Romeo should “Examine other beauties”. Benvolio tries to help Romeo by saying “Be ruled by me, forget to think of her”. He thinks that it is tragic that love which is
“so gentle in his (Romeo’s) view
Should be so tyrannous in proof”.
Mercutio has a more intense, ruthless attitude. He attempts to cheer Romeo up, telling him to be rough with love if need be. He encourages Romeo to dance, but when Romeo says love is holding him down, he says
“You are a lover, borrow Cupid’s wings
And soar with them above a common ground”
Mercutio encourages Romeo to fight ‘fire with fire’:
“If love be rough with you, be rough with love;
Prick love for pricking and you beat love down.”
He thinks that Romeo should take a harder line with his emotions.
From Lord Capulet’s and Paris’ points of view, the purpose of marriage is mostly dynastic, to join two families. The choice of spouse is ruled by social class and wealth. Paris offers marriage to Capulet’s daughter; “But now, my Lord, what say you to my suit?” Capulet’s initial response is negative, as Juliet is “the hopeful lady of my earth”, and “She hath not seen the change of fourteen years.” He is optimistic for his daughter and tells Paris that he must “Let two more summers wither in there pride”. He eventually agrees to the suit as long as Paris can “woo her” and “get her heart”. Capulet’s “will to her consent is but a part.”
Lady Capulet and the nurse present the idea of marriage to Juliet by asking her “How stands your dispositions to be married?” We know that Juliet is less than pleased with the idea by her response: “It is an idea that I dream not of”. With some persuasion from her mother however, including:
“Here in Verona, ladies of esteem,
Are made already mothers. By my count,
I was made your mother much upon these years”
she starts to change her mind. She keeps her options open:
“I’ll look to like, if looking liking move;
But no more deep will I endart mine eye
Than your consent gives strength to make it fly.”
By which she means she will consider marriage, but only if she likes Paris and her family approve and help her along.
At the Capulet’s party, Romeo falls in love with Juliet on sight. Romeo introduces himself to Juliet by saying
“if I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this,”.
Romeo kisses fair Juliet twice, after which she tells him “You kiss by th’book”
Just before Juliet learns that Romeo is a Montague and therefore her sworn enemy, she says “My grave is like to be my wedding bed”. Shakespeare uses this to create irony, as marrying Romeo leads to Juliet’s death.
The pair declare their feelings for one another is Juliet’s orchard. Romeo describes Juliet as “the sun!”. The two decide to marry and Juliet tells Romeo to send word tomorrow: “Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow,”.
The audience now feels that Romeo is unreliable and a bit pathetic as he has gone from being in ‘love’ with Rosaline to wanting to marry Juliet. This is an important issue in the play as Shakespeare is showing that when you find the right person, you will have no doubts.
Friar Lawrence helps Romeo and Juliet’s relationship by marrying them. He is a pillar of society and helps them as believes in true love and the greater good. He also believes that the marriage will end years of feuding:
“To turn your households’ rancour to pure love”.
He also tells them that they need to slow down: “Wisely and slow, they stumble that run fast”. The friar is passing on some of his experience to the young couple as he sees it as his duty as a ‘pillar of society’.
The nurse helps Romeo and Juliet by partly organizing the marriage and by being a messenger between them. She is from a lower class, a servant. Her relationship with her husband led her to believe in true love, so she wants to help them.
In Act 3 scene 4, Lord Capulet is certain that Juliet will obey him:
“I think she will be ruled
In all respects by me;”
He does not give Juliet’s feelings any thought, he is only concerned with arranging things with Paris:
“Will you be ready? Do you like this haste?”
Lady Capulet thinks that the marriage is a very good idea and that Juliet will by very pleased to find out:
“But now I’ll tell thee joyful tidings, girl.”
Lord Capulet is the dominant figure in his and Lady Capulet’s marriage. We know this as he makes all of the decisions:
“Here comes your father, tell him so yourself;
And see how he will take it at your hands.”
However, Lady Capulet is not afraid to voice her opinions: “Fie fie what, are you mad?”
The nurse feels that Juliet is not at fault for rejecting Paris’ suit: “You are to blame my lord, to rate her so” This tells us that when the play written, in the higher classes, marriage was a formality, but in the lower classes it actually meant something.
Juliet then finds herself facing bigamy, which leaves her considering suicide: “‘Twixt my extremes and me this bloody knife”. Friar Lawrence tries to help her by offering her the chance to deceive everyone and pretend to be dead: ” A thing like death to chide away this shame”. This tells us that the values of society in which the play is set are religious, as citizens, even members of the church are willing to deceive to avoid breaking the laws of the church.
At the tragic ending to the play, I believe that Shakespeare is using love and marriage to make another point as a lesson to the audience. He is saying that you should love whilst you can, as you may not always have the chance, but the most important message that the audience receives is that it sometimes takes drastic measures to solve disputes and that things do not always work out as you expect they will.