“A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life” : by using these words in his Prologue and by describing Romeo and Juliet as being “star-cross’d” Shakespeare is alluding to destiny, the inevitability of the two characters’ paths crossing each other and suggests that the outcome is going to be fatal. The Prologue is written in sonnet form, a form of poetry which is usually used for love and by doing this Shakespeare is suggesting to his audience that that the play is concerned with love as well as tragedy: it brings a sense of heroism to the play and makes Romeo and Juliet the eponymous heroes that every play needs.
Shakespeare shows their determination to be together despite the fact their stars are crossed rather than aligned: in the days of Shakespeare it was believed that the positions of the stars ruled over people’s fates and there was nothing they could do to fight it.
Shakespeare does not begin the play with the theme of love but rather the theme of hate “draw thy tool, here comes of the house of Montague’s”.
The quote spoken by Gregory a servant of the house Capulet, is telling us how strongly he feels he must support the Capulet’s by hating the Montague servants. Gregory is a servant he has no reason to hate the Montague’s or even hurt them yet he still has anger towards them for no purpose other than they are his master’s enemies. Shakespeare does this, he starts the play with hatred, he embeds this violence and anger into the play between all these people just to show and help the audience understand what really goes on behind the scenes of love. Romeo and Juliet may be in love but Shakespeare tells us their friends, families and relations have an “ancient grudge” which breaks to “new mutiny”.
The conflict of these two families only reinforces the aspects of love that we see; it tells the audience that if Romeo and Juliet are willing to ignore their families feud despite the consequences that they both would suffer theirs, must be true love and that is why Shakespeare starts off the play with the intertwining of love and hate. The first time Romeo is introduced in the play it is by Lady Montague who inquires of Benvolio (Romeo’s friend) about her son, “O where is Romeo? Saw you him today?” Shakespeare used these two short sentences to help the audience see the worry of a caring and loving mother, a perfect example of parental love. Shakespeare wants the audience to see Romeo’s parents are very “hands on” and involved in his life even knowing when he’s upset. Lord Montague tells us that when the sun, “begin to draw” Romeo “begin to draw the shady curtains from Aurora’s bed, away from light steals home my heavy son”.
Aurora is the Greek god of dawn and Lord Montague is using classical allusion to elevate the idea that Romeo is so miserable he is shutting out the light and is “heavy” which means sad and depressed. The fact that Lord and Lady Montague are even aware of Romeo’s state shows just how openly they love him and shows their true parental love. Juliet’s parents, Lord and Lady Capulet, have a different approach to parental love and find it harder to express their love for Juliet. Lord Capulet is protective of his only remaining child “The hopeful lady of my earth” was how he described Juliet, Shakespeare shows a big contrast between Juliet’s parents behaviour by showing Lord Capulet’s open declaration of love for his daughter yet Lady Capulet cannot even speak to Juliet alone, she wants to speak to her daughter about the personal subject of marriage and sends the nurse away “Nurse give leave a while, We must talk in secret.”
But then she says “Nurse come back again, I have remember’d me”; Lady Capulet needs the help of the Nurse to speak to Juliet: it seems as though she is afraid of her own daughter and wants the Nurse in with her to talk about this sensitive subject. The last type of “parental” love which Shakespeare explores is the love between Juliet and her Nurse. We feel that the Nurse is more of a mother to Juliet and loves her more than her real mother. On line 62 the nurse says, “And I might live to see thee married once, I have my wish” she is saying if she could live to see Juliet married even once that’s all she would need to make her happy in life: the quote shows the closeness the Nurse feels for Juliet; she feels as if she were her own daughter and seems to love her as much as if she were.
The theme of love continues and it seems as if Shakespeare is mocking Romeo for when Romeo sees Juliet he says, “Did my heart love till now? Forswear it sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night” Romeo is saying he has never known true love till this moment when, in fact only moments before he was infatuated with Rosaline and was convinced he was heartbroken because Rosaline didn’t love him: his language was completely overdramatic and full of misery when talking about his love for Rosaline, “this love feel I that feel no love in this.” I think by changing Romeo’s views of love (dramatically) when he sees Juliet from the negative response to Rosaline’s reaction to a positive one to Juliet’s. Shakespeare shows us two different types of love: one between Romeo and Rosaline and the other between Romeo and Juliet. Through this he manages to show that Romeo is so young and naive not knowing the true meaning of love until he meets Juliet: he is just using words and feelings he thinks means he’s in love. The once “love sick” young man seems to fall in love with Juliet very quickly.
He says, “this love feel I that feel no love in this” which is an oxymoron to show how miserable Romeo is about his unrequited love; he feels he can’t be happy because Rosaline doesn’t love him. However, when Romeo sees Juliet his thoughts and state of mind become much happier: his love for Rosaline is forgotten and his language is very dramatic. His love for Rosaline was purely superficial; proof of this is in line 209-10 “O she is rich in beauty only poor that when she dies, with her beauty dies her store” whilst expressing his love for Rosaline to Benvolio: but all Romeo seems to actually be expressing is his love of her beauty not her heart or her as a person. In the lines I mentioned previously “the shady curtains from Aurora’s bed away from light steals home my heavy son” said by Romeo’s father about his son; Shakespeare uses light in a negative way here to show Romeo is upset and doesn’t even want to see the sun but wants only to shut himself up in his bedroom and wallow in his misery, but when he sees Juliet he uses images of light which makes his love for Juliet more real.
Shakespeare also uses classical illusion when talking of Romeo’s unrequited love for Rosaline to elevate how unhappy he is but when talking of his love for Juliet he uses religious imagery to show how happy he is with this love. It is hard for Juliet to know what “true love” is: when her mother Lady Capulet, and her Nurse propose to her the idea of marrying Paris she says “it is an honour that I dream not of.”
This shows us how completely young and innocent she really is. Shakespeare is telling the audience of Juliet’s youth and reminding them how before Romeo, she had never even thought of being in love. Shakespeare continues the theme of Juliet’s feelings by allowing her to respond to her mother’s question, “how stands your dispositions to be married?” saying, “I’ll look to like, if looking liking move.” Here we see the respectable, dutiful child who wants to please her parents. She continues saying “your consent gives strength to make it fly” agreeing that if her mother approves, she will oblige her mother’s will and do what her mother wishes.
In act 1 scene 2 we see a different kind of love, the love parents feel their children should have: the kind of love Paris has for Juliet. This is a contractual type of love. Paris’s love for Juliet is more of a contractual love not true type of love: he sees Juliet the way a woman sees a sparkly diamond; as an object of his affection, something to be desired. Juliet is the diamond to Paris, a step higher in society, a boost to his career and most importantly would be suitable to be the bearer of his future children. Juliet is from a respectable home with high social standing and a powerful father, and Paris is handsome a suitable match for her. The contract of their marriage would be simple. Paris would provide and Juliet would be a dutiful wife but, what Shakespeare tells the audience is that the contract is actually between Paris and Lord Capulet since Juliet is owned by her father until she is married.
“O she doth teach the torches to burn bright” When Romeo first sees Juliet Shakespeare uses light in a positive way to express Romeo’s love for Juliet. Shakespeare delays the inevitable meeting of Romeo and Juliet for five scenes to build tension for the audience. Romeo and Juliet’s love is not just about emotions; Shakespeare also wanted it to be about lust and passion but not just about that and so when they finally meet and they finally kiss Shakespeare uses religious imagery and allusions to elevate their love; for example on line 98-99 Juliet, using gentle poetic language, says “Saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch, and palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.”
Shakespeare is not only elevating the kiss but also Juliet’s character by showing the importance of religion to her and how she feels her for Romeo is as strong as her love of religion. At the beginning of my essay I talked about fate; I talked about Romeo and Juliet’s fate being “cross’d in the stars” and I believe that, and I think Shakespeare believed it too which is why he put it in his play: but I also believe their love was true and pure despite their age and obvious immaturity and different ideas of love. Nothing is worth having if you don’t have to fight for it and Romeo and Juliet fought; they fought the odds, they fought their birth-right and because of this Shakespeare allows us to see the problems attached to pure love.