Shakespeare & True Love

romeo & juliet

So for my first post as an official blogger, I have decided to tackle a big question, in the context of a well-known and famous play. My question: Is there such a thing as true love? The play: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, of course.

This semester I am taking a class called Shakespeare’s Drama. In class, we were watching clips from a few different movie director’s versions of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet including Baz Luhrman and Franco Zeffirelli. Specifically, we were looking at the balcony scene, and after we watched the clips, the class began a conversation about how young Romeo & Juliet are in the play. We began to discuss whether or not Romeo & Juliet were truly in love, or if it was just young lust. My classmates were saying that Romeo was very shallow for jumping so quickly from Rosaline to Juliet. The argument was made that this showed he was not truly in love with Juliet, he was just a lustful teenage boy, and Juliet just a naive fourteen year old girl.

As I listened to my classmate’s comments, I was extremely surprised. It seemed that every single person in the room besides myself was in agreement that Romeo and Juliet were simply immature, young, lustful teenagers. Which, I will admit to a point, they were. But, I was surprised by this conversation because I think they missed part of the whole point Shakespeare was trying to make in the play. The big lesson was about Romeo and Juliet’s tragic death that “buried their parents’ strife.” But we cannot forget the other lesson in this play about true love. Their love is, in fact, what ended the feud. Romeo and Juliet’s declarations of love in this play are some of the most eloquent and romantic lines of literature in history that are still quoted to this day. I know, a big statement to make about a writer, but well-deserved. I mean, it’s Shakespeare we are talking about here.

I mean no offence by any of what I am about to say, but why is it when we read this play, we are so critical and cynical? Is it because of some widespread epiphany that has happened sometime over the last four-hundred years? Has everyone suddenly decided that true love does not exist? Then why do we even bother going out on dates? Why do we bother having a significant other in our life? Or for those who do have a significant other, is it only because you don’t want to be alone, or are you just in it for the sex? Or are you in a relationship simply because society has ingrained in your mind that you need to be in a relationship to be happy? Again, I mean no offence, I am simply trying to make a point.

Hopefully your response to that paragraph of questions was, “No, love does exist!” If this was not your answer, then I am very sorry and saddened that you will miss out on one of the most fulfilling things life has to offer. Yes, love can hurt. And yes, sometimes you have to try over and over again to get it right. But it is worth it in the end if you can find it. In the words of Shakespeare himself, love is, “A madness most discreet, a choking gall, a preserving sweet.” There is a good reason why his work has been read over and over again throughout the years, and why he is still famous today. He would not have written such beautiful things about love if he did not believe in it himself, and if he did not want his audience to believe in it as well. If all he was writing about was teenage lust, his work would have been swept aside and forgotten long ago.

So I ask you, do you believe in true love?

That is my spiel for the week. I hope I have provided something for you to mull over, or at least something entertaining to read by a girl who thinks way too much about Shakespeare. I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter, so please feel free to leave a comment and I will be happy to respond! Also, feel free to take the true love poll!

Until next week!


3 thoughts on “Shakespeare & True Love

  1. I firmly believe in true love and understand the desire to feel Romeo and Juliet is an example of true love between a couple, who are unfortunately torn asunder by their families pride and feud. However I believe Romeo and Juliet did not have much in the way of a true relationship and as such its deliberately left ambiguous whether or not they were right for one another. I believe Shakespeare was trying to tell a deeper story, about what happens when young teenage feelings are repressed and not allowed to develop naturally. In the story Romeo see’s her, decides that he is in love and then pursues her. Juliet see’s him, feels attracted to him and declares that she reciprocates his love. However they have only just met. While I believe in true love, I do not believe in love at first sight. I think they were strongly attracted to each other, and this resulted in many eloquent and heartfelt declarations of love, but they didn’t have enough time to really get to know one another and open up enough to feel real love. Their parents made sure of that, and ultimately this led to their deaths. I think the message is that young feelings should be allowed to be explored and felt naturally, and if you try to control them or make them go away, disaster will result. Were Romeo and Juliet truly in love? Well they never actually open up to one another about their feelings or hopes or dreams or fears. They just talk about how in love they are all the time. What kind of basis is that for a real relationship? Most relationships that work do so because the couple has mutual interests and plans in life and feelings. Romeo and Juliet never share those things with each other, they just go on and on about how in love they are. Certainly they were attracted to each other but does that immediately mean love? I felt an incredibly strong attraction to my girlfriend the very first time I saw her. I couldn’t tear my gaze away and I knew I had to go after her. But I was not in love with her at that point. It took me a few months of sharing experiences, feelings and emotions with her to reach that point. When I did open myself up to her completely and let her see me in a way no one else does it was the truest declaration of trust and love I could possibly show her. The attraction I felt when I laid eyes on her that first time led to that point eventually but I was not in love at first sight and honestly find it hard to believe anyone could reach that point just from seeing someone for the first time. Love takes time and trust and experience together which unfortunately Romeo and Juliet just didn’t have. I believe Shakespeare left it up to interpretation somewhat, but its clear that the story is more a cautionary tale than a love story. If you don’t allow young people who are experiencing these strong romantic emotions for the first time to work through them naturally, its only going to make them rebel and want to be together even more, going to drastic steps to do so. This leads to disaster in the play and as such serves as a warning in real life. So it is possible to believe in true love without believing Romeo and Juliet were experiencing it. Hope all this made sense.

    • I agree, I definitely think he was trying to make a point about teenage feelings being repressed, and I also agree that they did not have time to get to know each other before declaring their love. But to be fair, they did spend more time with each other than just that first night they met. There was also the scene where he comes to her after he kills Tybalt, and of course when they got married, given that still wasn’t much time. But I think if Shakespeare had made the play so that they had time to tell each other about their hopes and dreams and fears, it would have been even longer than Hamlet, and would not have been as short and sweet and to the point as it is now. So personally, I think that was partially an issue of length. Also, at their age, love is usually one of the most important things on their mind, so I think it is natural that all they want to talk about with each other is love. I don’t think they are mature enough to really have passionate life goals, hopes, and dreams besides finding someone to love. Especially considering the family and societal pressures to get married at their age, which is why Juliet’s father arranges her marriage to Paris, and why Romeo even goes to the Capulet’s party. Because his friends Benvolio and Mercutio encourage him to find another girl to dote on when he is moping about Rosaline. Relationships back then were simply not the same as they are today. I believe there are many different forms and stages of love, some that involve two people who know each other inside and out, and some forms of love that are not as deep, but just as meaningful. It is like saying that you do not love your friends because you don’t know them as well as your family or significant other. So yes, I believe they were in love, they just didn’t have the time to let their love grow and blossom. I think if you cannot live without someone, that is true evidence that you truly love them, no matter how little you know about them. Because in the end, it is not always about that, it is about if they give you happiness and a reason to live. I think the cautionary message he was trying to get across was more about the repercussions of blind hatred. I do agree that it is possible to believe in true love without believing Romeo and Juliet were experiencing it, I was just surprised at how quickly my classmates were to reject the idea that Romeo and Juliet were actually in love. But I definitely think Shakespeare left it up to interpretation. Thanks again for responding! I didn’t think anyone would actually read my post and comment on it!!

  2. Love and hate are both such volatile feelings. Being the cynic that scoffs at the idea of “true love,” this post does make me think of how much R&J speaks to the humanity of all people. Whether we suppress or release our feelings, the violence of them is terrifying! Is there much categorically different between love and hate than the direction those feeling project towards?

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