Complex Relationships Throughout Shakespeare's Plays Such as Romeo and Juliets Love Story, Hamlet and Twelfth Night

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William Shakespeare was a famous playwright in the 16th and 17th century, known for writing gripping tragedies and comedies. His plays have stood the test of time and are often performed in modern society, while also inspiring many films and other plays. Scholars often speculate as to why his plays are so enticing, and have noticed that his complex scripts are the reason. His work often contains many hidden messages and meanings that keep his intellectual audiences entertained. In many of Shakespeare's plays when one dissects the friendships between the male lead and their closest male friend, it is noticeable that these relationships are somewhat romantic; one could assume that this is because Shakespeare is adding aspects of his life into the story, or he is attempting to differentiate his plays from other works common to the time.

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Throughout Shakespeare’s plays, friendships between the male lead and their closest friends are often romantic. These relationships are somewhat subtle but they are portrayed in most of Shakespeare’s famous plays such as Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and Twelfth Night. In Hamlet, Hamlet begs Horatio, his best friend, on his deathbed to tell his story if he ever loved him (Shakespeare Hamlet 5.2.48), in response Horatio confirms he will, while poetically addressing Hamlet as his “sweet prince”(Shakespeare Hamlet 5.2.368). In this scene it is clear that Hamlet is confessing his love for Horatio, who clarifies that the feeling is mutual. Romeo and Mercutio share a similar relationship in Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio would often disprove of Romeo’s love interests and even died fighting Romeo’s enemies. Mercutio’s open disapproval is a result of his jealousy when discussing Romeo’s love to Juliet affairs, and his love is proven when he died fighting for Romeo. In Twelfth Night, Duke Orsino falls in love with Cessario a servant in his court, who is actually a woman named Viola. She disguised herself as the man Cessario so she would be able to find a job and she quickly began to admire Orsino who seemingly feels the same way. While he did not decide to marry her until he found out she was a girl, it is clear that he felt drawn towards her even when she was a man as he often flirted with Cessario.

A reason that Shakespeare writes such complex relationships is because his own life inspires him. It is common for artists to look for inspiration within themselves and their everyday surroundings to express in their works. Many critics believe the name Hamlet, in Hamlet, is inspired by Shakespeare's late son Hamnet. Shakespeare has many other cases where his works represent some part of his life. It is often theorized that Shakespeare is bisexual and is expressing this aspect of himself in his plays as well. Shakespeare wrote many letters to a man whom he addressed as Mr. W.H. This man is the ‘fair youth’ Shakespeare refers to in numerous of the sonnets he has written, such as sonnet 18, “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day,”(Shakespeare Sonnet 18 1) This theory is plausible, for his marriage was not perfect, and it is common for artists to add personal details to their work.

Shakespeare could have also written these romantic friendships in order to set himself apart from his competitors and attract a larger audience. While it is difficult to believe that Shakespeare could feel threatened by other playwrights, he did have some competition at the time. Christopher Marlowe was a famous playwright who also wrote poetry and drama. His work caught his audience's eye with the dramatic scripts he wrote in a more modern and popular style. While Shakespeare wrote more genres of plays which included comedies, Shakespeare wrote in a classical style and needed something unique to keep his audience's attention. This is another reason as to why he created such complicated relationships between the male lead and their closest friend.

Throughout many of Shakespeare's works there is often a romantic relationship between the male lead and their best friend. While the purpose is unknown, it is reasonable to assume that either Shakespeare is basing these relations on his own life, and is driven to stand out from any competition. Artists’ works are often influenced by many factors in the world around them or by their own lives. This is seen in almost every piece of art, such as Shakespeare’s work, which often contain outside influences on purpose.



Work Cited

  1. Shakespeare, William. Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Ed. Stephen Booth. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977.
  2. Shakespeare, William, and George Rylands. Hamlet. Oxford University Press, 1993. 

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