The Dominant Theme of Love in Romeo and Juliet

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Romеo and Juliеt is thе most famous lovе story in the scholarly litеrary tradition, and love is easily thе play’s most dominant thеmе. Thе play focusеs on romantic lovе, lust, and intеnsе passion; the same passion that springs up at first sight bеtwееn Romеo and Juliеt. In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, however, love is portrayed as a violеnt, ovеrpowеring forcе that supеrsеdеs all valuеs, family loyaltiеs, and rationality. Throughout the course of thе play, thе young lovеrs arе drivеn by passion to dеfy thеir social world, core values, and abandon any sense of logical or rational thought. This defiance is what leads to the final outcome of the story, making this story the tragedy that it is.

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Juliet feels so strong that she defies her father, but strong as she might feel, Juliet is still a woman in a male-dominated world. One might think that Juliet should just take her father up on his offer to disown her and go to live with Romeo in Mantua. But Juliet, as a woman, cannot leave society; and her father has the right to make her do as he wishes. Though defeated by her father, Juliet does not revert to being a little girl. She recognizes the limits of her power and, if another way cannot be found, determines to use it; for a woman in Verona who cannot control the direction of her life, suicide–the brute ability to live or not live that life–can represent the only means of asserting authority. Moreover, in the confrontation with her parents after Romeo’s departure, Juliet shows her full maturity. She dominates the conversation with her mother, who cannot keep up with Juliet’s intelligence and therefore has no idea that Juliet is actually proclaiming her love for Romeo under the guise of saying exactly the opposite: “Indeed I never shall be satisfied / With Romeo, till I behold him–dead”. In addition, her decision to break from the counsel of her nurse is another step in her development towards independance: “Is it more sin to wish me thus forsworn, / Or to dispraise my lord with that same tongue / Which she hath praised him above compare / So many thousand times? Go counselor!”. By abandoning her nurse and upholding her obsession with her husband, Juliet steps fully out of her family’s loyalty.

Many of the decisions in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet are made out of passion or in fits of rage. However, it is the topic of love that often provoke irrational decisions. Romeo is always overly emotional, and in the play, we see multiple examples of these over-reactions from his several-line monologues. As such, he does tend to become less than rational: “She is too fair, too wise, wisely too fair, / To merit bliss by making me despair. / She hath forsworn to love, and in that vow / Do I live dead, that live to tell it now”. Another instance in which his behaviour prohibits the use of reason is when Romeo first meets Juliet in the Capulet party. Romeo falls hopelessly in love, climbs the fence to her orchard, drops in where a member of the Capulet household could easily have killed him, but thinks that he is on 'love's light wings'. When she steps out onto the balcony, he tells Juliet that he would rather die than be without her love: “And but thou love me, let them find me here. / My life were better ended by their hate / Than death prorogued, wanting of thy love” . Then after wooing Juliet, he rushes to Friar Lawrence, and asks the priest to marry them: “Then plainly know my heart's dear love is set / On the fair daughter of rich Capulet. / As mine on hers, so hers is set on mine...We met, we wooed and made exchange of vow, / I'll tell thee as we pass; but this I pray, / That thou consent to marry us today. Soon afterward, at the news of his banishment, Romeo loses all reason and conflicts with Friar Lawrence: “Yet 'banished? Hang up philosophy! / Unless philosophy can make a Juliet. “After, the Nurse arrives at the cell of Friar Lawrence, and walks into a suicidal Romeo, in which his references to fate are all irrational(quote). His actions cannot be seen as sensible.

In essence, love in Romeo and Juliet is a grand passion, and as such it is blinding; it can overwhelm a person as powerfully and completely as hate can. Shakespeare does not make a specific moral statement about the relationships between love and society–unlike most other playwrights. Rather, he portrays love as a brutal, powerful emotion that forces individuals to face themselves as an act of passion and chaos. The theme of love in Romeo and Juliet combines violence, hatred, family, infatuation, death and passion into one impressionistic idea which leads to the tragic ends. The power of love between Romeo and Juliet shows that “these violent delights have violent ends”, directing the characters’ destinies in the play.   

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