Romeo and Juliet: Revealed

This was composed in my English Informatics class, which was a textual analysis class. The objective of this assignment was to write an analysis on a certain character or  from the play R0meo and Juliet before  using textual analysis tools.

A Portrayal of Adolescent Love

What is “true love?” Many definitions of this concept have been attempted by classic and modern literature, as well as new media such as film, television series, and drama. Throughout time, members of society have formed their own explanations as to what true love is. One prime example of love portrayed in literature, as well as in media, is the story of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Their passionate love for each other seems to portray a powerful definition of what love truly resembles. It appears to be the perfect example of the hero falling for the heroine as well, but what character qualities point to this conclusion? One lesson that literature as well as media has taught society is that not everything is as it seems. Romeo and Juliet transform their personalities in the name of what they call love, portraying their adolescence.

Romeo Montague is one of two protagonists in the play Romeo and Juliet. He is defined as “a free spirited youth of 16 living in 17th century Verona, Italy” (Cooney). Romeo, however, is also quite impulsive, moody, and fickle. In the beginning of the drama, Romeo’s father describes his son by stating “Many a morning hath he there been seen,/ With tears augmenting the fresh morning’s dew,/ Adding to clouds more clouds with his deep sighs” (Shakespeare, 1.1. 133-135). Romeo claims to be in love with a woman named Rosaline, but he has not taken any opportunities to pursue this love. A typical adolescent, Romeo relates other problems with his own.  He depicts this in Act 1.1, “Where shall we dine?—O me! What fray was here?/ Yet tell me not, for I have heard it all:/ Here’s much to do with hate but more with love./ Why then, O brawling love, O loving hate,/ O any thing of nothing first create;” (Shakespeare, 178-182). In this passage, Romeo observes the blood from the previous brawl and relates it to his own fight for love. The moment Romeo first encounters Juliet; however, he falls in love and forgets Rosaline all together, after previously stating that he could never love another. Before even speaking a word to his so called beloved, Romeo claims to be in love with Juliet, “Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear./ So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows,/ As yonder lady o’er her fellows shows:/ The measure done, I’ll watch her place of stand/ And, touching hers, make blessèd my rude hand./ Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight,/ For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night” (Shakespeare, 1.5, 620-626). Romeo speaks only of her beauty in this instance. He questions whether he has ever truly loved before Juliet, contradicting his previous statement of only ever loving Rosaline. Loving Juliet merely for her beauty, labels Romeo as shallow. He acts impulsively by asking Juliet to marry him the night he meets her.

Juliet Capulet, an enemy to Romeo according to her last name, is the female protagonist in the play. She is a young, innocent girl of thirteen, a prime age to be married during the time period. Juliet is an obedient daughter who lives a sheltered life according to her parents’ wishes. In the beginning scenes, Lady Capulet inquires about her daughter’s attitude towards marriage and Juliet replies, “It is an honor that I dream not of” (Shakespeare, 1.3, 412).  There is no evidence of Juliet having close friendships in the play, as Romeo has Mercutio and Benvolio, thus further proving her sheltered lifestyle. Her destiny is decided by her parents and she allows them to take control. Juliet’s innocence begins to fade during her first encounter with Romeo. They engage in a battle of wits, in which Juliet still attempts to justify her desires after Romeo first kisses her, “Then have my lips the sin that they have took” (Shakespeare, 1.5, 687). After Juliet’s encounter with Romeo, her personality begins to alter. She claims to be in love with Romeo as is he is “My only love sprung from my only hate!” (Shakespeare, 1.5, 721). Juliet is more hesitant about the relationship than Romeo is, but that soon changes.

After Romeo and Juliet decide to be married, Juliet begins to think with her heart, instead of her mind. She acts impulsively by agreeing to meet Romeo at Friar Lawrence’s cell, the first of many indiscretions against her family. Juliet becomes quite passionate about her first and only love. Juliet pulls the wool over her parents’ eyes even further by sending her nurse as a messenger to ensure that Romeo indeed wishes to marry Juliet. After the couple agrees to be married, Juliet’s passion, impatience, and impulsiveness grow rapidly. Juliet’s impatience is shown in her words to her nurse while awaiting the message from Romeo, “The excuse that thou dost make in this delay/ Is longer than the tale thou dost excuse./ Is thy news good, or bad? Answer to that./ Say either, and I’ll stay the circumstance./ Let me be satisfied; is ’t good or bad?” (Shakespeare, 2.5, 1345-1349). Later in the drama, Juliet learns of her cousin Tybalt’s death by her husband’s sword on the eve of their wedding. Even though her own flesh and blood was slain by her love, she looks past this tragedy as if it was a common mistake and forgives her Romeo. When Juliet learns of Romeo’s banishment, she is overcome with grief, “That ‘banishèd,’ that one word ‘banishèd’/ Hath slain ten thousand Tybalts” (Shakespeare, 3.2, 1767-1768). In order to comfort the grieving Juliet, Lord Capulet insists she marries Paris. Again, Juliet disobeys her father’s wishes by refusing this proposal because of her love for Romeo. This outrages Lord Capulet as he curses his daughter and states that either she marry Paris or “never after look me in the face” (Shakespeare, 3.5, 2204). Juliet thinks impulsively by stating to herself, “If all else fail, myself have power to die” (Shakespeare, 3.5, 2292). She fulfills this deed in the end after awakening to her beloved’s lifeless body next to hers. Using Romeo’s dagger, she stabs herself and dies. It is significant that she uses Romeo’s blade, signifying Romeo is her demise.

Until Juliet, Romeo was a sane, peaceful young man. After his marriage to Juliet, Romeo began to thirst for violence and his sanity slipped away. When trouble arises with Romeo’s new relative, Tybalt, Romeo attempts to keep the peace by refusing to fight. In the end, Mercutio is slain and Romeo blames his weakness on his marriage to Juliet, “O sweet Juliet,/ Thy beauty hath made me effeminate/ And in my temper softened valor’s steel!” (Shakespeare, 3.1, 1547-1549). In order to avenge his companion’s death, Romeo slays Tybalt, altering Romeo’s fate. Romeo’s passion and violent deeds thrive throughout the rest of the play. When Romeo learns of Juliet’s “death,” he impulsively purchases the most lethal poison in order to join his love. As he approaches Juliet’s tomb, Paris, anticipating the worst, attempts to prevent Romeo from entering the tomb in a violent manner. Romeo orders Paris to stand aside as he refers to himself as a “madman” (Shakespeare, 5.3, 2920). As a result, Romeo kills Paris in an act of violence as well as passion. Romeo’s last impulsive act ended his life, all in the name of adolescent love.

Adolescent love plays a strong role in Romeo and Juliet. Juliet is easily wooed by Romeo’s actions and words, which could be caused either by her adolescent mind, her desire to connect with the outside world, or both. Romeo never pursues his love for Rosaline, but once he meets Juliet, an enemy of his family, he declares he is in love. This mimics teenage rebellion and the temptation of forbidden fruit; the more one is told he or she cannot have something, the more he or she desires it. Another reason for Romeo and Juliet’s swift romance is the adolescent’s desire to be loved. Both Romeo and Juliet crave this human experience. Romeo states, “I pray thee, chide not. Her I love now/ Doth grace for grace and love for love allow./ The other did not so” (Shakespeare, 2.3, 1093-1095). Once Juliet and Romeo establish that they are in fact in love, they are both quite dependent of each other, especially Juliet. This is why banishment is considered worse than death in both Romeo and Juliet’s eyes. In their minds, all they have is each other and they cannot love anyone else, therefore, the only logical option for them is to commit suicide. According to Dr. Gregory K. Moffatt, “Even though adults experience these same feelings when their romances dissolve, they usually have the ability to cope much better than most adolescents because they have experienced broken relationships and they are aware that time heals wounds. For teens, their limited experiences inhibit this confidence. Therefore, broken relationships are extremely hurtful. In fact, one of the risk factors for suicide during adolescence is a broken romance.”  Throughout the play, Juliet rapidly begins to resemble Romeo’s impulsiveness and passion, another aspect of adolescence. It seems Juliet is easily influenced by her love for Romeo.

In summary, does the tale of Romeo and Juliet resemble true love or tragedy? By examining the characters of Romeo and Juliet and their romance, the drama leans more toward the theme of tragedy. Although both protagonists fight for their forbidden love, the conflict cannot be avoided. Both characters become entirely different individuals by the end of the play, in both positive and negative ways. In the end, however, their altered personalities and adolescent romance led to their doom. Are these characters true heroes or they simply adolescents in desperate need of somebody to love?

Works Cited

Cooney, J. “Romeo & Juliet:  Romeo.” Romeo & Juliet: Romeo. 17 Dec. 1998. Web. 20 Feb. 2012. <http://pages.towson.edu/quick/romeoandjuliet/romeo.htm&gt;.

Moffatt, Gregory K. “Adolescent Love.” The Citizen. 29 Jan. 2003. Web. 20 Feb. 2012. <http://www.thecitizen.com/archive/main/archive-030129/healthwise/hw-01.html&gt;.

Shakespeare, William. “Romeo and Juliet (Modern).” :: Internet Shakespeare Editions. 16 Feb. 2011. Web. 8 Feb. 2012. <http://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/Library/Texts/Rom/M/scene/1.1&gt;.

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