It is deeply ironic that “love”, which is regarded so highly in our society, is a very general term without well-defined specific terms. For instance, there are not even explicit terms to describe the specific types of love one feels between, say, a family member, and a romantic interest, which are clearly distinct and almost completely universal. We naturally seek a universal definition of love, a complete truth. I daresay that I doubt one exists. This ambiguity of terminology has undoubtedly caused much conflict; history has no shortage of examples. Further irony arises in that despite being central to life, both physically and mentally, we still seem to struggle greatly with the concept; mathematics has much better utilized its ubiquity among the ancient civilizations. As a corollary, love is one of, if not the, most common theme in literature and the other arts. Here, we shall examine a specific example. In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare illustrates romantic love, infatuation, and familial love, and how all three contradict each other by promoting different courses of action.
Firstly, Shakespeare depicts infatuation in his play. Note that infatuation is distinct from romantic love because infatuation lacks certain qualities, such as a conscious will to maintain said love. We refer to Romeo’s feelings for Rosaline before the party. Romeo says:
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. (1.1.221-5)
From this quote, Romeo’s feelings of Rosaline are extremely apparent: Romeo “loves” Rosaline, in common terms. However, this affection does not contain the usual elements that are present in a standard romantic love. It is evident that Romeo is not close to Rosaline, in the sense that Romeo does not know Rosaline well; a reader may infer this from the context of the dialog earlier on. More strongly, when Benvolio tells Romeo to simply forget about her, he responds with “O, teach me how I should forget to think!” (1.1.227). This implies that if given the ability to consciously stop loving Rosaline, he would in fact do so. Hence it is clear that Romeo is strongly attracted physically to Rosaline, but is neither close to her nor wishes to maintain that love. Therefore, by definition, the love that Romeo feels for Rosalyn is infatuation. Hence we have proved that infatuation is present in the paly. Having established the existence of said love, we proceed to discuss the relationship between romantic love and infatuation.
In the play, romantic love and infatuation contradict each other in the play by form of romantic love completely overriding all traces of infatuation. Again, we recall the feelings Romeo holds for Rosaline. In his heartbroken state, Romeo says, “I cannot bound a pitch above dull woe / Under love’s heavy burden do I sink” (1.4.21-2). By the preceding arguments, the...