Romeo as a Typical Courtly Lover in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Romeo is portrayed as a typical
courtly lover. In my essay I will be examining the first act of the
play and exploring Romeo as a courtly lover and his transition from
loving Rosaline to loving Juliet.
In traditional medieval literature there were often fictional
characters who were known as courtly lovers. At the start of the play
Shakespeare has portrayed Romeo as a traditional courtly lover because
he follows the rules of courtly love. In the first scene of act 1,
Montague describes Romeo's odd behaviour to Benvolio. Montague says:
"And private in his chamber pens himself,
Shuts up his windows, locks fair daylight out,
And makes himself an artificial night:"
Romeo's behaviour shows that he follows the rule of courtly love, that
is, the man locks him self in his bedroom. This is because he isn't
loved, by the lady he loves.
Montague's description of Romeo's behaviour echoes a description taken
from the work of Chaucer, a writer of medieval literature. This
extract is taken from 'Troilus and Crisyede' written in the 1300's:
"He rist up and every done he shette,
And window ek, and thu this sorowful man
Upon his beckles syde adown him sette,
Ful lik a ded ymage, pale and wan"
Both Romeo and Troilus here display traits of courtly love. This shows
that Romeo is a traditional courtly lover because Montague's words
about Romeo's behaviour echos those of Troilus, an original figure of
courtly love. They both shut them selves away in their rooms, also
away from the world and the truth that the woman can never love the
Another way that Romeo acts like a traditional medieval courtly lover
is his misery. Montague describes Romeo's demeanour to Benvolio:
"With tears augmenting the fresh morning's dew,
Adding to clouds more cloud with his deep sighs,"
Again Montague's words echo those of Chaucer. Troilus says:
"Hire name, for to tellen his wo, Til neigh that in salte teres
Both Romeo and Troilus are courtly lovers and both are very miserable
and unhappy. The means that Romeo follows yet another concept of
Another notion of courtly love is that the woman doesn't love the man
Romeo says to Benvolio:
"Out of her favour where I am in love."
This shows that Rosaline doesn't return Romeo's love. Because of this
the man is seen as inferior to the woman. This is contrasting to
normal medieval life where men were superior the women. This makes
courtly lovers seem even more pathetic to the audience.
Another decree of courtly is love that the woman that the man falls in
love with can't love him back. Benvolio asks Romeo:
"The she hath sworn that she will live chaste?"