On awakening from the long slumber of the Dark Ages, the Renaissance was a time of "rebirth" of culture in Europe. Writers of the time such as Christopher Marlowe and Sir Phillip Sydney created literature that was bold and innovative. Dramatists revived and reinvented the classical traditions of the Greeks and Romans, however no one seemed to match William Shakespeare in terms of variety, profundity, and exquisite use of language (). Known as the most famous love story in the English literary tradition, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet tells the story of two unfortunate lovers whose deaths ultimately brings together their feuding families. In this tragedy, Shakespeare plays on the reader's emotion to portray certain themes.
The reader first feels admiration as the play opens up depicting the power of love. In Romeo and Juliet love is seen as a brutal emotion that seizes the minds of individuals and turns them against the world, and, at times, themselves. This is shown as Juliet states:
O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name.
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet. (RJ 2.2.33-36)
Perhaps the most famous line of the play, here Juliet, unaware that Romeo is listening, pleads that he denies his family for her love. In addition, she states that if he refuses to do so, she will deny her family in order to be with him on the condition that he declares his love for her. The struggle of tension between social life, family, and one’s inner identity, is again proven when Juliet later states:
'Tis but thy name that is my enemy.
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name, which is no part of thee
Take all myself. (RJ 2.2.38-49)
Here Juliet' gives readers an insight of her beliefs, reveling that her love for Romeo conquers her family’s hatred towards the Montague name. It also contradicts Webster when he states, "Some say true love is based on physical appearance without a deeper understanding of a person." (), as Juliet clearly shows true love originates from deep feelings within.
Shakespeare also brings out a sense of awe in the reader as the fate of the two lovers is portrayed. The mechanism of fate is put into work continuously throughout the play, and is first introduced by the Chorus in the opening prologue when they state:
Two households, both alike in dignity
(In fair Verona, where we lay our scene),
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes...