Theme of Love in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
Shakespeare seldom created his own plots for the plays he wrote and
Romeo and Juliet was not an exception. It was not unusual to 'borrow'
plays written by others and edit them to their own creative styles.
The play "Romeo and Juliet" had been 'borrowed' several times before
Shakespeares version, and the original version was actually a poem,
written in Italian by Masuccio Salernitano in 1476. Shakespeares main
source of inspiration though, came from a long, English poem written
by Arthur Brooke written in 1562. This poem was yet another adaptation
from the original. Another source of Shakespeares inspiration was a
later prose version, written by William Painter and entitled "The
Goody History of the true and constant love between Rhomeo and
Julietta". Shakespeare edited the nine month time-scale in Brookes
version an reduced it to 5 days in his own play. This was to emphasize
the instant passion and love felt between Romeo and Juliet. Including
several different attitudes towards love attracted a larger audience
and helped "Romeo and Juliet" in succeeding to become the most famous
and popular love story of all time.
To have an unrequited love was a popular social pose in the
Elizabethan times that in which the play was set and written, and this
is how Romeo begins the play. He worships Rosaline although she is
obviously unobtainable and he sends her messages of love and poetry,
hoping that one day his feelings will become mutual and she will love
him in return.
Romeo is a poetic character and despite his melodramatic approach to
love, he is a romantic. This is the opposite attitude towards love
than the attitudes of his friends. Romeo's attitude changed when he
met Juliet at the feast, as he realises his love for Juliet is far
more superior and genuine than his love for Rosaline.
"Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs,
Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers' eyes."
Romeo uses this rhyming couplet to express his attitude towards love,
when he is confiding in Benvolio about his love for Rosaline. He also
uses oxymorons which show his confusion about this unrequited love he
has for Rosaline. This changes when he meets Juliet, as he becomes
poetic and more romantic. His first opinion of Juliet is:
"This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this."
Although he speaks poetically, he speaks with more clarity about his
feelings. He appears to have lost his state of conclusion which
surrounded him when he felt for Rosaline. Romeo is the only Petrarchan
lover in this play, so named because of Petrarch, the Italian poet who
created the sonnet. His view of love is included as a complete
contrast to that attitude of which his friends share.
Mercutio views love as a sexual joke, not as a romantic relationship