Everyone yearns for love. It is the driving force behind everything from everyday decisions to the choices of a lifetime.
This holds true in Shakespeare’s best-known love story, Romeo and Juliet. Love manifests itself in many ways in the play: as a sign of youths’ lack of knowledge, a cause of violence, and in some cases, the lack of love speaks for itself. Romeo exhibits two forms of love. He first experiences infatuation and then possibly true love. The love between Lord and Lady Capulet is not a strong form of love. The Nurse shows motherly love, but also perhaps selfish love.
Tybalt, however, represents extreme self-love and hate. Through the play, different forms of love move the plot along until it reaches a fatal extent. In the beginning of the play, Romeo is obsessed with Rosaline. When he speaks of her, however, he only refers to her beauty and her sexuality, like when he says, “she hath, and in that sparing makes huge waste.
For beauty, starv’d with her severity, cuts beauty off from all posterity” (ACT 1 SC 1 LINES 216-218) in conversation with Benvolio. Since his love for Rosaline appears to be only physical and is not mutually felt by Rosaline, it can be called infatuation. Despite Romeo’s passion for Rosaline, he quickly changes his mind. He experiences “love at first sight” with Juliet and douses her with poetic lines. As he tells her at the party, “if I profane with my unworthiest hand this holy shrine, the gentle sin is this: my lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand to smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss” (ACT 1 SC 5 LINES 94-96) which shows an immediate contrast to the way he speaks about Rosaline. Romeo stops referring to love as his tormentor and begins to compare it to a religion.
Romeo’s love for Rosaline is never even expressed to her, whereas he immediately tells Juliet. While it is usually the expectation that a woman would renounce her family name for her husband, Romeo offers to remove himself from the Montague family, an enormous move. In contrast to Romeo’s love for Juliet is the affection between Lord and Lady Capulet. Lady Capulet answers to Lord Capulet, while he often ignores her. Since Lord Capulet is significantly older than Lady Capulet it is likely that their marriage was arranged. Moreover, Lady Capulet does not seem overly passionate toward her husband. In fact, she speaks more highly of Paris than her own spouse.
She claims that “Verona’s summer hath not such a flower” (ACT 1 SCENE 3 LINE 77) and praises the beauty of his face when she says “read o’er the volume of young Paris’ face, and find delight writ there, with beauty’s pen. Examine every married lineament, and see how one another lends content, and what obscured in this fair volume lies. Find written in the margin of his eyes” (ACT 1 SCENE 3 LINES 81-86). Her interest in another man opens the door to the possibility than Romeo and Juliet’s affair may not be the only present in the play.
In an altogether different vein is the Nurse’s love. It stems from the loss of her own child. Because of this, she takes on Juliet as a child and loves her the way a mother would. She still views Juliet as a child and calls her pet names such as “ladybird” and “lamb”. In many ways, the Nurse is a more effective mother figure than Lady Capulet.
It is possible however that the Nurse’s love leads her to be a selfish character. Although she wants Juliet to be happy, and therefore encourages her to pursue Romeo, she does eventually betray her. This could possibly be because she does not sense that Juliet is experiencing true love, or perhaps she is afraid of losing her to Romeo. In a version of Juliet’s life where she marries Paris, she would no doubt remain in Verona, and bring the Nurse to live with her and Paris. Conversely, Tybalt loves himself. He also loves his family and will do anything to protect its honour. His love is not a selfish love, but it is a personal love which fuels his self-confidence and pride.
Tybalt’s love is not a large factor in the play, but he is used for contrast. In the same scene that Romeo is professing his love for Juliet, Tybalt is storming the Capulet ball to threaten Romeo. This illustrates both literally and figuratively that love and hate may not be so far apart after all. Unfortunately, Tybalt’s pride becomes the death of him when he embodies hate in his fight against Mercutio. It is likely that Tybalt represents the danger of an of outward love. Love is an ideal theme in any form of performance because it catches the attention of everyone.
Those who do not have love in their lives are curious, and those who are experiencing love can draw connections to their own experiences. Either way, people can live through love in any performance, and no matter what, death in the name of love pulls the heartstrings of any audience. Love is embodied in numerous ways in the play Romeo and Juliet. Romeo experiences the difference between physical and true love, Lord and Lady Capulet represent a lack of love, the Nurse exhibits a motherly love toward Juliet, and Tybalt manifests the opposite of love. Each type of love brings its unique qualities to the play and become a part of what is ultimately a tragic love story.