Romeo and Juliet, the story of “star-crossed lovers”, is a play earlier written by Arthur Brookes. Shakespeare later on rewrote it and made many changes that improved the play. In Romeo and Juliet he attempts to show the truth and nature of love. He manages to achieve his goal by showing the different types of love throughout the play. For example, he shows Courtly love between Romeo and Rosaline, Romantic love between Romeo and Juliet, Physical love is explored in the first act, and there is also brotherly love between Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio. For Tybalt there is an opposite of love; he has hate more than anything and a passion for violence.
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Arthur Brookes first wrote ‘The tragicall Historie of Romeus and Juliet’ in 1562. Shakespeare later improved the play by rewriting it in 1595; he added his own style and he also added comedy and romantic elements to the play. The time scale also completely changed from at least nine months to four days. He did this because he wanted things to be more rushed and more exciting. Brooke’s play’s moral was that young people should do what their parents say but Shakespeare is giving the message that parents are not always right and that war and violence can damage people and lives. In Brooke’s version of the play his Juliet was 16 and Shakespeare’s Juliet was only 13. This could be about the pressures that young women face and how this could affect their lives. In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet ends up taking her own life because she was too young to deal with her lover’s death.
At the time when Shakespeare was writing Romeo and Juliet, Queen Elizabeth was the ruler of England and she preferred Shakespeare to many other playwrights. The first performance of Romeo and Juliet took place in 1594, when the playhouses reopened for the first time after the plague outburst which forced the Master of the Revels to close all the playhouses in London.
The role of women in Shakespeare’s time was very limited. Women had to be the ones that stayed home and look after the children and the house, whereas the men had to go out and earn the money to provide for their family. Women were not allowed to go to school or university but they could be home schooled by a tutor. Women were not allowed to act or write for the public stage, so the roles of women in the plays were normally played by young boys. Shakespeare challenges the roles of women using characters in his play, such as Juliet being stronger than Romeo. When Lady Capulet stops Capulet from getting involved, she says “A crutch, a crutch! Why call for your sword.” Lady Capulet tries to belittle him and make him feel like he is too old to be fighting and he should just leave it the Prince to end the brawl.
Shakespeare shows the falseness of Romeo’s early love by showing the nature of Courtly love. Courtly love is a very rigid and artificial way of showing love for a woman; it has more to do with the appearance of love than actual true love. The idea of courtly love came from an Italian poet, Francesco Petrarch, who wrote many sonnets. Courtly love is impossible love; love from afar which means you could never touch them because they are so above you and you couldn’t reach them and don’t deserve to.
Courtly love has a lot to do with appearance, In Act One, Scene Five, Romeo says “O she doth teach the torches to burn bright”. This shows that Romeo is amazed by Juliet’s Beauty but Romeo is still using the language of courtly love.
Also in Act 1, scene 5, Romeo says “This holy shrine”. He is comparing Juliet to something you worship, something that’s not supposed to get dirty, and something everyone should revere. The language is still courtly because he is stating she is above him and Romeo is exaggerating how beautiful Juliet is and Romeo is comparing her to something holy.
Juliet’s response to courtly love isn’t very good; she doesn’t appreciate the way Romeo talks to her. She thinks it’s very artificial and she wants Romeo to get to know her, not her appearance. She tells him she doesn’t want to be worshiped: “you do your hand wrong too much.” She is telling him that it is ok for Romeo to touch her. There is also a lot of pressure on Juliet, she wants to know that Romeo can show true love because with courtly love it’s easy to just get a woman pregnant and leave without a thought for her or the child.
In Act 2, Scene 1 Mercutio is taunting Romeo; he is talking in the courtly love context and basically calling Romeo an idiot for the language he uses. Mercutio says “King Copnetua loved the beggar maid.” King Copnetua was a Greek army man, who got sent to Africa. One day he meet a lady who was a beggar and fell in love with her, he took her home and they got married and when they died they got buried together. Mercutio is mocking the image of courtly love because within courtly love, the girl is normally being compared to someone or something superior, such as a god.
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Physical love is dirty humour used in nearly all of Shakespeare’s plays; it was very popular on the Elizabethan stage and is also popular in Romeo and Juliet as well. Mercutio uses a lot of the physical jokes he says “An old hare hoar, And an old hare hoar, Is very good meat in lent; But a hare that is hoar, Is too much for a score, when it hoars ere to be spent” this show that he is fond of using the bawdy sense of humour and normally spends his time focusing on the physical side of things.
The first two characters we are introduced to in the play are Sampson and Gregory. They are cracking dirty and vulgar jokes about women. They don’t see love as an emotion or desire it’s more about the physical side, the sex. They both have low opinions of love. The impression that we get about Sampson and Gregory is that they haven’t experienced true love but they have experienced the physical side of love.
The nurse also explores the physical side of things she refers to Romeo as a “Man of wax” this means a man that’s perfect no faults; it also means a handsome striking young man. This can be seen as physical love because she had no mention of the type of man he is or how he would treat Juliet, it’s just about how he looks and how handsome he is.
There is also more physical love being shown by Romeo and Juliet in Act 3, Juliet is waiting for Romeo to come to her balcony, she says words that can only show us she is thinking about the physical side of their relationship. “Lovers can see to do their amorous rites” this tells us that she loves Romeo and they should seal their relationship by doing the “amorous rites” this reefer’s to making love and being physical.
In conclusion Shakespeare did show the truth and nature of love. He includes many types of love that can be recognised in today’s society and also in the Elizabethan times. It’s near enough realistic to many people because they can relate to it, they have seen or experienced these kinds of love and this is why Romeo and Juliet is one of the most popular of Shakespeare’s plays.
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