Love concepts in Romeo and Juliet

Essay, 2000

8 Pages

Free online reading

Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Love concepts presented in the play
2.1 A try of a definition
2.2 The concept of love of the main character Romeo
2.3.The concept of love of the main character Juliet
2.4.Love as a matter of arrangement

3. The theme of destiny

4. Characterization of Romeo and Juliet
4.1. Personal conditions for the personality of a loving individual
4.2 Juliet
4.3 Romeo

5. Conclusion

6. Bibliography
6.1 Primary Literature
6.2 Secondary Literature


Some contemporary sociologists postpone that our modern society is the inventor of the “real” love in the relationship between woman and man. Until the 18th century the family had the function of an economical community they say: the safety of existence had to be provided.

“Partnerwahl und Ehe waren ein vorwiegend ökonomisches Arrangement. Nach dem individuellen Zusammenpassen der künftigen Eheleute wurde wenig gefragt. [...] Wie die sozialhistorische Forschung zeigt, hat im Übergang zur modernen Gesellschaft auch ein tiefgehender Wandel von Familie und Ehe eingesetzt: Die Arbeitsgemeinschaft von einst nimmt immer mehr den Charakter einer Gefühlsgemeinschaft an. [...] Hier entsteht eine neue Form von Identität, die man am zutreffendsten vielleicht mit personenbezogener Stabilität bezeichnen kann.“1

In William Shakespeare’s tragic play “Romeo and Juliet”, written in 1592, sociological “concepts of community”, the economical one and the “community of feelings” are presented. This term paper will try to analyse these concepts and the (main) characters of the play behind a socio-historical and philosophical background. So it furthermore attempts to prove the existence of relationships in those days based on emotions like deep love.


2.1 A try of a definition

First of all it is necessary to lay down what this abstract expression “love” means. Is it possible to formulate a true, general definition of love or could there be general instructions how to lead a satisfying relationship?

„Das Problem ist [...], dass heute die meisten Menschen [...] eine praktische Anleitung in der Kunst des Liebens erwarten. [Aber] Lieben ist eine persönliche Erfahrung die jeder nur für sich allein haben kann [...]“.2

Therefore it is difficult to find a unique definition of love. One solution for this problematic topic could be to point out the basic characteristic features of love. It happens at least between two individuals, what means there is always an interaction. Therefore interaction means a kind of „activity“. Erich Fromm postulates exactly this:

„Liebe ist eine Aktivität und kein passiver Affekt. Sie ist etwas das man in sich selbst entwickelt[...] Ganz allgemein kann man den aktiven Charakter der Liebe so beschreiben, dass man sagt, sie ist in erster Linie ein Geben [...] Indem [ein Mensch] gibt, kann er nicht umhin, im anderen etwas zum Leben zu erwecken, und dieses Erweckte strahlt auf ihn zurück [...]“3

Despite this simplicity Erich Fromm’s definition of „real“ (and) mature love as an interaction or activity convinces. Chapter I of this paper claims that this concept which provides an „interpersonal stability“ is not an invention of the modern age. The following chapter tries to prove that this concept of love has already existed even more than 400 years ago.

2.2 The concept of love of the main character Romeo

The second act of the play is introduced by sonnet which points out the interaction of the young couple’s love: „Now Romeo is belov’d and loves again, Alike bewitched by the charm of looks [...]“ (Act II, Scene I)4. The phrase „bewitched“ may evoke the impression of superficiality in the young relationship. In the course of the following act the impression of a simple crush can be disproved.

First of all there is an accumulation of the phrase love. Romeo hides in the garden of the Capulets. In his monologue he underlines his deep feelings towards Juliet while he is watching her standing on the balcony. He compares her to the „fair sun“ (Act II, Scene II, l. 4)5 what is a contrast to the „envious moon who is already sick and pale with grief“ (Act II, Scene II, l. 5). This could be an allusion to his former unfilled love to Rosalind. Juliet’s beauty let Rosalind appear pale and uninteresting. With the words „It is my lady, o it is my love!“ the young man underlines his feelings towards Juliet. In addition to that he describes her how he was able to climb over the high walls into Capulet’s garden: “With love’s light wings […]” (Act II, Scene II, line 66) he stepped into. The image of the “wings” emphasizes the easiness and the vividness love evoke in him. Referred to the second quotation from Erich Fromm an evidence for mature love based on interaction can be given. Especially when Romeo confirms his love to Juliet towards Friar Laurence in the third scene of act II: “I pray thee chide me not, her I love now- Doth grace for grace and love for love allow. The other one [Rosalind] did not so.” (Ll. 80-83).

2.3.The concept of love of the main character Juliet

The way Juliet presents her love towards Romeo generates merely a concept of mature love as described in chapter II of this paper. With her words “My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love as deep: the more I give thee The more I have, for both are infinite […]” Erich Fromm’s concept of real and fulfilling love, which is based on interaction, furthermore on “giving and taking” is reflected perfectly.

2.4.Love as a matter of arrangement

In contrary to the presented concept of love, we also can find the traditiona l one in the play. It is based on an arrangement to gain social or/and economical advantages.

Paris, a noble man of Verona wishes to marry Juliet despite her young age. Capulet, her father appreciates this because he expects the advantages mentioned above. He seems to be very desperate: “Earth has swallow’s all my hopes” (Act I, SceneII, lines 14 and 15) His daughter is the only hope he has in his life, which indicates his whish of taking advantages through this marriage

Paris obviously does not know the girl well he intends to marry. At least they seem to be at the most just acquaintances. Capulet invites him to his “accustom’d feast” (Act I, Scene II, line 20) to give Paris the chance to get to know his daughter (better).


Despite all true feelings and maturity, the relationship has no chance to develop into a long-term relationship. Their love is “star cross’d” (Act I, Prologue, p. 81), determined by a tragic destiny.

“[…] Less than Shakespeare’s other heroines and heroes the lovers are less the authors of their own fortune or misfortune. […] The obstacles to their happiness are not internal, but are villains or enemies, relatives or rivals; they suffer from no inner maladjustments or misunderstandings […] [Romeo and Juliet] are in the external action more deeply involved. Their struggle is not with each other, nor within themselves, but only with their quarrelling families, against the stars.”6

The phrase “star cross’d” does not obviously intend to postulate a supernatural meaning like in Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth” where the witches create a supernatural atmosphere. The reason for the fatale ending of the love in this play results from “forth the fatal loins of these two foes” (p. 81, l 6). The social context, the two quarrelling families, gives “destiny” the basis.


4.1. Personal conditions for the personality of a loving individual

First of all, does love need certain conditions in the personality? Does a mature love also result from mature characters?

“ Wir brauchen wohl nicht besonders darauf hinzuweisen, dass die Fähigkeit zur Liebe- wird Liebe als ein Akt des Gebens verstanden- von der Charakterentwicklung des Betreffenden abhängt[...] Die Liebe ist aber nicht nur ein Geben, ihr „aktiver“ Charakter zeigt sich aber auch darin, dass sie in allen ihren Formen stets folgende Grundelemente enthält: Fürsorge, Verantwortungsgefühl, Achtung vor dem anderen und Erkenntnis.

The following chapter attempts to analyse the characters of Ro meo and Juliet concerning their maturity for love.

4.2 Juliet

The balcony-scene in the second scene of act II reveals Juliet’s characteristic features to make a true love, based on the first concept of love presented in this paper, possible. Juliet’s “realization” (Erkenntnis, see quotation above) of Romeos frame of mind (he intends to have sex with her) is emphasized in lines 95 and following: “If thou think’st I am too quickly won, I’ll frown and be perverse and say thee nay.” This shows that Juliet has reached a certain state of personality and individuality. She is able to say “no” and to get her will through- despite her young age. Furthermore this is a hint for “sense of responsibility” (Verantwortungsgefühl). Although she enjoys his presence, she has “no joy of this contract tonight: It is too rash, too unadvis’d, too sudden […]” (ll. 118 ff). Juliet intends to protect him from death and herself from trouble.

4.3 Romeo

In chapter 2.2 I revealed the young man’s feelings as true and mature, but the state of development of his personality lies beyond the one of Juliet (see chapter 4.2). His intentions under her balcony are “too rash, too unadvis’d”. In the further course of the play Romeo keeps his “rash” behaviour and temper. The quarrel between Mercutio, Benvolio, Tybalt and Romeo reveals the fact. He regrets that he has not fight Tybalt before he killed Mercutio: “O sweet Juliet, thy beauty hath made me effeminate- and my temper soften’d valour’s steel. […] Away to heaven respective lenity, and fire-eye’d fury be my conduct now!” (P. 165, ll.125 ff).


In the paper at hand I firstly postponed, contrary to the opinion of the contemporary sociologist Ulrich Beck, that romantic love has already existed before the modern age. In my eyes William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” is prove for this existence. Their tragic relationship can also reflect our reality. We live in a multi- cultured society; people from all beliefs live close together. Often a relationship between for example a Christian boy and a Muslim girl cause trouble within and between their families. This can end in the separation of the couple or a brake of the relationship to the family or maybe also to suicide. The possible consequences of such a quarrel are endless. The intolerance between religious groups is just one reason for a socially difficult relationship.

That is why “the most excellent and lamentable tragedy of Romeo and Juliet” is a favoured play of dramatists and moviemakers. Many authors, songwriters etc. felt inspired by this story. The musical “The West-Side Story” is a good example for the inspiration “Romeo and Juliet” are. Finally I can say the story is timeless- this kind of love has always existed and will always exist.


6.1 Primary Literature

- William Shakespeare, „Romeo and Juliet“, ed. by Bryan Gibbons (London, 1980), The Arden Shakespeare.

6.2 Secondary Literature

- Erich Fromm, „Die Kunst des Liebens“, (Frankfurt am Main 1995).
- Elmer Edgar Stoll: “Shakespeare’s young lovers”, (New York, 1966).
- Ulrich Beck, Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim “Das ganz normale Chaos der Liebe”, (Frankfurt am Main 1990).


1..Ulrich Beck, Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim “Das ganz normale Chaos der Liebe”, (Frankfurt am Main 1990). Page 69ff.

2 Erich Fromm, „Die Kunst des Liebens“, (Frankfurt am Main 1995). Page 42ff.

3 Vgl. Erich Fromm.

4 William Shakespeare, „Romeo and Juliet“, ed. by Bryan Gibbons (London, 1980), The Arden Shakespeare.

5 Subsequently, all quotations from „Romeo and Juliet“ refer to this edition.

6 Elmer Edgar Stoll: “Shakespeare’s young lovers”, (New York, 1966).

8 of 8 pages


Love concepts in Romeo and Juliet
Ruhr-University of Bochum
Catalog Number
File size
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Love, Romeo, Juliet, Literature
Quote paper
Eva Wegrzyn (Author), 2000, Love concepts in Romeo and Juliet, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • guest on 4/23/2002

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  • guest on 7/21/2002

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  • guest on 7/7/2004


    selten solch eine gut recherchierte, und intelligent hinterfragte, ausführung über irgend was besten gefiel mir, wie auf spielerische art und weise mit vokalen um gegangen wird, und sie immer wieder in verschiedenen worten vor kommen. GENIAL!*g

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