Love and dramatic genre - Approaches to the topic of love in three Shakespearean plays

Examination Thesis, 2003

56 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of Contents

General Introduction

Introduction to "Romeo and Juliet"
Romeo and Juliet's course of love

Introduction to "All's Well that Ends Well" and "The Taming of the Shrew"
Bertram and Helen's course of love
Katherina and Petruchio's course of love

General Conclusion


General Introduction

"Love" is a central topic in Shakespeare's plays. Many of his couples have gained a status of immortality: Antony and Cleopatra, Romeo and Juliet, or Beatrice and Benedick are only a few examples. These lovers shar one experience, which Lysander in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" sums up very clearly:

"The course of true love never did run smooth ..." (1,1,134)[1]

This dilemma is the "raw material" I am interested in. I will take three Shakespearean plays with "love" as their central issue and examine the protagonists' courses of love in them. This involves the beginning, the obstacles in the way, the reactions to these obstacles and the final failure or success to overcome them.

The plays chosen are "Romeo and Juliet", "All's Well that Ends Well", and "The Taming of the Shrew".[2] In the First Folio edition the first one is classified as belonging to the literary form of "tragedy", the latter two as "comedies".[3] This leads me to the second element in the title, which is "dramatic genre". What Northrop Frye says about comedy is also valid for tragedy:

"If a play in a theatre is subtitled 'a comedy', information is conveyed to a potential audience about what kind of thing to expect, and this type of information has been intelligible since before the days of Aristophanes."[4]

One such expectation concerns a play's mood.[5] Here lies a fundamental difference between tragedy and comedy. Generally speaking, the audience expects that a comedy creates a happy mood and a tragedy a sad one.[6]

Another basic expectation is to do with the different plot structures of the genres. In fact the structures are held responsible for the respective mood. After explaining the tragic "rhythm" (the term "rhythm" refers to the generic structure) Susanne Langer emphasizes the connection between structure and mood:

"It is also what makes tragedies sad, as the rhythm of sheer vitality makes comedy happy."[7]

Jill Levenson stresses that in both literary forms three phases of action development have to be distinguished - exposition, complication, and catastrophe (or resolution).[8] And in both it is the introduction of a conflict, which is the driving force for the action.[9] The essence of the conflict lies in the dichotomy between the protagonists and their society. At some stage a clash of interests is introduced and the society's and the protagonists' aims become incompatible. An obstacle is raised, which bars the integration of the main characters with their individual desires into their society.[10]

Now, what distinguishes the two genres from each other - the cause of comic happiness and tragic sadness - are the solutions they offer. Comedy ends with the overcoming of the conflict and the social reintegration of the protagonists.[11] It typically finishes with a celebration scene, mostly a wedding.[12] In tragedy on the contrary, the obstacle is not removed, the conflict not resolved. An essential element of a tragic ending is not the integration of the protagonists into the society but their isolation from it. This is often symbolized through their death, as a sign of ultimate isolation.[13]

Turning back to the three plays to be analyzed, they clearly fit into this structural scheme. In what is labelled a "tragic love story", "Romeo", the conflict between the lovers and their society is not resolved and the play ends with their deaths. In the two plays described as "comedies" both couples achieve the state of married life within their society after initial conflicts with it.

However, I am not alone finding that "Romeo" is a rather happy play over long stretches, whereas "The Taming" and "All's Well" are anything but thoroughly happy pieces.[14] In these three dramas Shakespeare only partly fulfils the expectations, which are evoked. Their generic structure does not generate a consistent mood.[15] Searching for the causes of this inconsistency I found two aspects which I deem responsible for undermining the moods of the dramas. In the following I will briefly introduce these aspects and then track them down in the plays.

In "All's Well" the major conflict is not between the protagonists and the society but between the two main characters themselves.[16] This leads to a feature which is particularly germane to the topic of "love". In "Midsummer" Robin Goodfellow explains the typical result of a comic love story. Robin hints at two levels of integration:

"Jack shall have Jill, Naught shall go ill, The man shall have his mare again, And all shall be well." (3,2,161-164)[17]

I assume that the phrase "all shall be well" at least partly hints at the relationship between the protagonists and their society and that it indicates the kind of integration outlined above. Egeus, Hermia's father, is against the union between his daughter and her lover Lysander. His opposition is an effective obstacle to the couple's integration into the society, that is their marriage. I call this - using Sherman Hawkins' terminology - an "external obstacle".[18]

The first verse "Jack shall have Jill" points to the existence of another potential barrier to a course of love. This is to do with the integration of the couple itself.[19] For a long period of time in "Midsummer" Lysander does not want to have Hermia.[20] Generally speaking, if "Jack" does not want "Jill" or vice versa there is what I call an "internal obstacle" to the course of love.[21]

From this distinction of two levels of integration follows the possibility of different degrees of integration at the ending of a play on "love". The reason is that internal and external integration can but they do not necessarily have to cohere.

Furthermore, the degree of integration can vary within the external and the internal level. The fact that two people are married does not necessarily mean that their relationship is characterized by loving affection. There may still be an obstacle in the way to mutual happiness. The same applies to the integration on the external level, because neither is the couple's formal integration into the society through their wedding a guarantee for a warm welcome. Thus I propose to distinguish between a "formal" resolution, achieved through the wedding, and an "emotional" one.[22] I suggest that a lack of a thorough integration in the ending accounts for undermining the comic happiness in "All's Well" and in "The Taming".

In "Romeo" the lovers die, so the ending realizes complete isolation.[23] I propose that the factor which is responsible for the surprisingly happy mood in this play is to be found in the process the course of love takes.

Regarding a comic course of love the audience can be sure that every action will be twisted as to lead to a happy outcome. In Susan Snyder's words it is a world where "nothing is irrevocable" and the catastrophe of death can always be avoided. In contrast to this, a tragic development is characterized by what she calls "inevitability".[24] This means that the protagonists get ensnared in a process which limits their options and necessarily leads to a disastrous outcome. The feature of "evitability" in comedies and of "inevitability" in tragedies is to underline the respective mood.[25]

I doubt that the development of the course of love portrayed in "Romeo" is consistently characterized by "inevitability". With Snyder I suggest that throughout the play "anticipations of a happy outcome" are being encouraged.[26]

Introduction to "Romeo and Juliet"

The effect of "inevitability" can be created in two ways. On the one hand, a situation can be shaped, which reduces the options for the protagonists and forces them into the only movement possible. On the other hand, the characters involved can perceive or feel that their situation inevitably leads towards disaster. Charlton, discussing the aspect of "necessity" introduced by Aristotle, hints at these two facets:

"Aristotle's 'necessity' seems generally to refer to the nexus of events in sequence."[27]

Referring to this aspect I use the term "situation". Charlton then goes on:

"'Necessity' ... is a name for something felt to be an ultimate compulsion, a power ordaining inevitably the nature of what is, and controlling inevitably the sequence of what becomes."[28]

I want to prove that for a long time throughout "Romeo", the situation lacks "inevitability". The process of this tragic course of love simply does not necessarily steer for death all the way through. And as regards the question whether the perception of the characters is dominated by "inevitability", it is necessary to look at the view of the four people who know about the relationship: Romeo and Juliet, Friar Laurence and the Nurse. They have quite diverse perspectives on this matter and there is much room for comic as well as tragic perspectives.

Romeo and Juliet's course of love

From the Prologue we already get to know the frame of the whole love story.[29] First of all, we are presented the situation in this play's society, which is characterized by division:

"Two households both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, ..." (1,0,1-3)

In 1,1 we learn of the civil war fought between the families of the Montagues and of the Capulets, as well as of the existence of a neutral party, which consists of the Prince of Verona and the rest of the citizens.[30]

Secondly, the protagonists and the obstacle to their course of love are introduced to us. The verses even look ahead to the outcome of the conflict:

"From forth the fatal loins of these two foes A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life, Whose misadventured piteous overthrows Doth with their death bury their parents' strife." (1,0,5-8)

The first thing we get to know about Romeo and Juliet is that they are members of the warring groups. Their course of love is depicted as inseparably connected with their parents' feud. The fact that they are enemies forms the obstacle to their love, which clearly is an external one.[31] There is a hint at the negative interference of an impersonal power for the story's outcome ("star-crossed lovers"), which I will call "Fate". I interpret this passage in this way that the concrete obstacle is built around the feud but that it is Fate which finally renders the inevitable failure to overcome it. In Charlton's words:

"The feud is, so to speak, the means by which Fate acts."[32]

In the first scene the seriousness of the quarrel, as depicted in the Prologue, is softened considerably. Its portrayal creates a rather funny impression. Two men of Capulet's household provoke two Montagues as schoolchildren would do this:

Samson (Capulet) "... I will bite my thumb at them, which is disgrace to them if they bear it."

Abraham (Montague) "Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?"

Sampson "I do bite my thumb, sir."

Abram "Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?" (1,1,39-43)[33]

After the exchange of more insults they start to fight. Then, the two heads of the family appear together with their wives. They are depicted as old men, not to be taken too seriously.[34]

Capulet "What noise is this? Give me my long sword, ho!"

Lady Capulet "A crutch, a crutch - why call you for a sword?" (1,1,71-72)

Eventually, the Prince arrives and separates the fighting groups. He addresses the two parties in the way of a teacher giving his naughty pupils a lecture:

"Will they not hear? What ho! You men, you beasts, ... ... You, Capulet, shall go along with me; And Montague, come you this afternoon, ..." (1,1,79 and 95-96)

The Prince's rebuke seems to have been successful.[35] Later on, Capulet says:

"But Montague is bound as well as I, In penalty alike, and 'tis not hard, I think, For men so old as we to keep the peace." (1,2,1-3)

After the introduction of the "new mutiny" the two protagonists are presented. From a discussion with his cousin Benvolio, we know that Romeo Montague is unhappily in love with a woman called Rosaline, who is rejecting his advances.[36] In order to put him in a more positive frame of mind Benvolio tries to open Romeo's eyes to other girls. His idea is to put on disguise and to join a party given at the household of the Capulets'. There, he suggests Romeo will find more beautiful girls than Rosaline and finally forget about her. Romeo stays convinced that his cousin's plan won't work:

"One fairer than my love, the all-seeing sun Ne'er saw her match since first the world begun." (1,2,95-96)

Nevertheless, he agrees, but only in the hope of meeting Rosaline there.

When Juliet is first mentioned it is in a talk between her father and a young nobleman called Paris, who asks for her hand in marriage. Capulet encourages him to woo his daughter at his party.[37] After that, Lady Capulet and the Nurse prepare Juliet for the encounter and encourage her to accept Paris' suit. Her mother frankly tells her:

"Well, think of marriage now; ... ... Speak briefly, can you like of Paris' love?" (1,3,71 and 98)

Juliet seems to be open-minded about this idea:

"I'll look to like, if looking liking move." (1,3,99)

Romeo as well as Juliet are introduced in connection with a potential partner. The festivity is the occasion to promote a union with these. In both there is some kind of internal obstacle to becoming involved with someone else.[38] But at the party they don't meet with their respective prospective partners but with each other.

It takes only an instance after Romeo has noticed Juliet, that he removes his internal obstacle and casts aside any thought of Rosaline:

"Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight, For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night." (1,4,165-166)

In the verses directly following Romeo's we are reminded of the feud. Tybalt, Capulet's nephew, has detected through Romeo's disguise that he is an enemy:

"This, by his voice, should be a Montague. Fetch me my rapier, boy. ... Now by the stock and honour of my kin, To strike him dead I hold it not a sin." (1,4,167-168 and 171-172)

In 1,1 the family quarrel seemed to have developed from a rather silly tussle to tired peace. Here we are presented someone to whom it is still highly relevant. But the violent tone is modified again. Capulet rudely rebukes Tybalt for his attitude. In their conversation the atmosphere much more resembles the one in the first scene:

Capulet "He shall be endured. What, goodman boy, I say he shall, go to! ..."

Tybalt "Why, uncle, 'tis a shame."

Capulet "Go to, go to, You are a saucy boy. ..." (1,4,189-190 and 194-196)

Again, the image is one of an ill-mannered schoolboy being rebuked by his angry teacher. The "teacher" Capulet even praises Romeo in high terms:

"... let him alone. A bears him like a portly gentleman; And, to say truth, Verona brags of him To be a virtuous and well-governed youth." (1,4,178-181)[39]

Tybalt obeys his uncle but the comment he makes indicates that the last word has not been spoken in this matter. His aggression persists, it is only suppressed for the moment:

"I will withdraw, but this intrusion shall Now seeming sweet convert to bitt'rest gall." (1,4,204-205)

The very next verse marks the beginning of the first exchange between the two protagonists. Tybalt's speech concentrates on "death" whereas Romeo and Juliet's lays the foundations for their course of love.[40] Romeo apologizes for touching Juliet's hand:

"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." (1,4,206-209)

Juliet responds to Romeo's lyrical opening. She carries further the "sin-image" and continues with the rhyme scheme. At the end of the conversation they have constructed a sonnet together. But also, they have kissed twice sealing the beginning of their relationship.[41]

Shortly after their encounter Juliet learns from her Nurse that Romeo is a Montague. In her reaction she expresses clearly that she has fallen in love with him and forgotten about her suitor Paris. Juliet too has removed any internal obstacle:

"Prodigious birth of love it is to me That I must love a loathed enemy." (1,4, 252-253)

Her verses also reveal how she assesses the situation. The first thing she says about Romeo is that he is a "loathed enemy". Juliet looks upon this issue as being central to their course of love. Romeo's response to the information on Juliet's family name closely resembles hers.[42] Neither here nor elsewhere is there the smallest hint that the family feud might have a negative influence on the lovers' internal integration. Both perceive it exclusively as a serious external obstacle to their love.[43]

In summary, at the end of the first act we are presented with "love at first sight" between two members of hostile families.[44] Yet, the portrayal of the feud is not totally in accord with the lovers' perception of its relevance for their relationship. Basically, the feud is depicted as a thing past. Tybalt is the only character for whom it is still a matter of life and death.[45] Neither as regards the situation itself nor its perception by the protagonists can there be found the feature of "inevitability".[46] The lovers have a lot of options as the Prologue to the second act emphasizes:

"Being held a foe, he may not have access To breathe such vows as lovers use to swear; And she, as much in love, her means much less To meet her new beloved anywhere. But passion lends them power, time means, to meet, Temp'ring extremities with extreme sweet." (2,0,9-14)

Romeo and Juliet won't accept the situation but will try to set the power of their love against their obstacle.

It is Romeo who takes the first step. After the party he doesn't go home with his friends, Benvolio and Mercutio. Under the protection of the night he climbs the wall surrounding the estate of the Capulets' in order to meet Juliet again. Romeo finally detects her musing at a window. Apart from confessing their love to each other, their talk is about their joint problem, that is the feud.

Juliet, talking to herself and not yet knowing of Romeo's presence, escapes into a world of wishful thinking:

"O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name; ... 'Tis but thy name that is my enemy; Thou art thyself, though not a Montague." (2,1,76-77 and 81-82)

Trying to separate Romeo's name from his personality Juliet denies Romeo's social background. When Romeo overhears this he reveals himself and participates in the fantasy:

"Call me but love, and I'll be new baptised: Henceforth I never will be Romeo." (2,1,93-94)

Surprised by his sudden appearance, Juliet awakes from her dream realizing the impossibility of her wish.[47] In her question she reconnects Romeo with his name:

"Art thou not Romeo, and a Montague?" (2,1,103)

Acknowledging the fact that Romeo is Romeo Montague she becomes aware of the danger in which Romeo has put himself. Thinking of his enemies, her kinsmen, she says:

"I would not for the world they saw thee here." (2,1,117)

Romeo's reply is:

"I have night's cloak to hide me from their eyes, And but thou love me, let them find me here. My life were better ended by their hate Than death prorogued, wanting of thy love." (2,1,118-121)

With this answer he clarifies that he values his love to Juliet more highly than his own life, which is an essential condition for a tragic development. Romeo doesn't say that he perceives the situation as hopelessly leading towards disaster, rather that if it does he will have his priorities settled and will be prepared to pay the prize.

The conversation does not end with this tragic undertone but with the hope of a happy future together. Shortly before they part, Juliet comes up with a plan, which Romeo agrees to:

"If that thy bent of love be honourable, Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow, By one that I'll procure to come to thee, Where and what time thou wilt perform the rite, And all my fortunes at thy foot I'll lay, And follow thee, my lord, throughout the world." (2,1,186-189)

Juliet suggests a clandestine marriage. On the one hand, this reveals a concession to the situation and reveals that she doesn't hope for an integration into their society. On the other hand, Juliet's verses demonstrate a confidence that they will be able to preserve their love despite the feud. The phrase "throughout the world" hints at their openness to find a place somewhere where they will live in peace. Obviously - apart from the church's sanctioning - they view their relationship as a private matter, which does not necessarily need the embedding into their native social structure.

In the same night, Romeo turns to his confessor, Friar Laurence. He tells him about his love for Juliet and asks him to unite them in marriage. The Friar agrees:

"... In one respect I'll thy assistant be: For this alliance may so happy prove, To turn your household's rancour to pure love." (2,2,90-93)

Here, we get a new perspective on the situation. More optimistically than the lovers, the churchman not only perceives the possibility for a thoroughly comic ending resulting in the couple's integration into their society; he even hopes for the society's healing through this marriage.[48]

With the Nurse's help (she functions as Juliet's messenger) the wedding is performed between 2,5 and 3,1. At the end of the second act the situation still is anything but inevitably leading towards disaster.[49] The couple has the Friar's and the Nurse's support and they managed to find space enough to marry in their society.

Yet, in the following act the action does not lead towards further integration. There are two incidents which seriously heighten the external obstacle to their relationship.

In 3,1 Romeo is deeply drawn into the affairs of the feud, which promptly reacts upon their course of love. At the beginning of the scene the feud is boiling up again. The tenseness is reflected in Benvolio's description of the weather.[50] He says to his friend Mercutio:

"... The day is hot, the Capels are abroad; And if we meet we shall not scape a brawl, For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring." (3,1,2-4)

Indeed they run into Tybalt and his clansmen. A situation similar to the one in 1,1 arises. Both parties try to provoke each other. After a while the newly wed Romeo appears and - not being interested in a widening of the gap between the two families - makes an attempt to calm down the quarrelling men. Nevertheless, Mercutio draws his sword and starts a fight with Tybalt. But this time, there is no princely authority to stop the fighters. When Romeo tries to do so and goes between them, Tybalt takes advantage of the situation and stabs Mercutio to death under Romeo's arm. After this incident Romeo reflects:

"... My very friend, hath got this mortal hurt In my behalf; my reputation stained With Tybalt's slander - ..." (3,1,110-112)

Tybalt called him a "villain" some moments ago.[51] Then, Romeo bore it silently. But now the situation is different. The same man has caused his friend's death - with Romeo even being partly responsible for it. Romeo decides to accept Tybalt's challenge:[52]

"Away to heaven, respective lenity, And fire-eyed fury be my conduct now. Now, Tybalt, take the 'villain' back again That late thou gavest me; for Mercutio's soul Is but a little way above our heads, ..." (3,1,123-127)

In the ensuing duel Romeo kills Tybalt. When Benvolio urges his cousin to flee before the Prince's arrival, whom he expects to condemn Romeo to death, Romeo laments:

"O, I am fortune's fool!" (3,1,136)

The protagonist's perception of the situation has changed. There is a marked difference between this exclamation and the following one taken from the balcony scene earlier:

"With love's light wings did I o'erperch these walls, For stony limits cannot hold love out, And what love can do, that dares love attempt: Therefore thy kinsmen are no stop to me." (2,1,109-112)

Here, Romeo regards himself to be in control of the situation. But somehow, through his decision for an active involvement in the feud he thinks that he has exposed himself to the sphere of Fate. Romeo is convinced that from now on it is no longer he that determines his life but a power above him, which leads him on a predetermined way. In other words, he sees his life to be characterized by "inevitability". Romeo's perception has become a tragic one.[53]

Romeo's action triggers off an immediate consequence: the Prince's judgement on it. But it does not mean death for him, only his isolation from the Veronese society:

"And for that offence Immediately we do him hence." (3,1,186-187)

This means that the couple's external integration (hoped for by the Friar) has become unrealistic. Also, there is an end to their secret meetings - at least within Verona. In other words, a chain of inevitable happenings occurred: Romeo killed Tybalt, which caused his banishment, which in turn caused the impossibility of the couple's external integration.

The two following scenes show the lovers' reaction to the judgement. Juliet gets the news from the Nurse. Her reaction is one of total despair:

"... 'Romeo is banished' - to speak that word Is father, mother, Tybalt, Romeo, Juliet, All slain, all dead. 'Romeo is banished' - There is no end, no limit, measure, bound, In that word's death; no words can that woe sound." (3,2,122-126)

Their former plan was that the two would spend their wedding night in Juliet's bedroom and that Romeo was to use a rope ladder to get there. Reflecting on this Juliet says:

"He made you for a highway to me bed, But I, a maid, die maiden-widowed. Come cords, come Nurse, I'll to my wedding-bed, And death, not Romeo, take my maidenhead." (3,2,134-137)

After Juliet's first eruption has ceased, the Nurse suggests to make possible the nightly meeting nevertheless. Juliet takes this appointment with Romeo to be the last one in her life:

"... bid him come to take his last farewell." (3,2,143)

Obviously Juliet's perspective has changed too. A sense of "inevitability" has entered her mind as has Romeo's. The "evitability" inherent in her former view manifested itself in considering the possibility to leave Verona if necessary and thus to bypass the difficulties. But now, although the situation still allows for this step, Juliet is not aware of it any longer. She regards Romeo's banishment as inevitably destroying their course of love and indicates her despair by equating "banishment" with "death".[54]

Romeo learns of the Prince's judgement from Friar Laurence, to whose cell he has escaped. He also associates it with "death":

"Ha, banishment? Be merciful, say 'death'; For exile hath more terror in his look, Much more than death. ..." (3,3,12-14)

The Friar does not understand Romeo's desperation. True to his "comic vision"[55] he tries to widen his limited perspective:

"Here from Verona art thou banished. Be patient, for the world is broad and wide." (3,3,15-16)

Romeo's answer clearly shows the tragic narrowing down of his frame of mind:

"There is no world without Verona walls, But purgatory, torture, hell itself. Hence banished is banished from the world, And world's exile is death. Then 'banished' Is death mistermed. ..." (3,3,17-21)

He thinks that his banishment compels the end of his relationship with Juliet. There is no thought of finding a space somewhere else any longer.[56] Verona and Juliet have become inseparably connected with each other in his mind. Thus he says:

"... Heaven is here Where Juliet lives; ..." (3,3,29-30)

Again, I think such pessimism can only be derived from a conviction that Fate is at work. It is important to emphasize that the situation itself does not demand such a perspective. Romeo demonstrates his hopelessness in his attempt to commit suicide. He is kept from doing it by the Friar (or the Nurse, who has come to arrange the meeting with Juliet).[57]

On the contrary, Friar Laurence still expects that their love can be rescued. The clash between the Friar's attitude of "evitability" and Romeo's of "inevitability" characterizes their conversation. The churchman has a concrete plan in mind and tries to convey it to Romeo. After several failed attempts to deliver his "philosophy", as he calls it in verse 55, the Friar complains:

"O, then I see that mad men have no ears." (3,3,61)

Romeo answers:

"How should they, when that wise men have no eyes?" (3,3,62)

In the Friar's opinion Romeo's despair is a sign that he is mad because he is not able to see reality objectively. Of course he can't understand the lover because neither does the churchman see Fate working, nor does he know that Romeo does. And for Romeo it makes no sense to listen to the advice of someone who has "no eyes" since he does not see the "deeper" reality, namely the seemingly tragic power that shapes it.

When the Friar finds the right moment to speak at last he even detects - in total contrast to Romeo - a kind of positive power behind the incidents:

"... Tybalt would kill thee, But thou slewest Tybalt: there thou art happy. The law that threatened death becomes thy friend, And turns it to exile: there thou art happy. A pack of blessings light upon thy back, Happiness courts thee in her best array, ..." (3,3,136-141)

The churchman assumes that it is still possible to integrate the couple into their society though not yet at the moment. Nevertheless, he is convinced that time will work for a genuinely comic end:

"... pass to Mantua, Where thou shalt live till we can find a time To blaze your marriage, reconcile your friends, Beg pardon of the Prince and call thee back With twenty-hundred-thousand times more joy Than thou went'st forth in lamentation." (3,3,148-153)

The Friar's optimism does not convince Romeo. When he leaves to meet Juliet before going to Mantua, it is only the possibility to see her again that gives him strength - not a wider perspective for their future. He tells the Friar:

"But that a joy past joy calls out on me, It were a grief so brief to part with thee." (3,3,172-173)[58]

The second incident that worsens the lovers' situation happens shortly before their nightly encounter. Now, the action concentrates on Juliet.

Scene 3,4 depicts a conversation similar to the one of 1,2. Juliet's suitor Paris reappears and repeats his request for Juliet's hand in marriage. This time, Capulet reacts differently. He does not leave the final decision to Juliet as he did before.[59] Without even consulting his daughter he accepts Paris' request. Capulet then commands his wife to deliver the news to Juliet that she will be married to Paris the following Thursday.[60]

Before Juliet's mother carries out the order, the two lovers are portrayed. In the same house Juliet and Romeo spend their wedding night. But theirs is only a short pleasure. They bid each other farewell with the following words:

Juliet "O, think'st thou we shall ever meet again?"

Romeo "I doubt it not; and all these woes shall serve For sweet discourses in our times to come."

Juliet "O God, I have an ill-divining soul! Methinks I see thee now, thou art so low, As one dead in the bottom of a tomb. Either my eyesight fails, or thou look'st pale."

Romeo "And trust me, love, in my eye so do you. Dry sorrow drinks our blood. Adieu, adieu." (3,5,51-59)

The Friar's comic optimism, which Romeo is trying to display in Juliet's presence, is quickly suppressed by their overpowering feeling of a tragic outcome of their relationship. I think it is important to stress that again it is not the situation itself which demands such a pessimistic view.

Shortly after Romeo has gone Lady Capulet delivers the news. Moments later, her father and the Nurse join the conversation. Juliet rejects the plan in front of them, which leads to her isolation from her family.[61]

Naturally, not knowing of Juliet's motive her father misunderstands her. Assuming she merely acts affectedly he gets furious:

"Hang thee, young baggage, disobedient wretch! I tell thee what: get thee to church a Thursday, Or never after look me in the face." (3,5,159-161)

After repeating his threat he exits. Then Juliet turns to her mother. But Lady Capulet sides with her husband and also casts her away.[62] In despair Juliet asks her Nurse for advice, the only one in the family who knows about her marriage with Romeo. The Nurse reveals her perspective on the situation:

"Romeo is banished, and all the world to nothing That he dares ne'er come back to challenge you; Or if he do, it needs must be by stealth." (3,5,213-215)

In the Nurse's view the external obstacle cannot be overcome. Similarly to the lovers she doesn't consider the possibility of a flight from Verona. Yet, she draws a totally different conclusion from the situation:

"... Then, since the case so stands as now it doth, I think it best you married with the County. ... I think you are happy in this second match, ..." (3,5,216-217 and 222)

Snyder aptly comments on this reply:

"In the Nurse's response comedy's traditional wisdom of accommodation is carried to an extreme. ... She ... speaks for the life-force, against barrenness and death."[63]

Yet, Juliet does not want love in general, she desires Romeo's love. The Nurse's advice reveals a total lack of insight into the intensity of Juliet's affections. Attaching such great value to an individual is simply beyond the Nurse's understanding. Disappointed, Juliet turns away.[64] Being forced to marry someone else in only two days' time, Juliet is in a difficult situation.[65] This necessarily means the isolation from her family. The parental decision has considerably narrowed down her scope of action. But still, this does not ultimately imply tragic consequences for their love.

Juliet's reaction shows that - despite all fear - some hope is yet alive within her to rescue her relationship with Romeo. Having lost the family ties her only connection in this society is through Friar Laurence. She turns to him as Romeo did after his banishment. In the conversation with the churchman Juliet reveals a view alternating between hope and despair:

"Come weep with me, past hope, past care, past help." (4,1,45)

"... I will do it[66] without fear or doubt, To live an unstained wife to my sweet love." (4,1,87-88)

In Juliet's view there are just two options open for her. Either the Friar suggests a way to prevent the wedding or else she is prepared to commit suicide:

"... I long to die, If what thou speak'st speak not of remedy." (4,1,66-67)

Juliet's relationship with Romeo is more precious to her than her own life. Like Romeo, Juliet puts emphasis on her capability to pay the price of a tragic ending. But the Friar does not want to hear anything of this:

"Hold, daughter, I do spy a kind of hope, Which craves as desperate an execution As that is desperate which we would prevent." (4,1,68-70)

In his view there is still room for a happy end. But emphasizing the desperate character which a solution will have, the Friar also begins to recognize the tragic potential of the problem. His former plan to wait till things are sorted out is no solution any longer: Now time is working


[1] All quotations are taken from "The Oxford Shakespeare".

[2] This play portrays two love stories. I will focus on the main plot, which deals with the relationship between Katherina and Petruchio.

[3] See Danson, L., Shakespeare's Dramatic Genres, Oxford and New York 2000; 12.

[4] Ibid., The Myth of Deliverance, Toronto 1983; 15. For an overview about the "thing(s) to expect" from tragedy and comedy see Frye, R.M., Shakespeare. The Art of the Dramatist, New York inter alia 1970. For comedy: 81-96. For tragedy: 101-122.

[5] Danson opposes the mood which is inherent in a play, to the mood among the audience (Ibid., Dramatic Genres; 60.). I find this distinction artificial.

[6] Northrop Frye distinguishes between "festive mood" for comedy and "somber mood" for tragedy, in "A Natural Perspective", New York 1965; 49. However, for clarity's sake I will exclusively use the terms "happy" and "sad". For the notion of tragic sadness in Greek drama see Snyder, S., The Comic Matrix of Shakespeare's Tragedies, Princeton 1979; 8-9. For comic happiness see Kastan, D.S., "All's Well that Ends Well" and the Limits of Comedy", in: ELH 52 (1985); 576.

[7] Ibid., Feeling and Form. A Theory of Art, New York 1953; 332. The italics are hers.

[8] Ibid., Introduction to "Romeo and Juliet", in: "Romeo and Juliet", Ibid. (Ed.), The Oxford Shakespeare, Oxford 2000; 51. See also Jahn's chapter "Action analysis" in his "A Guide to the Theory of Drama" for a more detailed account and a graphic illustration (

[9] Cf. Kirchheim, A., Tragik und Komik in Shakespeares "Troilus and Cressida", "Measure for Measure" und "All's Well that Ends Well", Frankfurt 1971; 36-37.

[10] Cf. Peck, J. and Coyle, M., How to Approach a Shakespeare Play, London 1995; 4-7.

[11] "The theme of the comic is the integration of society, which usually takes the form of incorporating a central character into it." (Frye, N., Anatomy of Criticism, Princeton 1957; 43.).

[12] Cf. Frye, Anatomy; 163-164. According to Thomas McFarland the topic of "love" provides the best means for the comic drive towards integration and mutual happiness: "The affections of the sexes, indeed, are probably the single deepest theme of comic drama." MacFarland goes on describing love as the "glue that binds society together" (Ibid., Shakespeare's Pastoral Comedy, Chapel Hill 1972; 13.).

[13] "... the centre of tragedy is in the hero's isolation ..." (Frye, Anatomy; 208.). For the connection of "tragedy" with "death" see Snyder, Comic Matrix; 10.

[14] For "Romeo"see Snyder, Comic Matrix; 56-61, for "The Taming" see Danson, Dramatic Genres; 13, and for "All's Well" see the whole essay: Kastan, Limits of Comedy; 575-589.

[15] As Kastan puts it with respect to "All's Well": "... the comic resolution does not release comic celebration." (Ibid., Limits of Comedy; 578.).

[16] I will go into this more deeply in my chapter "Bertram and Helen's course of love".

[17] The courtier Berowne in "Love's Labour's Lost", who for the time being has been rejected by his beloved Rosaline expresses the same through a negation: "Our wooing doth not end like an old play:/ Jack hath not Jill. These ladies' courtesy/ Might well have made our sport a comedy." (5,2,856-858.).

[18] Ibid., The Two Worlds of Shakespearean Comedy, in: ShakS 3 (1967); 67.

[19] Frye calls the couple's internal integration finding an "identity" in a "dual form" (Ibid., "Natural Perspective"; 78.).

[20] Due to Robin's mistake (misapplying a magic love juice) Lysander has fallen in love with Hermia's friend, Helena.

[21] Cf. Hawkins, The Two Worlds; 67.

[22] Cf. Kastan, Limits of Comedy; 577, and Hunter, G.K., Introduction to "All's Well that Ends Well", in: "All's Well that Ends Well", Ibid. (Ed.) The Arden Shakespeare, London 1959; xxxvii. The fact that in several of Shakespeare's comedies the ending does not fully accomplish formal as well as emotional integration on both levels has been an important stimulation for a long-lived critical discussion, which resulted in the introduction of the category "Problem Play" for the plays where this is especially striking. See Snyder, S., Introduction to "All's Well", in: Ibid. (Ed.), "All's Well", The Oxford Shakespeare, Oxford 1993; 16-19.

[23] Nevertheless, one could argue that it is only on the external level where isolation is carried out. Even if "Romeo" ends tragically with the lovers' deaths this need not be interpreted as destroying the strong internal integration of the couple. This can be regarded as even being saved through their deaths. Cf. Laurence Lerner's discussion of "Liebestod". He emphasizes the close relation between the two aspects of death and love in Ibid., Love and Marriage, London 1979; 53-59.

[24] Ibid., Comic Matrix; 5.

[25] Ibid., Comic Matrix; 9 and 57. Henry Charlton traces this feature back to its Greek origins (Ibid., "Romeo and Juliet" as an Experimental Tragedy, Oxford 1939; 4-8.).

[26] Ibid., Comic Matrix; 6.

[27] Ibid., Experimental Tragedy; 7. The italics are mine. - In the critical discussion the terms "necessity" and "inevitability" seem to be used synonymously.

[28] Ibid., Experimental Tragedy; 7. The italics are mine again.

[29] There has been much dispute on its authenticity because it has not been included in the First Folio edition from 1623 (see Schabert, I., Shakespeare Handbuch, Stuttgart 2000; 498.). To me this is not proof enough for its rejection, considering the quality of the editors' work. Suerbaum says: "Die besondere Originalnähe ist den Herausgebern zwar bis ins 19. Jahrhundert geglaubt worden, sie stimmt aber keineswegs." (Suerbaum, U., Shakespeares Dramen, Tübingen and Basel 1996; 303.). He then convincingly emphasizes the arbitrariness regarding the editors' choice of the manuscripts.

[30] See the Prince's speech for peace in 1,1,77-99.

[31] As Baumann puts it: "... die beiden Hauptthemen des Stücks: die Familienfehde der miteinander verfeindeten Häuser Montague und Capulet sowie die daraus erwachsenden Gefahren für die wahre Liebe des jungen Paares." (Baumann, U., Shakespeare und seine Zeit, Stuttgart 1998; 94.). See also Duthie, G.I., Introduction to "Romeo and Juliet", in: "Romeo and Juliet", Wilson, J.D., (Ed.), The Cambridge Shakespeare, Cambridge 1971; xvi-xvii.

[32] Ibid., Experimental Tragedy; 16.

[33] The italics are mine.

[34] In Charlton's words: "Indeed, these old men are almost comic figures ..." (Ibid., Experimental Tragedy; 36.).

[35] Cribb uses the same imagery: "Montagues and Capulets slink off with their tails between their legs, very much like rebuked schoolboys, ..." (Cribb, T.J., The Unity of "Romeo and Juliet", in: ShS 34 (1981); 101.). Charlton emphasizes that "... there is a general feeling that the old quarrel has run its course." (Ibid., Experimental Tragedy; 37.). He goes on further substantiating this view (on pages 37-40).

[36] Their talk takes place in 1,1,156-234 and in 1,2,45-104. In 1,2,86 we get to know the full name of Romeo's beloved. She is a Capulet, as Charlton has observed. Charlton finds it strange that the feud seems to be irrelevant here but is a matter of life and death in Juliet's case (Ibid., Experimental Tragedy; 38.). I side with him taking this as a further example of the feud's harmlessness at this stage.

[37] 1,2,6 and 16-33.

[38] However, many critics have doubts as to the depth of Romeo's first love. They argue that his feelings are not sincere and that he is merely performing a lifestyle fashionable at that time. As proof serves his way of expressing his feelings, which is taken to be merely an imitation of widely spread stock-phrases: "... Romeo ...kleidet die Spuren seines Bekenntnisses in stehende Formeln antiqierter Liebeslyrik ein ..." (Leimberg, I., Shakespeares "Romeo und Julia", München 1968; 132.). These phrases belong to the Petrarchan tradition of love poetry (cf. Evans, G.B., Introduction to "Romeo and Juliet", in: "Romeo and Juliet", Ibid. (Ed.), The New Cambridge Shakespeare, Cambridge 1984; 11-12.) I agree to this view considering how quickly he changes his mind after he has met Juliet.

[39] And when Romeo wants to leave with his friends Capulet bids them stay (see 1,4,234-235.). His farewell to them is: "... Why then I thank you all./ I thank you honest gentlemen, good night." (1,4,236-237.). Surely, this is not how one would expect someone dealing with a deadly enemy.

[40] The contrast in tone couldn't be sharper. Tybalt's is the language of "hatred": "patience perforce", "wilful choler", "tremble", "intrusion", or "bitt'rest gall" (1,4,202-205.). Romeo's and Juliet's language is full of adjectives around "softness": "gentle", "blushing", "tender" or "dear" and "religion: "sin", "pilgrim", "saint", or "prayer". Cribb describes Tybalt as "the principle opposite to love: Tybalt is hate" (Ibid., The Unity; 99.).

[41] Cf. Novy, Marianne, Love's Argument, Chapel Hill and London, 1984; 102.

[42] Romeo: "Is she a Capulet?/ O dear account! My life is my foe's debt." (1,4,230-231.). Snyder comments: "Each asks for the name of the other, and discovers conflict ..." (Ibid., Ideology and the Feud in "Romeo and Juliet", in: ShS 49 (1996); 89.).

[43] Cf. Novy, Love's Argument; 103. In this paper there is not room enough to go more deeply into the intensity and development of their love. There has been written a lot on this topic. Cf. Evans, Introduction; 25-28.

[44] Cf. Weiß, W., Das Drama der Shakespeare-Zeit, Stuttgart inter alia 1979; 163f.

[45] Cf. Snyder, Comic Matrix; 60.

[46] Cf. Charlton, Experimental Tragedy; 40.

[47] "Like a dreamer startled to find a dream materialize, Juliet is taken aback at Romeo's response." (Novy, Love's Argument; 103.). Snyder emphasizes the lovers' close connection to the surrounding society and the fragility of their attempt to separate themselves from their names (Ibid., Ideology and the Feud, 89-90.).

[48] Cf. Snyder, Comic Matrix; 64.

[49] Cf. Snyder, Comic Matrix; 59.

[50] Cribb points out that the action takes place during the dog-days, the summer period of June 23 to August 23, "associated with youth, fire and yellow choler, which is hot and dry" (Ibid., The Unity; 97.).

[51] 3,1,60.

[52] Snyder emphasizes that it is his duty to take revenge for Mercutio's death. She says that the role as avenger is "prescribed for him in the code of honour" (Ibid., Ideology and the Feud; 94.). Harold Bloom maintains that Romeo could have made a different decision: "Romeo ... is as responsible as Mercutio and Tybalt are for the catastrophe." (Ibid., Shakespeare. The Invention of the Human, London 1998; 100.). I agree with Bloom that Romeo had a choice. I also follow Snyder that this would mean to act against the norm of his society. However, Romeo has already proved that this is possible - beginning a relationship with the daughter of an enemy. I think Ruth Nevo puts it best saying he is "responsible for his actions, though he is not accountable for the circumstances in which he must act, ..." (Ibid., Tragic Form in "Romeo and Juliet", in: SEL 9 (1969); 245.).

[53] Cf. Snyder, Comic Matrix; 62.

[54] Although - unlike Romeo - she doesn't mention the working of "Fate" her response can only be explained if one assumes that she feels some tragic force behind the situation.

[55] Snyder, Comic Matrix; 64.

[56] Cf. Snyder, Ideology and the Feud; 93.

[57] The sources are ambiguous. See the note on 3,3,107.1 in "The Oxford Shakespeare".

[58] The italics are mine.

[59] In 1,2,187-19 Capulet tells Paris: "... within her scope of choice/ Lies my consent and fair according voice."

[60] 3,4,15-21.

[61] This is powerfully portrayed in that one after another leaves Juliet till she is alone on the stage.

[62] 3,5,202-203.

[63] Ibid., Comic Matrix; 65.

[64] "Essentially, Juliet's suffering is the realization of loneliness and isolation." (Nevo, Tragic Form; 256.). See also Novy, Love's Argument; 107.

[65] It is Tuesday and the wedding is to be held on Thursday. See 4,1,90.

[66] Juliet has listed several dangerous and gruesome activities before.

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Love and dramatic genre - Approaches to the topic of love in three Shakespearean plays
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