Love

The main theme of love is introduced at the very beginning by the Chorus who tells the audience that this is a play about star-crossed lovers. When we first meet Romeo he is love-sick for Rosaline and talks to Benvolio about how painful love can be.

During the Capulet’s party, we are presented with 'love at first sight' when Romeo and Juliet fall instantly for each other. The romantic love between the couple develops throughout the play and for them love ultimately leads to death.

We also see the strength of love between friends when Mercutio stands up to take Romeo’s place in a fight with Tybalt.

Parental love is also explored when Capulet suggests that his daughter is too young to marry Paris. He is protective of Juliet. Later when Tybalt dies, Capulet brings the wedding between her and Paris forward, as he thinks this celebration will ease her grief.

Did you know? At the time when Shakespeare was writing, it was common for parents to choose suitable husbands for their daughters. The proposed marriage between Juliet and Paris was a fairly typical arrangement. Juliet is presented as a determined young woman who is willing to defy her parents for love.

Analysis of love in the play

Question

How does love affect Romeo in a negative way?

Romeo initially thinks of love as depressing. At the start of the play Romeo is in love with Rosaline, who does not love him back. He says:

Romeo
Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs
Act 1 Scene 1

The sighs that raise the smoke are those of sadness.

Question

How much is Juliet willing to give up for her love?

Juliet says she would go so far as to give up her family for her love. She says:

Juliet
be but sworn my love,/
And I'll no longer be a Capulet.
Act 2 Scene 2

Juliet proves this to be true later in the play when Romeo kills Tybalt. Even though she grieves for the death of her cousin, Juliet’s loyalties have shifted to her husband.

Question

To what extent does Mercutio love Romeo?

Mercutio loves his friend Romeo so much that he is prepared to fight for him. Mercutio says he’d rather die than see Romeo as a friend of Tybalt’s.

Mercutio
But I'll be hanged, sir, if he wear your livery.
Act 3 Scene 1

When Romeo refuses to fight with Tybalt, Mercutio takes his place. This shows his loyalty to and love for his friend.

You can find the theme of love in lots of plays by Shakespeare:

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream – in this comedy people find their true love with a helping hand from magical fairies and flowers
  • Much Ado about Nothing - this is another comedy about loyalty and love. It shows love being misunderstood and tested