Love is the seminal theme in the romantic tragedy ‘Romeo and Juliet’ written by Elizabethan playwright William Shakespeare. It is love that is the driving force of the plays actions, in the same way it is love that brings about the tragic end of the two central protagonists. ‘Romeo and Juliet’ experience love euphorically and as a powerful emotion. In Richard III love is used for political gain and to increase his positioning to the throne after he fought and won the war of the roses against the Lancaster’s.
Richard perceives love as an opportunity to increase his status and to elevate his self closer to the throne of England and he does not marry lady Anne because he genuinely loves her unlike ‘Romeo and Juliet’, but because he needs a queen to become King and he sees her as the person who makes him more reputable and of more importance. Shakespeare starts ‘Romeo and Juliet’ with a prologue which provides the audience with an overview of what is to come. Shakespeare carefully structures Romeo and Juliet for dramatic effect which creates dramatic irony.
The prologue is written in sonnet form because the play is about love, marriage and relationships. As these themes interlink the play is written in sonnet form to highlight the importance of love in the play. From the beginning we learn that they are a “pair of star-crossed lovers”, suggesting that their love is destined and that they are both characters which will experience passionate and genuine love for each other. Also it suggests that fate plays an inevitable part in their love for each other.
In contrast in ‘Richard III’ Shakespeare uses a soliloquy, the structure of it being a dramatic monologue shows that Richard is a lonely and isolated character since he cant express his views to another person. We understand this because he says “But I that am not shaped for sportive tricks”, straight away the use of this euphemism suggests that he has no intentions of being involved in a relationship because he describes himself as “Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time”, and he believes that he will never be able to get a woman.
Another view is that the use of the unpleasant words makes the audience feel sympathy for Richard since he believes he will never experience love; however another interpretation is that Elizabethan audiences would have conveyed Richard’s deformity as evil and hellish therefore they would have disliked his character. Another aspect which affects the way the main protagonists in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Richard III’ experience love is the setting.
The pastoral, heavenly setting in the “Capulets orchard from act 2, scene 2 in Romeo and Juliet is very natural and romantic because from the Christian connotations it is similar to the Garden of Eden. This ideology of heaven makes the experience of love between Romeo and Juliet much more sentimental and amorous which makes their love appear more true and passionate. Where as in Richard III the setting is in a funeral procession which connotes death, evil and hellish imagery which is unpleasant.
Richard in fact interrupts the procession and then proposes marriage to her after he had killed her husband and father in law, “Stay you that bear the corpse, and set it down”, by using an imperative which is powerful from the start Richard is in total control of the scene; In particular he deliberately uses the word “stay” because it is a command and it shows he seems fearless towards anything this creates a confound and perplex atmosphere which makes Lady Anne feel intimidated by him and shows that their relationship is less pure and less romantic than Romeo and Juliet because the power dynamic between Richard and Anne is unbalanced.
Romeo’s experience of love is affected by his hamartia, this is portrayed a numerous amount of times by Shakespeare as he explores the theme of the impulsive nature of young love. This restricts Romeo’s experience of love because he is unable to foresee the bigger picture of his love to Juliet, as he does not understand the consequences it will bring. Juliet brings this point across to Romeo when she says “my ears have yet not drunk a hundred words”, this shows the maturity and open minded mentality Juliet has by questioning Romeo’s love since they have just met.
Throughout the play Romeo’s hamartia is his impulsive behaviour which leads him to fall in love quickly without thinking about the consequences. Romeo’s instinctive behaviour is considered to be his fatal flaw, this is apparent when he quickly dismisses his feelings for the unrequited love he had for Rosaline and is galvanized by the beauty he distinguishes in Juliet. On the other hand Richard’s experience of love is affected by his supercilious greed for power and his hubristic mindset.
As Richard is very aristocratic his perception of love is that he only wants to be involved in a relationship because he wants to build his status and uses Anne as a political pawn, “For then I will marry Warwick’s youngest daughter”, Richard sets out his plans to marry Lady Anne and he tells us before he actually marries her, this creates dramatic irony because the audience knows something that Lady Anne doesn’t, this goes against Richard’s soliloquy and shows us he is very complex and introverted character.
In addition we know that he does not get married for love because he says “not all so much for love”, this subtly lets the audience know that Richards is not marrying for a loving motif but for “another secret close intent” suggesting that he doesn’t want to tell us for why he is going to get married. However as an audience we believe that Richard’s hamartia is his lust for power and he gets married because he needs a queen to become king as he hints “Edward still lives and reigns” this explains that his motives for a relationship are because he wants to increase his authority and power.
Furthermore in Romeo and Juliet Shakespeare introduces their love through using the classical cliche ‘Love at first sight’. In the anagnorisis in act 1 where Romeo sees Juliet, he says to himself, “Did my heart love til now? ” Romeo instantly believes that he is in love with Juliet even though he has not yet spoken and got to know her. Juliet shows her qualities of being more level-headed than Romeo.
Romeo presents his love as fickle and constantly changing when he says “I never saw true beauty till this night” at this point, the feelings of both characters appear to be superficial. However, fate questions their devotion for each other by revealing their true identities. As Juliet is found to be a Capulet, and Romeo a Montague; this discovery upsets both Romeo and Juliet concurrently. Even though they now know they are from feuding families this does not question their love and this leads the audience to believe their love is true, pure and real.
By presenting opposing views of their love, Shakespeare leaves room for the audience to question their love without totally falsifying it. Moreover Romeo’s and Juliet’s love for each other is repeatedly questioned by the audience whether it is true or not. Even though they do sacrifice their own lives for each other in the thought that they will live in separation forever, some of the audience still believe the love wasn’t completely a ‘marriage of two minds’ since love at first sight is a physical attraction based on appearance.
Foreshadowing is a convention of which is used in Romeo and Juliet, “If they do see thee they will murder thee”, this foreshadows the death of Romeo as Juliet reminds him in what great danger he is in by putting his life on the line for love. This provides strong evidence that they were experiencing true romance, since Romeo was willing to put himself in danger to see Juliet. In retrospect this was a key notification to them both that their ‘destiny was doomed’.
Foreshadowing is also used when Romeo says “My life better ended by their hate”, this also shows that fate plays an inevitable role as their love is doomed from the start and they are destined to die which will eventually end the feud between the two warring families. In addition this also suggests that Juliet is being conveyed as more sensible and rational in her thoughts warning Romeo that he may be killed if he gets caught. Nevertheless in Richard III love is definitely put across by Shakespeare as deceitful, unromantic and fragile.
Richard’s dogmatic character shows the audience that the relationship between them was from both sides and opportunity to benefit in deferent aspects. When Anne says “To take is not to give”, this shows that Richard forcefully has taken her love as he was able to pick up on her vulnerability but she did not devote her life to him and that within the marriage is not for true love which she feels internally. Lady Anne’s marriage to Richard was the best chance she had of protecting her share of her inheritance and provided her with protection since she was an enemy of the York’s.
Richard is in control over Anne since the start since it was set in a patriarchal society, Richard had the more power over her and this could be a reason to she gave in and married Richard, however she does not devote her life to him suggesting she is not in true love with him. Whereas Richard saw this as a possibility to strengthen his positioning to throne but also another interpretation would be to boost his self esteem and egotism.
We know that in the soliloquy he believes that he will never get married to a woman, but he manages to marry Anne in his complete disbelief, “And yet to win her, all the world to nothing”, Richard expresses his disbelief and scepticism that he does not have a clue how he won her over, “was ever women in this humour wooed? Was ever woman in this humour won? He is completely surprised and he sees himself as indestructible and almost compares himself to god. At this point he is overloaded with confidence and this boosts his egotism and he now definitely believes that his route to the throne is inevitable.
However Richard has no intention in keeping her as his wife this shows that his love for her is false and untrue, “But I will not keep her long” and this infers that he may murder since he will “not keep her long” but this could also infer that he does not marry her because of love because true love in Shakespeare opinion should last for eternity and Richard I already thinking about leaving her. As ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is set in a patriarchal society the typical conventions are evident in the text.
Romeo uses hyperbolic language this makes the experience of love between them appear to be very passionate and that there is a physical bond between them, “It is the east and Juliet is the sun”, this shows that Romeo is in deep and true love with Juliet since he uses the extended metaphor of light and personifies the sun which presents Juliet as more beautiful. In addition we connote the sun with warmth, joy and new life and all these imageries fit in with the patriarchal love conventions.
Also Romeo acts a manly strength by climbing the orchard walls, again this fits in with the petrachan conventions since he has done a manly deed. Romeo frequently uses references of Juliet being sent from heaven and pure and divine imagery, “two of the fairest stars in all heaven”, this shows that Juliet is perceived from Romeo to have supernatural beauty and relates heavenly imagery which creates a beautiful image of Juliet’s glowing eyes. Romeo thinks she is beautiful enough to diminish every other beautiful living thing in the world.
Romeo uses celestial and religious terms to describe her; he compares her to a ‘work of art’ and ‘bright angel’ he is mesmerised by his ‘destined love’. All of the hyperbolic descriptions revolve around physical appearance and looks which again suggests that the love they have for each other is not presented as an emotion and that they in fact love each other for which they are but they like each other because of what they look like therefore it suggests that their love is infatuated.
The use of dramatic irony in Richard’s opening soliloquy tells us that he believes that his purpose here on earth is to be evil, “since I cannot prove a lover……I am determined to prove a villain”, this instantly indicates that Richard’s plan is to be a ‘villain’ which tells us that his perception of love will be undermined by his deep inner devilish thoughts which are conveyed to us through his route to the throne where he orders the murdering of possible threats to the throne, this intertwines with the tyrant Machiavelli and Malcolm X especially with the famous quote to get what you want “by any means necessary”.
As we know his murderous plots other characters don’t and this adds to the dramatic affect for the audience since they are expecting events to happen. In this aspect Shakespeare infers that Richard’s experience of love is not going to be intimate and compassionate but for the sake that he needs a wife to carry out his murderous plots to eventually become king. In addition Romeo and Juliet’s love leads to marriage straight away because they don’t want to break the social barrier because the play was set in Renaissance Italy and sexual intercourse before marriage was considered as a mortal sin.
Juliet thought to be the more rational proposes marriage when she says, “Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow”, this shows that Juliet is abiding to the social barriers by wanting to be married in secret before they consummate her love with Romeo. However as an audience the marriage between them is not even allowed to develop but they rush into marriage this suggests that their experience of love is not based internally but because their fickle young love is only interested in each others physical appearance and they ‘believe’ that they are actually in true love.
On the opposing side the imagery used in Richard III is more hellish and related with evil and the devil. Lady Anne curses Richard as she says “Cursed be the hand that made these holes/cursed the heart that had the heart to do it/ cursed the blood that let this blood from hence. ” This shows that Anne uses the power of three to emphasize the hate she has for Richard. It is almost as if she is casting a spell on Richard, this is also dramatic irony as we know she ‘cursed’ Richard before he enters and the audience at this moment feel that the person who did do the murdering was a heartless creature.
Then she goes onto curse Richard’s wife and children, “If ever he have child, abortive be it….. if ever he have wife, let her be made more miserable by the death of him”. This shows that the love she had for her precious husband has not died away and also there is dramatic irony because she curses his future wife and children, which in turn means she was cursing herself since she eventually marries him.
Richards’s use of heavenly and divine imagery to describe Lady Anne is very flattering and his clever word play is revealed through the returning language of stichomythia which is very rapid by Richard. When Richard says “More wonderful, when angels are so angry. Vouchsafe divine perfection of a woman. ” This shows that Richard is able to woo Lady Anne through talking about her beauty and this is considered to be Anne’s vulnerable part of her character by comparing her to heavenly angels. Whereas Anne compares Richard to hell when she says “And thou unfit for any place but hell.
” This suggests how there is a distinct contrast in the imagery Richard uses to describe Anne and the imagery Anne uses to describe Richard, there is almost a hell and heaven battle simulated by Shakespeare and this affects the way the two characters portray each other. Anne’s rash decision when she spits at Richard is a chance for him to release his anger and hate against Anne but he doesn’t instead he says “Never came poison from such sweet a place”, this again shows that Richard is using positive imagery to compare Anne to and his reaction is very poised and calm which shows that he may have some loving feelings towards Anne.
However Richards and Anne’s experience of love at this moment in time is very unstable and moving back and forth, until Richard proposes to marry her and she accepts. Overall, to conclude Shakespeare presents love as a multi-dimensional theme and that it can alternate depending on the situation. Shakespeare explores love in different ways and the love between different characters is perceived and experienced differently. Romeo experiences love passionately and genuinely, Juliet also feels the same powerful emotions of true and eternal love towards Romeo.
However on the other hand Richard experiences love much less ardently and intensely than Romeo but he sees it as an opportunity to elevate his political position to become king of England. Finally Lady Anne also experiences love less loving but more for protection and to keep her status and inheritance as an important figure since it was a patriarchal society. Shakespeare uses different language techniques and dramatic devices to show the difference in the ways different characters’ experience love in the two set scenes.