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Gender Roles and Attitudes toward Love in Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

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Romeo and Juliet is a heart-breaking tragedy written early in the career of playwright William Shakespeare telling us the story of two teenage ‘star-cross’d lovers’ whose unfortunate deaths ultimately unite the dispute between their two families. Despite the perils involved, they fall in love and marry with the help of two characters, Friar Lawrence and the Nurse. Throughout the play, Shakespeare portrays a range of different kinds of love through the central female characters. Maternal love is offered to Juliet by the Nurse and Juliet’s own reckless and impetuous love brought about by inexperience, which results in a doomed love. Lady Capulet shows business and more of an economic view on love. While these types of love are being shown, Shakespeare challenges the acknowledged roles of women in instances of courtly love. Instead of this, the audience witness Juliet as a fourteen year old woman taking control of her own future and rejecting her parents’ decisions to experience real heartfelt love.
In Elizabethan times ideas and attitudes to love were very different to contemporary views of love. In particular women’s roles differed greatly in that they played passive roles in a relationship and were taught from birth that they were inferior to men. Furthermore marriage was not seen as the fruit of romantic love but was seen as a means to achieving social status and was arranged between two families, as we witness with the Capulet’s loveless idea of Juliet’s arranged marriage to the prosperous Parris.
The three main types of love seen all through the play are courtly love, maternal love and reckless love. Courtly love is a set of expectations about how lovers should behave. The man should be in love with a woman of a higher socia...


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... to be together all the time. If this were not true the events at the end would not have happened. The characters of Romeo and Juliet develop because of their love. Juliet becomes more practical and self-reliant, and Romeo's passion is so strong that he does not hesitate in choosing his fate. I think in a way they have not grown up a lot at all, I think it is just because they fell in love with each other that their attitudes to other things had changed. Some of the aspects of love we have looked at are more important than others; romantic and true love shown by Juliet is the type of love that Shakespeare shows us can and will conquer all. Perhaps Shakespeare wanted to question the continued social conventions of love and marriage in Elizabethan times and ask ourselves whether it is right to live in a society where it is impossible for true romantic love to survive.


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