The Immature Love of Romeo and Juliet
A reoccurring debate since the time of Shakespeare has been whether or not Romeo and Juliet were mature lovers. Using the text of the play, Romeo and Juliet, I shall assert that Romeo and Juliet were very immature in their love towards each other.
In the beginning of the play Romeo
was in love with Rosaline. He swore to Benvolio that he loved Rosaline and could love no other. "One fairer than my love? The all-seeing sun / Ne’er saw her match since first the world begun," (1.2.94-95). Yet in Act 1 Scene 5 Romeo sees Juliet
and instantly falls in love. This shows Romeo’s immaturity as a lover in two ways. First, he is able to instantly switch from Rosaline, whom he swore he was in love with, to Juliet, who he doesn’t even know. Second, we see that Romeo bases his love on physical qualities. He instantly forgets about Rosaline, the most beautiful girl he has seen to that point, and falls in love with an even more beautiful Juliet. Romeo and Juliet’s initial attraction was entirely physical and had no solid basis upon which they could build a relationship. This is shown quite well in Act 2 by the chorus. The chorus states "That fair for which love groaned for and would die, / With tender Juliet matched, is now not fair," (2.0.3-4). The chorus is telling the audience how Romeo was madly in love with Rosaline, but when matched against Juliet she is no longer as beautiful and therefore no longer loved by Romeo.
Another sign of Romeo’s immaturity as a lover is illustrated in the infamous balcony scene. Beginning in Act 2 Scene 2 Romeo spouts many metaphors comparing Juliet to different and beautiful forms of nature. All these metaphors, however, are very trite. This shows that Romeo is only saying things that he believes he is supposed to say. They are not his original thoughts or ideas. When Romeo begins stating "Juliet is the sun," "The brightness of her cheeks would shame those stars," and "thou art / As glorious . . . / As is a winged messenger of heaven," he is merely restating trite overused phrases that he has heard before (2.2.3,19,26-28). Also, these sayings that Romeo utters are all based on physical qualities which goes to reinforce the fact that he had nothing else to base his love on. We again see this use of unoriginal sayings by Romeo when he describes how he entered the Capulet orchard, "With love’s light wings did I o’erperch these walls, / For stony limits cannot hold love out," (2.2.66-67).
Also in the balcony scene, when the possibility of death is mentioned by Juliet, Romeo states, "Alack, there lies more peril in thine eye / Then twenty of their swords," and "let them find me here. / My life were better ended by their hate / Than death prorogued, wanting of thy love," (2.2.71-72,76-78). Romeo is stating that he doesn’t fear death and that he would rather die from their hate than avoid death and leave Juliet. This shows Romeo’s immaturity because he is willing to die just to see Juliet when he could leave and survive to see her again at another time.
We first began to see signs of maturity in the opening of Act 3. Tybalt is looking for a fight and does his best to incite Romeo. However, Romeo simply ignores Tybalt and even states his love for Tybalt. Through these actions we see that Romeo has risen above the petty feud between the Montagues and Capulets and is even attempting to make a concentrated effort to love the Capulets. This love is quickly tried, though, when Tybalt fights and slays Mercutio. Romeo reverts back to his old, immature
self and demands revenge. He fights and kills Tybalt. Upon hearing of the fighting and death that has occurred the Prince banishes Romeo. We next see Romeo in the Friar’s chamber crying and contemplating suicide. The crime Romeo has committed usually carries a sentence of death, but Romeo is not happy with his life being spared. He can only think of the fact that he will not be able to see Juliet. When he cries of not being able to see Juliet he only mentions the loss of seeing her physical attributes. "Every cat and dog / And little mouse, every unworthy thing, / Live here in heaven and may look on her, / But Romeo may not," (3.3.31-33). Again, Romeo never mentions the loss of an emotional or spiritual love; he only speaks of the loss of physical love.
In Act 3 we see Juliet’s interpretation of their love as well. As Juliet waits for Romeo to come see her that night (before she learns of Tybalt’s death) she only has one thought, "Romeo / Leap to these arms . . . / Lovers can see to do their amorous rites," (3.2.6-8). Juliet can only think of the relationship in a physical way, also. This goes to prove that Romeo and Juliet had nothing to base their love on except physical attributes.
Act 3 shows one other instance of Romeo and Juliet’s immaturity. After they consummate their marriage, Romeo is ready to leave before daybreak to avoid being discovered and being killed. Juliet does not want him to leave and tries to convince him to stay. In a sarcastic response Romeo states "Let me be ta’en; let me be put to death. / I am content," (3.5.17-18). Romeo is stating that he is ready to die now because he is content and has achieved what he desired (the consummating of the marriage with Juliet). Even though it is said in a sarcastic manner, some of what Romeo says he truly means. He may not be ready to die, but he is content with the relationship. He has no desire to explore Juliet’s thoughts and feelings. He only desires to explore her body.
The final and ultimate display of their immaturity occurs at the end of the play in the Capulet vault. When Romeo discovers what he perceives to be Juliet’s dead body he commits suicide and kills himself. When Juliet awakens and finds Romeo dead beside her she also commits suicide. This suicide is what ultimately shows the immaturity of Romeo and Juliet’s love. Many times in class it has been said that we were evaluating their love according to today’s standards and not to those that existed in Shakespeare’s time. However, during Shakespeare’s time the church and the Bible had a definite and ruling presence. Even the Bible says that suicide is a sin and condemns it. The fact that Romeo and Juliet committed suicide is neither tragic nor mature. It is immature that they were willing to end their lives because they could no longer enjoy each other’s physical qualities. They never mentioned the enjoyment of each other’s thoughts, ideas, or general presence. They always tied their love into a physical connotation.
Therefore, through the re-examining of the text and Romeo and Juliet’s own statements it becomes apparent that their love was in no way mature and that it was in fact based solely on physical qualities which qualified it as lust (immature love) instead of mature love.