Contrasting Views of Love in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

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In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the views of love held by the character Romeo contrast sharply with the views of Mercutio. Romeo's character seems to suffer from a type of manic depression. He is in love with his sadness, quickly enraptured and easily crushed again on a passionate roller coaster of emotion. Mercutio, by contrast is much more practical and level headed. His perceptions are clear and quick, characterized by precise thought and careful evaluation. Romeo, true to his character begins his appearance in the play by wallowing in his depression over Rosaline who does not return his love: ROMEO (Act I Scene I Lines 185-193) Why, such is love's transgression. Griefs of mine own lie heavy in my breast, Which thou wilt propagate, to have it prest With more of thine: this love that thou hast shown Doth add more grief to too much of mine own. Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs; Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers' eyes; Being vex'd a sea nourish'd with lovers' tears: What is it else? a madness most discreet, A choking gall and a preserving sweet. The references to "fire" and "sea" are signs that these are lines of passion rather than love. Romeo sees himself as subjective to his situation, "Doth add more grief to too much of mine own." and is wallowing in his self-pity as well. Romeo is only forgiven these faults because he is young, naïve, and destined to die. Were he an older character audiences would not so easily forgive him. Mercutio's levelheadedness serves to provide a contrast to which Romeo can be endeared. Were both doting depressives, the play's roster would be off balance. MERCUTIO (Act I Scene IV lines 23-26) And, to sink in it, should you burden love; Too great oppression for a tender thing. ROMEO Is love a tender thing? it is too rough, Too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn. Romeo's perception of love as "rough" is generally due to his own response to the events in his life. Mercutio sees love as a "tender thing," and therefore offers this advice: MERCUTIO (Act I Scene IV lines 27&28) If love be rough with you, be rough with love;
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