Not True Love in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

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Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – popularly considered by many to be the quintessential love story of all time – is a play that we are all familiar with in one way or another. Whether it be through the plethora of portrayals, adaptations and performances that exist or through your own reading of the play, chances are you have been acquainted with this tale of “tragic love” at some point in your life. Through this universal familiarity an odd occurrence can be noted, one of almost canonical reverence for the themes commonly believed to be central to the plot. The most widely believed theme of Romeo and Juliet is that of the ideal love unable to exist under the harsh social and political strains of this world. Out of this idea emerge two characters who, throughout history, have been heralded as the world’s greatest lovers and who have been set up as yardsticks against which future lovers must be measured. The tragic courtship between Romeo and Juliet has become so idealized and revered that even the Oxford English Dictionary lists this definition under the word ‘Romeo’: A lover, a passionate admirer; a seducer, a habitual pursuer of women. Also attrib. With so much cultural evidence and corroboration to support the idea of their perfect love, it is hard to imagine such a thing to be in question. However, it is my contention (much to the gasping dismay of 16-year-old Leonardo Dicaprio fans everywhere) that it is possible these two might not have been as deeply in love as history and popular criticism would have us believe. It is possible that Romeo was a product of his own popular culture, that he was not so much pricked by Cupid’s arrow as he was obsessed with his own concept of what Cupid’s arrow should feel like. Whil... ... middle of paper ... ... Works Cited Bond, Ronald B. “Love and Lust in Romeo and Juliet.” Shakespearean Criticism 33 (1980): 241-245. Edwards, Philip. “The Declaration of Love.” Shakespearean Criticism 33 (1980): 272-274. Evans, G. Blakemore. “An Introduction to Romeo and Juliet.” Shakespearean Criticism 33 (1984): 210-221. Lucking, David. “That Which We Call a Name: The Balcony Scene in Romeo and Juliet.” Shakespearean Criticism 32 (1995): 276-282. Novy, Marianne L. Love’s Argument: Gender Relations in Shakespeare. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984. "Romeo." The Oxford English Dictionary. Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1989. Shakespeare, William. “The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.” The Norton Shakespeare. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1997. 872.

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