No emotion has such universal meaning as love. It is an integral part of the human condition. Love is the basis for by which all other emotions can be gauged. Friendship and even grief are steeped in love. Love is so central to our lives that it is fitting and proper that it should be the topic of so much discussion. Every culture and every writer has some commentary or evaluation of love. The New Testament has its share of love commentary. The entire basis of the Christian tradition is God's love for humanity. "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son." (John 3:6) Jesus preached a great deal about love of neighbor, love of God and even love of enemies. (Matt 5:44) Shakespeare's Biblical knowledge is well known and he was certainly familiar with these concepts as he wrote his plays on the subject of love. By looking closely at his works, we can analyze the nature of true love. In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare gives an example of true love overcome by tragic fate. His "star-crossed lovers" are so madly in love with each other that they cannot live without being together. (RJ Prologue, 6) By contrast, in Twelfth Night the characters are so fickle that they switch love interests in the span of a few lines. By comparing the true love of Romeo and Juliet with the shallow love of Twelfth Night, it becomes clear that Shakespeare agrees with the Biblical assessment of love.
It is necessary, of course, to begin by explaining what the Biblical evaluation of love is. Of all the references to love in the Bible, and there are many, three sources apply best to this discussion. In the Old Testament, Song of Songs, a descriptive love poem between a woman and her true love, has many parallels to love in Romeo an...
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...nd Juliet, Critical Essays. Garland Publishing, New York: (c)1993
Palmer, D.J. "'Twelfth Night' and the myth of Echo and Narcissus.'" in Shakespeare Survey 32. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: (c)1979
Parker, Barbara. A Precious Seeing, Love and Reason in Shakeswpeare's Plays. New York University Press, New York: (c)1987
Shaheen, Naseeb. "Shakespeare's Knowledge of the Bible -- How Aquired" in Shakespeare Studies XX. Burt Franklin & Co., New York: (c)1988
Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Cliff's Notes, Lincoln: (c)1965
Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night. Cliff's Notes, Lincoln: (c)1965
Summers, Joseph H. "The Masks of Twelfth Night" in Twentieth Century Interpretations of Twelfth Night. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs: (c)1968
Vyvyan, John. Shakespeare and the Rose of Love. Chatto & Windus, London: (c)1960
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