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The Phenomenon of Love at First Sight in Romeo and Juliet

One of the first things that make the reader believe in love, at first sight, is the way Shakespeare created two characters who should have hated each other in the form of Romeo and Juliet but who instantly fell in love the moment they first saw each other. This shows the reader that even though they were from feuding families and were each other’s enemies love at first sight was a real enough force to make two people fall in love. So the first message in the play is where straight away Shakespeare makes his first reference to love “… A pair of star crossed lovers take their life… Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife” Even though this does not refer to love at first sight directly it does help the reader believe in love at first sight as it is showing what a powerful emotion love is.

This is because, at the beginning of the play, the reader discovers the Montagues and the Capulet’s (Romeo and Juliet’s families) hate each other so much that they have even killed each other. It takes an even more powerful emotion than hate to stop the feud. That is love; the families only “bury the hatchet” when their children kill themselves because their love for each other is so great. That is another example of Shakespeare’s convincing portrayal of the power of love and thus also love at first sight. The part of the play where Romeo first sees Juliet is an essential part of how Shakespeare convinces the reader that love, at first sight, exists; however, Shakespeare also places some doubt in the reader’s mind at this point about how genuine and long-lasting Romeo and Juliet’s love would have been. Before Romeo sees Juliet, he is in love with another girl called Rosaline, but when he meets Juliet, he forgets all about her and is suddenly in love with Juliet instead.

Here Shakespeare leaves the reader to interpret and guess at the meaning of this. Some readers of the play may use this as an example of how Shakespeare portrayed love at first sight to be such a real and powerful phenomenon; it may come across to them as very convincing. This is because even though Romeo loved Rosaline, as soon as he saw Juliet, something was powerful enough to make him instantly love her. There are also many other factors of the play which Shakespeare has created which make the reader doubt Romeo and Juliet’s love and therefore love at first sight. One of these is that the characters Romeo and Juliet were so young; although we do not know their exact ages in the play, it says that Juliet is nearly fourteen, and it is commonly assumed that Romeo is a few years older. This may lead readers to question whether or not it was just ‘puppy love’ or maybe it was just a physical/sexual attraction due to teenage hormones. In addition, some readers may ask whether the only reason Romeo and Juliet married was so they could have sex, as in Shakespeare’s time, it was not acceptable to have sex outside of marriage.

When Romeo first sees Juliet, he talks about her, and this is a very convincingly written passage by Shakespeare to convince the reader that Romeo is in love with Juliet. The first line begins with “O” and ends with an exclamation mark; this shows the reader that Romeo is astounded and that his breath was taken away. The “O” also has a deeper meaning, as it is traditionally a word associated with religion and worship, as people will use it when praying, for example, ‘O God.’ This is a theme that Shakespeare continues throughout the whole play. By using religious language, Shakespeare shows that Romeo considers Juliet to be holy and worthy of his worship. This idea is further supported when Romeo later says Juliet is like a saint. Shakespeare has also used a metaphor that Juliet is a star by writing, “it seems she hangs upon the cheek of the night.” This metaphor is significant as it links with the other themes, which Shakespeare also continues throughout the play about astrology, the stars and fate. It signifies that they were destined for disaster.

The reader could interpret this as more proof that Romeo and Juliet did fall in love were meant to be together or that they were never supposed to be together and weren’t in love, and that’s ultimately why in the end, they die. The point in the play where Romeo and Juliet speak to one another is important in convincing the reader that they are in love. The most obvious is that Shakespeare has written their first meeting in a sonnet, which is the classical way to write a love poem. This immediately tells the reader that Romeo and Juliet are in love. The whole of the sonnet is an extended metaphor about Juliet being holy. Romeo uses the words holy shrine, which in reality is usually a statue of Mary. So he is saying that Juliet is holy and also that she is beautiful because a shrine is usually a wonderful place. However, there is also a link in this to their death, as a shrine is usually for a dead person, and there are also relics in it that hint at the idea of fate and destiny again, which Shakespeare has used throughout the play.

The religious language and metaphors are how Romeo and Juliet flirt with each other, and Shakespeare hints at lots of sexual undercurrents. An example of this is the word ‘kiss’ used twice, and Romeo says, “O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do!” The ‘O’ is significant because although earlier it was used in a religious/praising way, it could actually have been added by Shakespeare to show that Romeo is sexually longing for Juliet. This would support the earlier idea that Romeo and Juliet’s marriage enabled them to have sex. Shakespeare has linked religion and sex very closely in this play, and the first meeting is no exception. This is again proof to the reader that Romeo and Juliet are in love. It supports the existence of love at first sight because Romeo and Juliet have only just met, but they are already sure of their feelings for each other.

After the sonnet, there is a stage direction which says “he kisses her” this is important because it is a climax to the play so far. The first time Shakespeare says they have touched, it is also important because Shakespeare used very few stage directions while directing his plays at their performances. Most of the ones he did include were simply directions to the actors about when to come on and off the stage, so Shakespeare included this means that it is an essential part of the play. The kiss helps the reader believe that Romeo and Juliet have fallen in love at first sight.

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The Phenomenon of Love at First Sight in Romeo and Juliet. (2021, Aug 10). Retrieved September 8, 2021, from https://essayscollector.com/essays/the-phenomenon-of-love-at-first-sight-in-romeo-and-juliet/