Shakespeare’s Life
The Prominence of Love during the
Juliet and Love
The Dark Lady: an unusual way of
William Shakespeare was presumably born at Stratford-onAvon on April 23rd, 1564. He was the third of the eight
children of John Shakespeare, a glover, and Mary Harden,
an aristocrat. However, he was the first who managed to
survive the years of the plague. His father soon became a
man of substance thanks to his successful activity as a
tradesman; he was an active citizen as well, since he first
became an official of the town and later bailiff, it is to say
the major low officer in charge. Unfurtunately in 1577, when
William was only thirteen, he suffered a period of financial
reverse. The future bard had to leave school, however he
did not attend University. In 1582, when he was only
eighteen, William married Anne Hathaway, eight years older
and three months pregnant of Susan. In 1585, Anne had two
twins, Hamnet and Judith.
Shakespeare aged twenty-one, had to struggle very soon to
make a name for himself: his father’s economic misfortune
and Anne’s poverty pushed him to work hard to survive.
Later, in 1592, after a lapse of time we almost know nothing
about, Shakespeare worked in London as an actor and
playwright in the theatre. His plays can be grouped into:
 Histories
 Comedies/ Romances
 Tragedies
The figure of the woman is focused on especially in Comedies/
Romances and Tragedies where she plays an important role;
Partia (The Merchant of Venice),Miranda (The
Tempest),Ophelia (Hamlet), Desdemona (Othello), Lady
Macbeth (Macbeth),Cleopatra and Juliet are as famous as
the plays they live in.
Love is a prominent theme in literature for two main reasons:
 it is usually an important “ingredient” of a writer’s literary production: a source
of inspiration, an element that can influence his characters’ experience, or the
 Moreover love, like death, is considered ethernal and the readers like it because
strong emotions make them dream.
During the Renaissance Love was idealized: Dante and Petrarch became the model
for all European Renaissance poets. The Elizabethan Sonnets described the
torments of love for a woman who can’t return the poet’s love. This poetry is
the expression of a passion for ethernal beauty, which is embodied by the Lady.
Shakespeare’s works contained various attitudes towards the feeling of love
even if he breaks the Petrarchan courtly tradition. In fact he focused on a
concrete and real woman. The courtly convention for excellent is in “Romeo
and Juliet”, even though the character of Juliet shows an evident tendency to
realism and unconventionality.Let’s see how Shakespeare deals with a real
woman’s love.
Late 1500 in Verona, Italy. There were two really powerful families,the
Montagues and the Capulets, who had been enemies for almost decades.
One day, the Head of the Capulet family,who was Juliet’s father, decided to
give a ball and to invite all the relatives and friends of the Capulets. Being
the feuding family, the Montagues of course were not invited. Romeo, as a
Montagues, planned to get a look at a young girl, Rosaline, who he was
pursuing then. Therefore he disguised himself in party clothes and secretly
attended the party.At tha ball, he didn’t see Rosaline but an attractive girl,
Juliet. His attention was immediately stolen by her and he fell in love
istantly. When Romeo found out that Juliet was a Capulet, they both felt
very disappointed. That night, Romeo secretly crept into the garden of the
Capulets in the hope of catching a glimpse of Juliet. Juliet was standing on
her balcony confessing her forbidden love to the stars. Romeo heard her
confession and he stepped out from the bush which he was hiding in.
Romeo declared his love to Juliet and planned to marry her secretly the
next day with the help of his friend, Friar LaWrence. On the wedding day,
both Romeo’s friends, Benvolio and Mercutio were confronted by Juliet’s
cousin, Tybalt, while walking down the streets in Verona. Tybalt’s purpose
was to deallenge Romeo. As he couldn’t find him, he started fighting with
Benvolio and Mercutio. Romeo stepped between Mercutio and Tybalt to
stop the duel,but Mercutio was fatally enjured.
Romeo couldn’t control his anger anylonger. So to avenge the death of his
friend, he killed Tybalt. The Prince of Verona, then banished Romeo, to
another town, Mantua. Unaware of Juliet’s marriage to Romeo, her father,
the old Capulet, decided to marry his daughter to a young man named Paris.
Juliet consulted Friar Lawrence for assistence.He told her to agree to the
marriage, but in the night before her wedding day, she would drink a potion
prepared by the Friar . Therefore, on the day of marriage, Juliet did as she
was told.But the news of her death reached Romeo’s ears in Mantua before
Friar Lawrence’s letter.Overcome with grief,Romeo bought a poison and
came back to be with Juliet. When he arrived at the tomb he found Paris and
killed him.Romeo took the fatal poison. When Juliet woke up she found
Romeo dead and took Romeo’s dagger to kill herself. Juliet woke up when he
arrived at the tomb and found Romeo dead.Both families were united in
their grief and promised that they would never fight again.
Juliet is gentle and respectful towards her parents (who do not show
themselves deserving such respect), this is how she appears at the
beginning of the play when we first meet her.Though only thirteen
years old, she shows a shrewd intelligence (in the way in which she goes
about finding out Romeo’s name from the Nurse in Act One, scene V).
She is also cautions about the suddennes of Romeo’s love and whether
it will prove last.Tenderhearted and unselfish. Direct and quick in
responses. Like Romeo she shows the impatient excitement of young
love. This soon develops into a deep passion. Like Romeo she becomes
totally committed to her love, to death and beyond. She is charaterized
by a tendency of concreteness and realism especially in her use of
language. In “The Masque” scene Romeo compares her as a “rich
jewel in a Ethiop’s ear” that is difficult to reach and to a “ snowy dove
tropping crows”. She seems to be rare and unic for her true beauty.
Another example is in the “Balcony scene” where Juliet is anxious to
estabilish that she is not an immodest girl.
She is embarrassed that she has betrayed her “true-love passion” so openly
but her attitude is unconventional. There follows a spirited exchange which
culminates in her proposal of marriage. Her strenght comes from love. She is
able to convince her parents that she is ready to marry Paris; she is able to
hide her feelings from the Nurse,and to bear her solitude in the Friar’s plan
because of her love.When she awakes in the vault she chooses to die beside her
O she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
As a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!
So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows,
As yonder lady o’er her fellows shows.
The measure done,I’ll watch her place of stand
And, touching hers, make blessed my rude hand.
Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!
For I ne’ er saw true beauty till this night.
(to juliet touching her hand)
If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
Good pilgrims, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this:
For saints have hands that pilgrim’s hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.
Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
Ay, pilgrim,lips that they must use in prayer.
O then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do,
They pray:grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake.
Then move not, while my prayer’s effect I take.
(he kisses her)
Thus from my lips by thine my sin is purged.
He jests at scars that never felt a wound.
But soft!What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief
that thou, her maid, art far more fair than she.
Be not her maid, sinci she is envious.
Her vestal livery is but sick and green;
And none but fools do wear it:cast it off.
It is my lady, O it is my love;
O that she knew she were.
She speaks, yet she says nothing. What of that?
Her eye discourses:I will answer it.
I am too bold:’ tis not to me she speaks.
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars
As daylight doth a lamp;her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek.
‘Tis but thy name is my enemy.
Thou art thy self, though not a Montague.
O be some other name! What’s Montague?
It is nor hand,nor foot,nor arm,nor face,
Nor any part belonging to a man.
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes,
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name;
And for thy name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.
I take thee at thy word.
Call me but love, and I will be new baptized;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.
What man art thou that, thus bescreened in night,
So stumblest on my counsel?
I know not how to tell thee who I am.
My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself
Because it is an enemy to thee.
Had I it written, I would tear the word.
We can find in Shakespeare number of sonnets(from CXXVII to the end) addressed to “a
dark lady” or “black woman” who, in spite of her physical aspect, is extremely
desirable. This is a novelty,since the woman is not loved and desired for her beauty,
but for what she really is. In this way Shakespeare means with the Petrarchan courtly
tradition.The woman described in these last sonnets is a concrete and real woman
who has got also defects, which make her different from the angelic woman of the
Petrarchan’ poetry, but alive. In his sonnet “My mistress’ eyes”, Shakespeare
describes his woman’sphysical apperance (lips, breasts, hair, cheeks…) her sounds
and actions (breath, words, gait…) that make her special although she’s not beautiful
and her words are not music.In concluson,Shakespeare is aware of the complexity of
a feeling like love, which is something more important than beauty. Love can survive
through the time and be immortal, while beauty is bound to die.
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head;
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks;
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing soound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go.
(my mistress when she walks treads on the ground)
And yet by heaven I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
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Romeo and Juliet