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How is Love Presented in Romeo and Juliet: Essay on Shakespeare's Play

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“O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright! It seems she hangs upon the cheek of the night as a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear: Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!”. Who could forget one of Romeo’s most iconic lines describing Juliet’s heavenly beauty when he first sees her in the balcony? Love at first sight. The two stars crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, within a 5-day love journey, so madly in love, involved the deaths of a family member and a friend, refusal of Juliet’s arranged marriage with Paris, for she was already secretly married to Romeo on their third day of the meeting, and ended up killing themselves at the very end, emphasizing the iconic, “till death do us part”. True love, some might say. So the question “how is love presented in Romeo and Juliet?” is the main theme of this essay.

William Shakespeare’s, Romeo and Juliet, written about 550 years ago, is considered one of the greatest and most iconic love stories of the English language, telling a story of forbidden love and is the first example of archetypal star-crossed lovers. Romeo and Juliet also allowed the readers to imagine what it’s like to live in the Elizabethan era including their clothes, language, type of entertainment (the play being an example), and their culture. The people also strongly believed that their fate and destiny were based on the sun, moon, and stars. Shakespeare’s original, Romeo and Juliet, shows their love in a ‘forbidden passionate young love that frustrated the stars’ type of way. Baz Luhrman’s 1996 version, Romeo+Juliet, however, is a modernized version of the play involving the 20th-century style: costumes, language, people, cinematography, infrastructure, and setting. Luhrman is trying to imply the incongruity of Romeo and Juliet’s love story by making the cinematography, language, sound effects, and everything else dramatic and fast-paced which changes the style of the play from an actual theatre play, into a narrative style television broadcast. Luhrman expressed the themes, Love and Destiny, through visual representations and a contemporary setting for the modern audience to easily understand the tragedy of Shakespeare’s, Romeo and Juliet.

In Shakespeare’s version, the two noble feuding households, the Capulets and the Montagues lived in fair Verona, Italy (also, where the play is set). Romeo, a Montague, and Juliet, a Capulet, fall in love despite the hatred between their families, and asked Friar Laurence, a good friend of Romeo’s, to secretly get married. Friar Laurence imagined that the marriage of the two would eventually help end the feud between their families. However, Friar Laurence’s good intentions have precipitated the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. Although it was too late to bring back both characters after they took their own lives, their families have decided to reconcile, because after all, anger and pride could never compare to a sad loss of a loved one. The same narrative and themes (Love and hatred and Fate and Destiny) are expressed in the original and the modern version of Romeo and Juliet. However, instead of setting the story in Verona, Italy, the movie was filmed in modern Verona Beach in America, instead. In addition, Shakespeare implied to have an English accent, but Luhrman’s adaptation had American. The purpose of this was for the modern audience to comprehend the story easily, despite the old-fashioned language.

Shakespeare uses a lot of complex figurative language throughout the play. Both versions use old-fashion language, building images inside the audience’s head. For example, when Juliet finds out that Romeo is a Montague, she stated, “My only love sprung from my only hate!”. There is a lot more figurative language used such as similes, metaphors, oxymorons, personification, and foreshadowing. All of these techniques helped shape the play, however, foreshadowing has to be the most significant one as scenes from the very beginning, foreshadowed both characters’ tragedies. Before the Montagues and friends went to the Capulet’s party, Romeo mentioned about having a dream. A consequence hanging in the stars that begins on that day and may result to untimely death. Not only that, but when Romeo rushes to marry Juliet, Friar Laurence said, “wisely and slow. They stumble who run fast” to emphasize their decisions that they regret later. Another significant technique used is how Shakespeare compared Romeo and Juliet using light and dark. Upon first seeing Juliet, Romeo describes her as the sun who can kill the envious moon, the one who teaches torches to burn bright, but Romeo says Juliet’s ‘light’ best shows in the darkness, “hangs upon the cheek of the night” and how she is “a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear”. Therefore, describing Juliet as the light of Romeo’s dark and lonely world.

Baz Luhrman’s modern movie version of the play is way different than the original one as it captures the visual elements and the dramatic cinematography of Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Juliet first meet at the Capulet’s costume party, on different sides of the aquarium, including a lot of colors. The romantic moment was also supported by a romantic, soulful song that accompanied it. During the party, the costumes worn by each person represented their personalities. Mercutio wore a girl’s costume as he is outgoing and funny, Tybalt dresses up as Lucifer as he is known for being impatient and involved in a lot of fights, and Juliet dresses up as an angel to express her youth, innocence, and purity. Romeo, on the other hand, was dressed up as a dark knight, looking for his missing lady. The colors in their costumes link back to the original play where Romeo described Juliet as his light, only this time, is represented in visual images. These visual representations contrast from the old movie, as well, as the party is set in a 20th century period.

Shakespeare and Luhrman’s versions express love in a different way compared to the 21st century. In Shakespeare’s time, girls were forced to get married at such a young age. Lord Capulet told Juliet about getting married to Paris a few hours before she met Romeo. Juliet was 13, while Paris was 25. Uhm… something seems to be a bit wrong here. Anyways, Romeo and Juliet are opposed to the idea of ‘forced marriage’ as they willingly got married from their first sighting. Hmmm… True love? Shakespeare’s, Romeo and Juliet, expressed love and destiny using language in a theatre, with no costumes or any dramatic effects, however, Luhrman’s adaptation uses visual images. For example, the camera angle was looking down, focusing on the decaying city, indicating both family feuds. Romeo’s dream and the fireworks, presented before the party, indicated the infamous, “star-crossed lovers”. Luhrmann’s version changed the prince into a police officer. Instead of swords and daggers, the modern version used guns, implying the American setting. Because, although everyone read Shakespeare’s original, it’s still pretty hard for the 21st century to comprehend. Luhrmann’s adaptation of Romeo+Juliet made it easier for people to understand the story of Romeo and Juliet.

This essay has analyzed how love is presented in Romeo and Juliet. It can be concluded that Romeo and Juliet’s love story is, in fact, tragic. Shakespeare already foreshadowed the tragedy of the young lovers from the very beginning in the prologue, “A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life”. Their love story was fated and destined to be doomed from the very beginning, only for the two families to resolve their feud, after Romeo and Juliet took their own lives. Shakespeare intensely focused on Fate and Destiny through the Elizabethan language and beliefs. Luhrmann’s adaptation of the play represented this through visual images, soundtrack, the setting, and the very well-known actors, Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, for the modern audience to understand the love story of Romeo and Juliet. After all, we are used to watching TV shows or films that are based in an American setting. However, some people still believed that Romeo and Juliet could have avoided the tragedy in a lot of ways. I mean if Romeo didn’t jump to conclusions immediately, then maybe their story would have ended up like Taylor Swift’s song, Love Story.

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Romeo and Juliet`s Love: the First Example of Archetypal Star-Crossed Lovers. (2022, May 17). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 27, 2022, from
“Romeo and Juliet`s Love: the First Example of Archetypal Star-Crossed Lovers.” GradesFixer, 17 May 2022,
Romeo and Juliet`s Love: the First Example of Archetypal Star-Crossed Lovers. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 27 Jun. 2022].
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