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  • Subject area(s): English Literature
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  • Published on: 15th October 2019
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Have you ever been in love? It is horrible, because it makes you feel so vulnerable. All because one person walked into your life. You end up giving a piece of you. They did something like talk to you or kiss you, and now your life is not the same anymore. If that connection fades, and they say that they do not want you in their life anymore that los you once had turns into a knife driving deeper and deeper in your chest. So, why should Romeo and Orlando be so sad? They lost someone who did not love them, but they lost someone who loved them. They learned to walk away. They learned when a connection fades it is time to let go, and move on to someone better or something better. You can waste all of your love on someone who is not worth it, or you can find that one person who is worth all of your love. Everyone wants to know the definition of love. Even the greatest name in English Literature, Shakespeare, sought to find the definition himself. Shakespeare recorded his answer in many of the sonnets and plays he wrote, including As You Like It and Romeo & Juliet. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the concept of love Shakespeare uses between minor characters in his play to exemplify the love between the major characters in his plays.

In these plays, Shakespeare associates love with many characteristics. Love is often associated with selflessness. Part of the answer to the question of love is also selflessness, and an important part of love is truth. Love embodies all of the greatest characteristics of a person: truthfulness, selflessness, and faithfulness. The three different examples of love in Romeo & Juliet are Romeo and Juliet, Romeo and Rosaline, and Paris and Juliet do share some similar aspects, but they also have their own differences. These three different types of love show us the variations of truthfulness, and how it can mask itself into different forms. The three different examples of love in As You Like It are Orlando and Rosalind, Silvius and Phoebe, and Touchstone and Audrey they also share some similar aspects, but they also have their own differences. These three different types of love show us the variations on selflessness, and how it can also show itself in different forms. Paul Cantor in his journal The Spectrum of Love: Nature and Convention in As You Like It describes love as, “The general problem of combining rustic simplicity with civilized refinement turns out to be the specific problem with love as portrayed in As You Like It. True love is revealed to be a medium between the rudeness of the country and the decadence of the court. Shakespeare examines in detail three pairs of lovers in the course of the play: Orlando and Rosalind, Silvius and Phebe, Touchstone and Audrey. This spectrum of lovers serves to define the nature of true love. Orlando and Rosalind emerge as the Aristotelian mean between the extremes of Silvius and Phebe on the one hand and Touchstone and Audrey on the other. The love between Touchstone and Audrey is too rustic and uncouth, a purely physical attraction. By contrast, the love between Silvius and Phebe is overly refined and idealized.”

Romeo’s “love” for Rosaline is portrayed as a Petrarchan lover and his “love” was simply an infatuation. He did not take time to know Rosaline or understand her, but thought that he truly loved her. In actual fact, he was only attracted to her because of her beauty; “The all-seeing sun / Ne'er saw her match since first the world begun.” (I, ii, 99-100) Romeo knows that Rosaline does not love him, that the relationship is not mutual. Romeo became depressed when he realized that Rosaline did not love him. He was moody and withdrawn. His use of oxymorons such as “bright smoke, cold fire, sick health” shows his uncertainty and confusion of this “love” he has for Rosaline. Romeo’s love for Rosaline is clearly infatuation, which really is not true love.

We question Paris’ “love” for Juliet. Did he really love her? His love for Juliet was not as straightforward. He did not even know Juliet, probably falling for her beauty rather that loving her for who she really was. It was probably superficial, but we cannot completely ignore his attempts to show “love”. When Romeo kills him he asks to be put in her tomb, “If thou be merciful / Open the tomb, lay me with Juliet.” (V, iii, 72-73) So, in a way, he may have true feelings for Juliet and was crushed at Juliet's death.

Silvius reflects the behaviour of the polite lover, who is capable of the most foolish actions, and who suffers separation from his Phoebe. His only concern is love and, although he is uneducated, his language is poetic when he speaks in praise of Phoebe. Both Phoebe and Silvius speak in detailed verses in order to comply with the courtly love conventions. In their courtship, Silvius praises her virtues and begs for the slightest sign of affection, and Phebe scorns and rejects him all along. It may be said that Silvius and Phebe represent minor characters, the typical characters in romances who acted out the conventions of tradition.

Another type of love explored in As You Like It, is that which represents the view to sexual love. In this variety of love, symbolized in the couple of Touchstone and Audrey, the main concern is sexual fulfillment. Due to his sarcastic and practical nature, Touchstone never speaks about love seriously and when he seems to be doing so, he is just mocking the conventions of romantic love. He only comments on marriage as being the socially acceptable means to satisfy physical desires. He compares marriage to the mating of animals. “As the ox hath his bow, sir, the horse his / curb, and the falcon her bells, so man hath his desires; / and as pigeons bill, so wedlock would be / nibbling.” (III, iii, 79-82)

However, if you compare this to Romeo's love for Juliet, although it may have been rushed and hasty, initially based on looks and beauty, it is definitely not an infatuation. Romeo and Juliet share a bond, which makes their love even more special. When they first meet each other they share their language. They both use biblical and religious words to express themselves. The first time they speak it is in the form of a sonnet; the first moment that they meet, it is obvious that there will be something special between them. Romeo and Juliet share a physical, passionate love as well as emotional love. The first night that they meet they do not want to leave each other. “Let me be ta'en, let me be put to death.” (III, v, 17) He was so contented to be with her, he would rather risk his life than be separated. John Andrews tells the importance of Romeo and Juliet’s love in his journal Falling in Love: The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, “There can be no question that what draws Romeo and Juliet to each other at the outset is physical attraction. But would it be just to assert that their union is based on nothing more elevated than erotic desires? I think not. The poetry with which they declare their feelings makes it well nigh impossible for us to conceive of any situation in which the protagonists could ever again be severed, let alone drift apart.” He was also willing to kill himself for her, willing to sacrifice himself because he could no longer live without Juliet. He buys the poison after finding out about Juliet's “death”. He cares for her so much, he says, “For nothing can be ill if she be well.” (V, i, 17) The love he shows towards Juliet is so intense and sincere. It is hard to deny that he truly loves her, because it is the one thing that many people crave for.

Rosalind falls in love with Orlando at first sight, as is standard in Shakespeare, she becomes erotically energized, and remains so throughout the play. Cantor describes their relationship as, “Orlando and Rosalind avoid the extremes of either Sylvius and Phebe or Touchstone and Audrey. There is poetry in their romance, but they do not act simply like characters out of books. Because they do not become captives of conventional roles as lovers, they do not allow poetry to take over their lives. What saves them from a life of romantic cliché is Rosalind’s playfulness and her refusal to get locked into a single role.” She is delighted and excited by the experience, and is determined to live it to the full moment by moment. She does not deny her love for Orlando, or try to play games with her emotions. She is aware that falling in love has made her subject to Celia’s gentle mockery. At the same time, Rosalind has not an ounce of sentimentality. Her passionate love for Orlando does not turn her into a mooning, swooning recluse. It activates her. She takes charge of her life. She knows what she wants, and she organizes herself to follow it through. She initiates the game of courtship with Orlando and keeps it going. She has two purposes here. This gives her a chance to see and court Orlando, and thus to celebrate her feelings of love, but it also enables her to educate Orlando out of the sentimental pose he has adopted.

Orlando, too, is in love with Rosalind. But his view of love requires him to write awful poems, and walk through the forest hanging them on trees. He sentimentalizes the experience, so that he can take pleasure in his feelings of love rather than focusing sharply on the reality of the experience. In their conversations, Rosalind/Ganymede pointedly and repeatedly deflates his conventional expressions. This comes out most clearly in her famous reply to his claim that, if Rosalind rejects him, then he will die.

No, faith, die by attorney.

The poor world is almost six thousand years old,

and in all this time there was not any man died in

his own person, videlicet, in a love cause. Troilus

had his brains dashed out with a Grecian club, yet

he did what he could to die before, and he is one of

the patterns of love. Leander, he would have lived

many a fair year though Hero had turned nun, if it

had not been for a hot midsummer night, for, good

youth, he went but forth to wash him in the Hellespont

and, being taken with the cramp, was

drowned; and the foolish chroniclers of that age

found it was Hero of Sestos. But these are all lies.

Men have died from time to time and worms have

eaten them, but not for love. (IV, i, 99-113)

It needs to be stressed that Rosalind's view of love is highly intelligent and sensitive. We know that Rosalind is very much in love, passionately eager to be with Orlando, or to talk about him as much as she can. But the experience is not corrupting her response to life. She will not permit herself or Orlando to be deceived into thinking love is something other than the excitingly real experience she is going through love is the most transforming experience for her, but it is not the sum total of everything life has to offer. This fusion of passion and intelligence, shot through with a humour which enables her to laugh at herself as much as at other people, makes Rosalind a well balanced main character.

The three types of love shared between them were all hasty. Romeo’s love for Juliet was spur of the moment. Upon seeing Juliet, he instantaneously forgot all about his “swan,” Rosaline, whom he was so deeply infatuated with and fell for Juliet at first sight. He soon forgets about what he said about Rosaline being “too fair, too wise; wisely too fair” and describes Juliet as “Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear.” This is a parallel situation compared with his “love” for Rosaline; it was based on love at first sight, and not on the mutual feelings for each other. It is hasty and rushed. Even Juliet said it was, “Too rash, too sudden, too unadvised, too like the lightning”. Likewise, Paris’s love for Juliet was hurried. He didn't get to know Juliet well, despite Lord Capulet’s advice to “woo her. get her heart”. However, with all the complications happening like the death of Tybalt, he made the excuse that, “These times of woe afford no times to woo”. He simply asked for her hand in marriage: “commend me to your daughter”. He didn't even know if Juliet shared his love and felt the same way, and just assumed that she will love him eventually, speaking to her as if they were already married, “my lady and my wife”. With Paris, he portrayed himself that he was sure that Juliet loved him. When they met at the church, he says to her: “Do not deny to him that you love me”. However, this relationship is not mutual, much like the one between Romeo and Rosaline. It is false, artificial and insincere. This is very different with the love Romeo has for Juliet, for it is genuine and requited.

With the three relationships, they did not last for very long. His “love” for Rosaline did not last long, ending when he saw Juliet at Capulet’s feast. “Did my heart love till this night?” Despite Romeo’s intensity of his feelings for Juliet, and his willingness to sacrifice himself for her, the love they shared died when they did, and it is not certain whether they can actually share it in the “afterlife”. In the same way, Paris’ love for Juliet died when she died. But I doubt that there was a “love” to begin with. Perhaps his feelings could not mature as deep as the one shared between Romeo and Juliet. The love that they shared had effects on the characters themselves. For Romeo, he “Shuts up his windows, locks fair daylight out, /And makes himself an artificial night,” (I, i, 142-43)  he was always solitary, gloomy, and miserable during his infatuation for Rosaline. This kind of “love” or feelings is not healthy, causing depression to the first party.

Rosalind becomes the pivot around whom the other lovers move, because she is the only one with a maturely intelligent sense of the difference between love and sentiment. Thus, she can deliver stern lectures to Silvius and Phoebe about how they are denying themselves the joys that are possible because they have a false sense of love. Silvius’s excessively conventional Petrarchan attitudes simply encourage Phoebe to close him out of her feelings and to develop a false sense of her own importance, as Rosalind points out very bluntly, “Sell when you can. You are not for all markets” (III. v. 65). She is telling Phoebe, in effect, to wake up to the realities of the world in which she lives and to abandon the sentimental dream in which she has locked herself, thanks to the language in which she and Silvius understand their feelings.

It’s significant that throughout much of the play, when Rosalind talks to others about love, she talks in prose, rejecting the formal potential of a more imaginative language, in order to keep the discussions anchored in the reality of everyday life. Rosalind wants love, but she will have it only in the language of everyday speech, without the embellishments of poetical conventions, which corrupt because they take one away from the immediately reality of the experience.

Orlando profits from Rosalind’s instructions, because he is basically an emotionally intelligent person as well. Significantly, his poetry is very bad, and he is not going to mind acknowledging the fact. He does not love his own words more than his own true feelings, and hence does not strive to develop his abilities as a poet, and quickly moves into the prose conversations with Rosalind/Ganymede. It is an interesting question whether or not he might recognize or have his suspicions about Rosalind/Ganymede well before the ending. There is an intriguing possibility that he knows her all along, but recognizing that she is in charge of the game, he is only going to drop the pretence when she gives him the cue.

When Paris proclaimed his love for Juliet to Lord Capulet, it did not really affect him. Probably only by the death of Juliet, did he show any change, but it could have also been sparked off by the urgency of the relationship. He was to marry her the day she was discovered dead. It will definitely have its negative effects on Paris. Although his character was not developed very much, he did feel more for Juliet especially when her cousin, Tybalt had been slain. In the end, when Romeo defeated him, he requested him to “lay me with Juliet”.

It was actually the love that Romeo had for Juliet that had the greatest effect on him. He changed mentally and emotionally, and grew into a much more mature and sensible person through the course of his relationship with Juliet. It had positive effects on Romeo. Before going to the feast, he had already decided to sulk at the party, to be a “candle-holder and look on” while others enjoy themselves. But when he had laid his eyes upon Juliet, he transformed into a whole different person. He became cheerful and in high spirits. It was a direct contrast to the “love” he had for Rosaline. Instead of causing pain and being heartbroken, he was now a passionate lover and a sincere one. He used plain and simple language that revealed his inner feelings than the flowery language he used for Rosaline. It was mere poetry that did not reveal his true feelings for her.

The difference between the relationships Paris and Juliet as compared with the one between Romeo and Juliet, and Romeo and Rosaline, was that it was open and honest. He did not hide his feelings that he has for Juliet, requesting for her hand in marriage to Lord Capulet. Lord Capulet gave permission for the marriage. Unlike Romeo’s case with Juliet, their reunion was in secret, and probably would be rejected and cast off if both families were to find out. It might be called an outrageous partnership. So in a way, despite not showing Juliet whether or not he truly loved her, he had gone to seek permission from the Lord Capulet, and if they did eventually get marriage, it would be one that was approved and acknowledged. Not like the one between Romeo and Juliet, where the choice to get wedded was based purely on their own decision, and not one that was consulted with their own parents. Compared with Romeo’s love for Rosaline, his best friends knew about it, Benvolio having found out when he spoke to Romeo, and by telling Mercutio. It was not a total secret, but was kept hidden from his parents.

It is obvious that the love Romeo has for Juliet is true and deep, it is also reciprocated, unlike the one between Romeo and Rosaline, and Paris and Juliet. Also, the three relationships showed signs of hastiness and rashness, which resulted in a short-lived and rather brief relationship. However, the love did affect the characters in some way or other and had changed Romeo into a better person.

Truth, as Shakespeare saw it, is an important part of the definition of love. Real love is often called “true” love. It is no surprise than that Shakespeare focused much on this point, and even the exact opposite in this play. In As You Like It, there are several aspects of love as truthfulness. One such aspect is the questioning of the quickness with which the couples in the play fall in love, as to whether their love is true. Orlando asks Oliver, “That, but seeing, you should / love her {Celia}? And loving, woo? And wooing, she should / grant? And will you persever to enjoy her?” (V. ii, 2-4) However, by this point in the play, Orlando has learned much about the nature of love with help from others, and has found that he is truly in love. Orlando's learning experience was to learn faithfulness. As stated, though, Orlando does catch on quickly, and indeed finds himself truly in love. Not all the rest of the couples are so sure about their own love and its being true.

At first thought, it might seem that should Shakespeare be writing about being true in love, that he is only making matters worse by having characters in disguise interact with other characters, including those whom they love and are loved by. He is doing this, but more as well. By portraying the exact opposite of his point in a humorous way, he is serving to strengthen his own point. It is true that Rosalind’s disguise changes the plot, because it causes Phoebe to fall in love with her, but Shakespeare has Rosalind say these words with which she replies, “I pray you, do not fall in love with me, / For I am falser than vows made in wine”. (III. v. 77-78) With this simple response, Shakespeare makes an important point: for love to work, a relationship must be based on truth. In this way, Shakespeare emphasizes the truthfulness that is involved in love. Shakespeare's definition of love is selflessness and truthfulness. Orlando and Celia show selfless love. Truthfulness of love is shown by the quickness of falling in love, and by the use of characters in disguise.

Everyone wants to know the definition of love. Even the greatest name in English Literature, Shakespeare, sought to find the definition himself. Shakespeare recorded his answer in many of the sonnets and plays he wrote, including As You Like It and Romeo & Juliet. The purpose of this paper was to analyze the concept of love Shakespeare uses between minor characters in his play to exemplify the love between the major characters in his plays.

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