Love and violence in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
Chew, Lynn Jia Lin
Date of Issue2015
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
The long established traditional interpretation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet depicts a play of fate or sheer misfortune that the characters are not at all responsible for the catastrophe they suffer. Rather, it is a play that encapsulates the idea of rebelling against societal expectations in the name of passionate love, catching the hearts of many readers. To date, Romeo and Juliet proves itself to be one of Shakespeare’s highly sought after plays. Set in the Renaissance period, it is generally agreed that romantic love is a common theme in Renaissance literature – from that time of Dante to Shakespeare. However, both writers had greater grasp of the concept of love more than anyone else. Though unlike Dante, Shakespeare does not explore the ultimate metaphysical meanings of romance. Love or young-love, is illustrated to be dreamy, fragmentary and at times, comical. While Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a love story, it is difficult to shake away the element of tragedy that awaits them at the end of the play. The violence that was intensified at the end of the play raises serious questions about the approach on the theme of love. Does Shakespeare see violence as a complement to love? Can love come without a sacrifice? Can love exist without the presence of violence? In the first half of this essay, I aim to explore the inter-relationship between love and violence in Romeo and Juliet. In particular, I will attempt to argue that rather than a tragedy on love, this play exposes the manifestation of violence. In the second part of the essay, this essay will use Rene Girard’s theory on mimetic desire and scapegoat mechanism to explore the intrinsic relationship between love and violence. In addition, this essay also aims to surface the function of violence in establishing peace and order in society.
Final Year Project (FYP)
Nanyang Technological University