Many writers and scholars created writing that was filled with human emotions throughout the Early Modern Period. Their writings and plays let the audience and readers see and feel those emotions. Writers were able to portray these emotions in a way that was more appealing to their audiences. Particularly, the Early Modern Period was an era when the mind and behavior of people was being controlled. The arts, poetry and writing were used to teach people how to recognize and understand emotions. The most common emotions written about during this period were love and death. This paper will explore the relationship between them and how they played an integral part in Early Modern literature. Both of these emotions were major components of writing in this period. I want to show a connection between them and explain how each emotion was represented in writing. As an example, I will use Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet play to illustrate the meaning of death and love in this time period.
There are many powerful emotions in the human soul, but love is the most important. The Early Modern Period was full of love, a volatile emotion. Many historical writers and playwrights took advantage of this emotion. This is the same theme that was used in the play Romeo and Juliet. Love is clearly the central theme of the play. The play is filled with love, which dominates all other emotions and turns violent throughout. The play begins with the assertion that there are two households. They are both equally deserving of dignity. – A couple of star-crossed lovebirds take their life. (Shakespeare Romeo & Juliet, 1-5 Prologue). The play starts by establishing that there is an unspoken love between two households. Their bond is so strong that death is their only option. The play is full of love. This emotion is never static, it is constantly moving, and is fueled by the characters. In the beginning of the play, Romeo talks to Benvolio about Rosaline’s love. Romeo exclaims “Alas,” his love for Rosaline is masked by Benvolio. He reportedly brings up two cliches concerning love during Shakespeare’s time. These cliches were “love’s blindness” and “love’s always finding a way.” We as the audience will also see that Rosaline’s affection for Romeo isn’t matured, or nearly as emotional, as Romeo’s. The play shows that Romeo’s love for Juliet is more alive and meaningful through his words. Romeo and Juliet meet when it is clear that Romeo is not the only one who is attracted to Juliet. She rants that “my only love sprung out of my only hatred!” Too soon to be known and too late to be understood! It is a prodigious brithof love to me, that I must love an enemy.” (Shakespeare 152-155, Act 1). Juliet is shocked to learn the worst news about her love: she has fallen for a man who is her sworn enemy and the only man she can marry. Both are still enemies, and she may have fallen in love with him even though they were not allowed to be married or live together. The play’s language, word choice, and other details point out that there will be no separation of two things forever, even if they love each other. Juliet’s plea for her love brings up an important theme throughout the play: things happen too soon. Juliet exclaims that she’s met Romeo too young and has not been able to see him since. The play ends with Romeo and Juliet falling in love, continuing the theme of events occurring too early. Romeo ends up killing himself just minutes before Juliet goes to sleep. They could have been together forever if time had been with them. Romeo and Juliet was one example of love that transcends all other forces. Romeo and Juliet’s love is powerful and stronger than all other forces, making it a force to be revered as Godlike. Romeo sneaks into Juliets Capulet house’s walled Garden. Romeo says, “With love’s light wings, did i o’erperch this walls,” (Shakespeare.71-72, Act 2). Juliet is puzzled as to how Romeo managed it. He states that his love for Juliet has given him no limits and that nothing, not walls, will be able stop him. He was given the ability to fly “light wings” because of his love. This allows him to overcome the walls. The weight of love is evident throughout the play. Romeo, Juliet and other characters are used to demonstrate the power of love as Shakespeare portrayed it. As it seemed to pull the audience in, love was a common theme among Shakespeare and other playwrights. Love wasn’t the only common theme of this period. Romeo, Juliet and Death were also popular themes. This is because love and death are so intertwined. The story begins with love being declared and then a near death. It is stated that “A star-crossed couple take their lives. – Doth with the death of their parents’ strife, the fearful passage of the death-marked their love.” (Shakespeare, 6-8, Prologue). Romeo and Juliet, who are inseparable by their love for each other, are both also plagued with an uncontrollable death. The prologue says that their deaths will end the parents’ strife. Their death will bring an ironic end to the household loyalty that was keeping them apart. Shakespeare, like many other writers of this period, uses death throughout the play to help him move along. These deaths lead to problems for the lovers. Both of them are aware of the premonition of their inevitable death. Mercutio ends up dying by Tybalt. Romeo tells Mercutio, “A plague in both your homes!” They have made me worms’ flesh.” (Shakespeare. 111-112, Act 3.) In Mercutio’s final moments, he curses both houses. This in effect creates a roadblock that will prevent the star-crossed lovers from coming together. Romeo, angered by Mercutio’s murder, beat Tybalt to death and was banished from the kingdom. Romeo and Juliet suffer further problems because of this banishment. We, as the audience, reach the end of this play. It is the death of both of their lovers. Romeo, who believes Juliet’s fair Verona is dead, returns to the stage and declares that dying is better than losing his love. Juliet wakes to discover Romeo is dead. Stricken by her grief, Juliet grabs Romeo’s dagger. O, happy dagger. This is your sheath. There rust, I’ll die.” (Shakespeare. Act 174-175, Act 4-4) Love and death were, as fate would have us believe, intertwined in this story. No matter how strong the love between these lovers was, death took control and brought them to their tragic end. Romeo und Juliet is more than a love story. Shakespeare’s common themes of love, death and hope are all evident in the play. It’s no surprise that Romeo and Juliet is still a beloved play. And it will continue to be one of the most popular plays in the world for many years. The play does a fantastic job of showing how love and death play a significant role in the lives and daily life of Romeo & Juliet.