A Warning For Lovers
The first scene of Rome and Juliet is an eye opener in a mini form if the rest of the play is the same in a major way. The play deals with love and this scene is a warning on the subject. Shakespeare dwelt on the nature of love more than most authors have done. Perhaps, more than any other has ever done. Everyone loves a lover, they say. But in fact, few do. Most people, in their heart of hearts, either envy a lover or dislike him for what they consider a waste of time. Love is great for the one drowned in it but for another, who has come out of it, it can be a terrible waste of time because experience tells that (a) love never remains constant or loses intensity and then begins to nag; (b) those that have never fallen in love hate the lover for succeeding where they have failed.
In the first scene, Romeo has not really fallen in love but he is in the process of doing so. He is craving for Rosaline who does not like him at all. He is as yet unaware of what Juliet will do to his heart. When he meets Juliet a few scenes later, he cannot stop himself and goes headlong into the affair. But that will happen later. At this stage, Shakespeare merely shows us the state of a lover; a state that has disturbed Romeo’s father and his friend, Benvolio. Both of them are ignorant about why Romeo is in such a deplorable condition. He roams about alone or stands under a sycamore for hours looking stupid to the onlooker. He is a picture of melancholy. He is like any other animal looking for a mate. It is nature’s design to give that kind of hunger to the male so that procreation becomes possible. But Romeo is not just an animal; he is a social animal who will do something not permissible in Nature. He will picture his love in a golden frame and believe there could be no better form of existence than being in love: a love that requires the cooperation of the body, soul and mind. The mind, in the case of a lover like Romeo, is the most important because in it resides memory. Romeo never wants to forget that he is in love. And this is where the real tragedy begins. When love becomes so vital that it drives out all other emotions, it becomes painful and harmful.
The first scene is a revelation of how this kind of destructive love sets into the mind of a particular type of individual, as embodied in Romeo, and how he then proceeds towards destruction and death. Romeo, in his times, was forbidden by circumstance to marry Juliet. But even if he lived today, married to Juliet and lived with her like a conventional couple, he would still have suffered the same tragedy. So much love will lead to an equal amount of suffering because it will keep a man from becoming normal in everyday life. Life requires people to be more than lovers. Love never remains at one level, degree or intensity and will give pain for not remaining that way to the one who wants to be an eternal Romeo. It will tire the lover and the beloved alike. Therefore, nature does not plan such long relationships for love-partners. Marriage is alright if it has a normal level of love expectation but it becomes tragic if the partners want to remain lovers for the rest of their lives. They should remain merely partners who care for each other rather than remaining Romeos and Juliets forever.
The first scene is, therefore, a warning or the man, who plans like Romeo, to be a lover with unchanging love and passion.
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