William Shakespeare illustrates a many-sided approach to love in the tragedy Romeo and Juliet through demonstrating emotions that are extreme, cynical, and traditional. Romeo, Mercutio, and Friar Lawrence express different attitudes towards love and each character's viewpoint is influenced by his temperament. Love is a brutal, powerful emotion that captures individuals and propels them against their world, and at times, against themselves.
Both the destructive and the created impulses of love are recognized in Romeo and Juliet. Romeo recognizes both the life-giving and death-dealing aspects of love when he describes love as "A choking gall, and a preserving sweet." (I.i.185). He also presents love as a battle: a siege that involves an encounter with assailing eyes. "She will not stay the siege of loving terms, nor bide th' encounter of assailing eyesÃ¢ÂÂ¦" (I.i.210-211). He also states how he feels without Rosaline, and that is "Not mad, but bound more than a madman is; shut up in prison, kept without my food, whipped and tormentedÃ¢ÂÂ¦"(I.i.54-55)
He is also very passionate. "O then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do! They pray grant thou lest faith turn to despair."(I.v.102-103) He says this to Juliet when he wants to kiss her again, and speaks in a very passionate manner. "Sin from my lips? O trespass sweetly urged! Give me my sin again" (I.v.107-109). Juliet refers to a kiss as a sin, and so Romeo replies by asking Juliet to give him his sin again. "With Rosaline, my ghostly father? No. I have forgot that name and that name's woe." (II.iii.45-46) This means that Romeo has forgotten all about Rosaline so quickly and has moved on to Juliet! This shows Romeo's love somewhat fake and inconsistent.
Mercutio feels very cynical about love. "If love be rough with you, be rough with love, Prick love for pricking, and you beat love down." (I.iv.27-28). This basically means that one shouldn't let love overpower their life and to give back as good(or bad) as loves gives one. This demonstrates how Mercutio does not feel the same way about love as Romeo does, because he deals with it in an immature way. He also feels that dreamers often lie and that dreams don't mean much and are fickle. "Begot of nothing but vain fantasy, which is as thin substance as the air, and more inconstant than the windÃ¢ÂÂ¦" (I.iv.99-100). "Cry but 'Ay me!' pronounce but "love" and 'dove'" (II.i.10). Here, he is mocking Romeo of his love for Juliet by rhyming love and dove, as love means nothing to him.
Friar Lawrence views love in a more traditional manner. "Is Rosaline, that thou didst love so dear, so soon forsaken? Young men's love then lies not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes." (II.iii.66-69) This means that the Friar is saying to Romeo that Romeo should not base his love on love at first sight, but rather to love truly, and to take things slowly. "Be plain, good son, and homely in thy drift. Riddling confession finds but riddling shrift." (II.iii.55-56). This means that he is telling Romeo to be simple in his speech and a confusing confession will get one uncertain forgiveness. He means that unless Romeo speaks clearly, he will not receive direct advice. The friar talks very fatherly in that line. "Women may fall when there's no strength in men."(II.iii.80) This means that women may be inconsistent when there is no consistency in the man,, and the friar is trying to imply that Romeo should be more consistent with his love.
All in all, Shakespeare exemplifies extreme, traditional, and cynical views of love by all the characters and the quick change in mood reminds people that this play is about extremes; love versus hate, light versus dark, age versus youth, and life versus death. It seems that the characters all possess some similarity, as the friar shifts his opinion as quickly as Romeo shifts his passions. If he didn't make his decision to marry Romeo and Juliet so quickly, perhaps the two lovers would have avoided tragedy.