Lustful Love – Shakespeare – And Hormones

Shakespeare’s forever famous play of young love, true love, and the tragedy that set forth by feuding families possesses more than can be taken in at a ninth grade level.  That is when most high school students run through this dramatic classic piece, most likely because teachers believe that those age groups will associate better with this work than some of his others.  When I was in ninth grade, I didn’t feel like I connected to this piece at all, the craze of it all and the random proclamations of love.   Reading it at an older age and looking back on certain aspects, I can’t help but find Shakespeare’s acknowledgments of hormones humorous.

            Act two is a great example of such overwhelming adolescent hormones!  Romeo had been previously bursting and pining over Rosaline, his supposed true love whom he could not ever live without, and quickly (literally overnight) finds himself in a supposedly true passionate love with Juliet.  The ridiculous switch is really more of an adolescent enamoring, at least at this current point in time.  Shakespeare is showing the beginning stages of what could be love, one day.  He uses Romeo and Juliet as pieces in the example of how young love is quite fickle and moves so easily to what best suits the hormonal desires.

Shakespeare uses Friar Lawrence as the character to react to the abruptness that these hormones create; he makes it more obvious where the audience’s rational opinions of this love should lie.  His shock and frustration expose the reality of the seventeen-year-old’s sudden change of heart, “Young men’s love then lies/Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes”, bringing forth the notion that physical attraction is all that guides young mens’ supposed love. 

Part of, or most of, Romeo’s reasoning is truly priceless in the fact that his main reason it seems for switching his love (which he now claims was not actually) from Rosaline to Juliet is that Juliet reciprocates his feelings.  So, basically, he sees himself having a better chance with Juliet now so he drops Rosaline flat.  It seems to me that when people say that Shakespeare’s works are timeless, they’re really on track with that statement.  Shakespeare has been painting the honest hilarity of hormones since his time and knew it was an endless truth, that young love is mostly guided by what kids that age believe to be love when it’s actually lust.  The sad part is that what their lustful love brings can be sad and tragic because it’s so energized and new that they don’t know how to control what’s going on, and in that, what can look like a shining happy ending can turn into a tragic cautionary tale. 

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3 thoughts on “Lustful Love – Shakespeare – And Hormones

  1. elisebrucche

    Michelle, I have always felt this play was more representative of adolescent hormones than of earth-moving love! Thanks for backing me up. However, I do find it interesting that the Friar, despite the lecture he gives Romeo, is also the only one who seems to puts any stock into the relationship. I realize that this is partially motivated by the desire to end the feud between the families, but he is also the only character who offers any idea of what genuine love might be like. I think his belief can be linked back to the religious language we observed in the sonnet describing Romeo and Juliet’s first encounter, which describes love as something purifying/transcendent and borderline religious. This connection suggests that the Friar, as a religious man, is also a man of love, and therefore the most knowledgeable source upon the subject. Yet, his knowledge does not ultimately help our protagonists much. Just as we noted that Romeo’s actions (i.e. his kiss) sort of sullies the purity of the moment, we can argue that the hormones get in the way of genuine adult love.

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  2. mcoh31g

    I too remember when I read this as a high school student and never really understood why this play was so highly renown for being romantic; I found it extremely sexually driven. When I began re-reading it for this class, I made it my duty to find out all of Romeo’s immaturity and raging teenage hormones like it seems you are as well. I think the first meeting between Romeo and Juliet definitely works towards your argument. I find it funny when people call it an archetypical example of love-at-first-sight because I find Romeo to be quite sexually driven. He states his lips “two blushing pilgrims” as if his love for Juliet has been sent as some sort of holy journey arranged by God. What a contradiction, Romeo states he is on a pilgrimage in Gods name, yet the next line he asks for a kiss. Romeo is trying to woo her sexually by displaying his affection for religion which is a pretty intense paradox thus proving this scene to be more hormonally driven rather than the more popular perspective of love-at-first-sight.

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  3. mahorsfall

    I really enjoyed your blog post! I think that all of your statements were incredibly true and definitely humorous. (Professor Mulready assigning this play on Valentine’s Day week was the icing on the cake, for me.) It certainly takes the naive and lovestruck perspective of an adolescent to want a romance like “Romeo and Juliet”—or just a songwriter like Taylor Swift, in any case. I like that you identified Friar Lawrence as the realistic (yet sadly optimistic) contrast to Romeo’s infatuation and heartsickness. Shakespeare certainly illustrates the tragedy of foolish/rash decision-making, as harsh and seemingly groundless emotions seem to guide all of the action of the energetic youth (just like their respective families, with their intense family feud).

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