AST201H5 Lecture Notes - Benvolio, Friar Laurence

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31 Jan 2013
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At the start of the play Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare suggests that young men decide on
love based solely on how a girl looks, without taking the time to develop deeper feelings. This
theme is evident especially when examining the character of Romeo. When Romeo decides that
he is no longer in love with Rosaline but instead with Juliet, he tells his confessor, Friar
Lawrence. Friar Lawrence is understandable surprised, and he tells Romeo, “young men's love
then lies / Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes” (2.3.67-68). Here, Friar Lawrence makes it
clear that it is Romeo’s “eyes”—in other words how pretty he thinks the girls are—that is
deciding whom he loves. Romeo’s variable nature can be seen here by looking at his feelings for
Rosaline versus his feelings for Juliet. At the start of the play, Romeo is particularly morose
because he is enamoured of Rosaline, but she will have nothing to do with him. He says to
Benvolio, “One fairer than my love! The all-seeing sun / Ne’er saw her match” (1.2.94-95).
Here, Romeo is claiming that the sun has never seen anyone as beautiful as Rosaline, and Romeo
laments because she will have nothing to do with him. However, as soon as Romeo sees Juliet,
he forgets immediately about Rosaline. When he sees her across the room, Romeo says, “Did my
heart love till now? Foreswear it sight! / For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night” (1.5.51-52).
Immediately, Romeo forgets about Rosaline, and how beautiful he thought she was, because he
sees Juliet whom he thinks is more beautiful. Again, Romeo is convinced that he is in “love.”
Clearly, Shakespeare is cautioning all people that young men especially often confuse how pretty
a girl is with feelings of love.
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