In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare shows that young men often confuse beauty for love. This happens due to the fact that love and beauty are very closely connected. As George Boas says: “the ultimate object of love is the beautiful” (583). Confusing beauty for love is not good, and can even be deadly, as Romeo seems to have a habit for falling in “love” with beautiful women, and he dies in the end, out of “love”. Beauty can be a difficult concept. It changes over time and people have different opinions of what is beautiful and what is not.
In Shakespearean times, a woman was considered beautiful if she had pale skin, light hair, bright eyes, and red lips and cheeks (Leed). Women went to extreme measures to achieve these ideal characteristics, plastering their faces with white cream and covering their cheeks in rouge (Leed). A fully made-up woman in Shakespearean times would look rather ridiculous today, and even Shakespeare criticizes “ideal” beauty in one of his sonnets, Sonnet 130: My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun; Coral is far more red than her lips’ red: If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
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I have seen roses damask’d, red and white, But no such roses see I in her cheeks; And in some perfumes is there more delight Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. I love to hear her speak,–yet well I know That music hath a far more pleasing sound; I grant I never saw a goddess go, My mistress when she walks, treads on the ground; And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare As any she belied with false compare. Shakespeare also shows in this sonnet that he does not love a woman for her beauty. He describes her as the opposite of ideal beauty at the time, and yet he still loves her.
Shakespeare’s sonnet is similar to Romeo and Juliet because Shakespeare is showing that beauty is not needed for love, and Romeo and Juliet ends in tragedy for Romeo; who sees beauty as love. Although Shakespeare does not find pleasure in his mistress’s beauty, the dictionary. com definition of beauty is “the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind…” Beauty is simply there to create pleasure (Robinson 74). One reason beauty is mistaken for love is because something can be so beautiful and cause such pleasure, that the pleasure can be mistaken for love.
Romeo mistakes beauty for love twice in Romeo and Juliet. The first time he is in “love” is in the beginning of the story. He is sad and moping around when his cousin Benvolio finds him and asks what is troubling him.
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