Romeo and Juliet- the story of impulse


HUM 2250


5/20/04





The title “Romeo and Juliet” evokes a story of love. In fact, it is a story about the nature of human impulse- bare, fickle, and indomitable. Through a sequence of events, Shakespeare strips his characters to their bones and blood, where love and hate condense into a single force. By the end of the play, the author proves it is this force which gives purpose to life and at the same time consumes it.


The play begins with an introduction to the quarrel between Montagues and Capulets, although the reason for it is never mentioned. This is because reason has no partaking in human impulse. Deprived of common sense, nature’s thrust pesters Sampson and Gregory, the serving men of the Capulets, and won’t leave them satisfied until they’d let it outburst. It is this force which kills rationality and turns men to beasts as the Prince perceives it:


“What, ho! You men, you beasts,


That quench the fire of your pernicious rage


With purple fountains issuing from your veins!”


Benvolio and Mercutio are two other characters compelled by rancor. At one point in the play they even accuse one other of being cantankerous:


“ Thou! Why, thou wilt quarrel with a man that hath a hair more or a hair less in his beard than thou hast... and yet thou will tutor me from quarreling!”


This shows the idleness of their wits and the complete submission to impulse.


The same blind thrust is nested in Tybald’s character which throughout the play is driven by hate: “What, drawn, and talk of peace? I hate the world as I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee.” From the beginning, the author constructs a juxtaposition between Tybald and Romeo as two distinct men, one possessed by hate the other by love, yet both equally impassioned and impetuous. Tybald tenaciously builds his purpose around animosity. His imprudence is proven once again at the ball, when he’s ready to “make a mutiny” for the sole purpose of indulging his impulse:



“ Patience performance with willful choler meeting


Makes my flesh tremble in their different greeting.


I will withdraw; but this intrusion shall,


Now seeming sweet, convert to bitt’rest gall.”


Romeo, seemingly opposite to Tybald in intention, is in fact his twin in initiative. This is because he lives for love, but his love is just as blind as Tybald’s hate and just as intrinsic. At the beginning of the play, Romeo pines for Rosaline with force and vigor more resolute than reason itself:


“When the devout religion of mine eye


Maintains such falsehood, then turn tears to fires;


And there, who, often drowned, could never die,


Transparent heretics, be burned for liars!


One fairer than my love? The all-seeing sun


Ne’er saw her match since first the world began.”


Yet it doesn’t take long before his love transfigures with the same virility into the eyes of another woman:


“The fair for which love groaned for and would die,


With tender Juliet matched is now not fair. “


Here Shakspeare uses the words: “which love groaned for” instead “Romeo groaned” to connote that “love” or “nature” is the subject who does the action and not the man. This shows that the only constant is not the object of affection, but the impulse of the beholder.


The Friar often takes the voice of reason in the play. As such, he perceives Romeo’s impudence and his synthetic love: “For doting, not for loving, pupil mine” and “Young men’s love then lies not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes.” On many occasions, Romeo is ready to take his own life, under the rashness of an impulse. For example, as soon as he learns that he’s banished “he offers to stab himself.” Once again, the Frier attempts to direct logic in his mind:


“Thy noble shape is but a form of wax,


Digressing from the valor of a man;


Thy dear love sworn but hallow perjury,


Killing that love which thou hast vowed to cherish.”


Throughout the play, Shakespeare infers the ambivalence of nature: “brawling love”, “loving hate”, “bright smoke”, “cold fire”, and “virtue itself turns vice.” At the same time, the author follows the impetus in the “affections and warm youthful blood” of his characters. This human impulse manifests as love or hate and “being