Assess Romeo and Juliet's relationship. Are they truly in love? In lust? In love with the idea of being in love?
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This question is a little more complex than it seems. Though Romeo and Juliet is arguably the most archetypal love story in the English language, it portrays only a very specific type of love: young, irrational, passionate love. In the play, Shakespeare ultimately suggests that the kind of love that Romeo and Juliet feel leads lovers to enact a selfish isolation from the world around them. Romeo and Juliet eschew their commitments to anyone else, choosing to act selflessly only towards one another. Sexuality does pervade the play, both through bawdy jokes and in the way that Romeo and Juliet anticipate consummating their marriage, but it does not define their love. Instead, their youthful lust is one of many reasons why their relationship grows so intense so quickly. Throughout the play, Shakespeare only describes Romeo and Juliet's love as a short-term burst of youthful passion. In most of his work, Shakespeare was more interested in exploring the sparks of infatuation than long-term commitment. Considering that no other relationships in the play are as pure as that between Romeo and Juliet, though, it is easy to see that Shakespeare respects the power of such a youthful, passionate love but also laments the transience of it.