Saturday, February 12, 2011

Light vs. Dark

I wanted to try and answer my own question of whether or not Shakespeare was advocating this idea of young, swift love or not. And I attempted to answer it through the motifs of light and darkness found within the play. In the beginning when Romeo is pining over Rosaline, his life is full of darkness. He wanders around before the sun comes up and his father explains:

Away from light steals home my heavy son
And private in his chamber pens himself,
Shuts up his windows, locks fair daylight out,
And makes himself an artificial night.

In opposition to this permeating darkness, Romeo meets Juliet, whom he describes as a "bright angel". She is the light seeping through his chamber, which causes Romeo to ask, "what light through yonder window breaks?" The fact that Shakespeare created this metaphor of Juliet being an angel and Rosaline only creating darkness in Romeo's life is a clear message that the love between Romeo and Juliet is real, even divine.

Now, it's easy to mock this idea that two strikingly young people could really fall in love so instantly. However, maybe we should reconsider. In the movie Bright Star, the character John Keats says to his friend who is mocking his feelings for a girl, "There is a holiness to the heart's affection which you know nothing about!" This goes along with what Romeo utters just before he sees the light from Juliet's room, "He jests at scars that never felt a wound." Could it be that these emotions of love, infatuation, or whatever you want to call them, are in and of themselves valid? And that you can't mock them until you've felt them yourself?

I have one last question. Why did Romeo seek after this darkness in the beginning? When thinking about this my mind went to a little insight from Nietzsche in his book The Gay Science:

"Those who seek rest. -The spirits who seek rest I recognize by the many dark objects with which they surround themselves: those who want to sleep make their room dark or crawl into a cave. -A hint for those who do not know what it is that they seek most, but who would like to know."

With this in mind, how can we make sense of Romeo welcoming darkness and even creating for himself "an artificial night"?