Love in the world of Shakespeare

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11.11.2020

Love is one of the most common themes in William Shakespeare’s writing. To Shakespeare, love is core to the human condition. Love is deeply imbued with power, as it causes both chaos and peace. It is ever present in his works as a driving force for action.

Love looks different in each text: love is passionate and all-consuming in Romeo and Juliet, love is a game in As You Like It, love springs from hate in Much Ado About Nothing, love is dangerous in Macbeth, love justifies revenge in Hamlet, love is jealous in Othello and in A Midsummer Night’s Dream love requires courage, or can be vengeful, or can be unrequited and a source of great pain. In Shakespeare’s sonnets, love is deeply personal.

Love in Shakespeare is not always romantic; there are strong bonds between friends, brothers, kings and their daughters, teenagers and their loyal servants. Shakespeare is clearly fascinated by love.

Associate Director James Evans has shared his insight into some of Shakespeare’s most notable quotes on love:

The course of true love never did run smooth.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Act 1, Scene 1

Lysander says this to Hermia after they hear that Hermia’s father, Egeus, doesn’t approve of their relationship. In fact, Egeus has threatened his daughter with death if she disobeys him. But Hermia won’t be deterred. She urges Lysander to be patient, reminding him that all true lovers go through these trials. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is ultimately a celebration of love and humanity, and Hermia and Lysander are destined to end up together. For Bell Shakespeare, after a year of trials and tribulations, 2021 is full of excitement and possibility. Our production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be a celebration of live theatre at its most joyful.

My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.
Romeo and Juliet – Act 2, Scene 2

This amazing line, spoken by Juliet in the ‘balcony scene’, is a great example of a character finding the words, in the moment, to express an overwhelming new feeling. Juliet suddenly realises that love is limitless: the more you give, the more you have. Romeo is blown away by this declaration, and even though they met for the first time just a few hours ago, they agree to get married the next day.

Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.
Hamlet – Act 2, Scene 2

This is Hamlet’s love poem to Ophelia, read out loud by her father in front of the King and Queen. Hamlet doesn’t seem so sure that it’s very good, claiming in the next lines that he’s bad at writing poetry. But it’s heartfelt and the letter proves Hamlet’s deep feelings for Ophelia. Bell Shakespeare’s acclaimed 2020 production of Hamlet is back next year, with Harriet Gordon-Anderson reprising her tour-de-force performance in the title role.

I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.
Much Ado About Nothing – Act 4, Scene 1

Beatrice’s declaration of love to Benedick comes at the most awkward possible time. Her cousin Hero has just been shamed and left for dead at her wedding by her fiancé, Claudio. Beatrice loves Benedick fiercely, but she now needs him to step up and be an ally, defending Hero and confronting Claudio. Benedick ultimately proves his love and shows that he is up to the challenge.

We have selected 10 of our favourite Shakespearean quotes about love and put them up for adoption. Give the gift of love this holiday season, and in doing so, provide opportunities for young people across Australia.

Your gift will support Bell Shakespeare’s education and outreach programs in schools and communities nationally, helping to inspire a love of language, an appreciation of the complexity of humanity, and opening young eyes to a world beyond what is immediately around us.

Choose from the list below:

Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;

Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.
Hamlet – Act 2, Scene 2

My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.
Romeo and Juliet – Act 2, Scene 2

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Act 1, Scene 1

I love you more than words can wield the matter,
Dearer than eyesight, space and liberty.
King Lear – Act 1, Scene 1

I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.
Much Ado About Nothing – Act 4, Scene 1

The course of true love never did run smooth.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Act 1, Scene 1

I would not wish any companion in the world but you.
The Tempest – Act 3, Scene 1

I know no ways to mince it in love, but directly to say ‘I love you’.
Henry V – Act 5, Scene 2

Love is begun by time,
And time qualifies the spark and fire of it.
Hamlet – Act 4, Scene 7

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no, it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken.
Sonnet 116

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