The stronger love is, the more tragic it is
The three works I use for this essay are Shakespeare’s plays “Romeo and Juliet”, “Othello” and Kuprin’s novel “The Pomegranate Bracelet”. My essay argues that only tragic love can show the depth of feelings. The stronger love is, the more tragic it is. Writers use contrasting images of death, unfortunate love and youthful bright energy to impart emotional coloring and some sense of intensity of feeling into their works about love.
The length of life is measured not in quantity of pages from loose-leaf calendar. It is measured in quantity of events and memoirs. Love is one of the most important memories we have. Stop and have a look at the past! Life without love is a chain of dull days, months and years.
There are problems, which we cannot solve – we can solve them only partially, although millions of people think constantly about those problems in their hard moments of life. Those eternal problems are about sense of life, about the aim in life, the God, personality, death and love. Something, which is valuable, escapes from us all the time. We are trying to understand it. We ask questions and look for answers.
Love is one of such “problem” questions. We understand what is love only when we love. We loose understanding of this feeling, when we stop loving somebody. From here are our eternal talks about love and our inability to understand it. Still, theme of tragic love is very popular in literature. Why? When you love somebody, you feel emotions; when these emotions vary from suffering to adoration, the so-called “intensity” of love becomes stronger. People write about emotions they experienced, and writers, who are emotional people by nature, are trying to show the depth and purity of feeling.
Shakespeare says that the stronger love is, the more tragic it is. I can add that the more tragic is background of story, the brighter is the story of love. Let’s take the example – his “Romeo and Juliet”. The play takes place in Verona. “Juliet and Romeo meet and fall instantly in love at a masked ball of the Capulets” (Romeo and Juliet Web Site). When Romeo saw Juliet, he understood, that it was a real feeling of love: strong and all-absorbing. He had some feelings before, but they were not as strong as this one – before it was a passion, peculiar to youth. Everything changes now. Juliet also falls in love with him with the whole heart. They don’t take care about feud of two families.
I will not speak about the summary of play, because it is too well-known and everybody knows it; I want only to focus attention on feelings. Love of two young people is the main theme of tragedy. The emotional context of play is the idea of love – everything is full with rapturous pathetic speeches of young lovers. This is pathos of love, because you can see in “Romeo and Juliet” not only admire of each other, but also solemn, proud, majestic declaration of love as divine feeling.
Strong conception of human love was one of the main ideas in European culture of Renaissance. In this connection, Shakespeare’s tragedy becomes a kind of poetic manifest of English Renaissance. Shakespeare glorified love in comedies as well, but only in “Romeo and Juliet” lovers confirm beauty and majesty of feeling at the cost of their lives – it is “a tragedy of unawareness” (Mabillard, Amanda. Shakespeare Online Web Site). Carnival colors are irrelevant here, – it is more serious, but this seriousness doesn’t dim the light of tragedy – .
Shakespeare writes that real love should be a tragedy. No tragedy- no love. He shows Romeo and Juliet real heroes – in motion and development. They are young and it stresses the tragedy of the situation. Romeo prefers death to life without his love. Love is the main motivating force in this play. Love removes all doubts and at the same time love takes their lives.
The most character feature is unbelievable poetry – there are scenes, which remind us collections of lyrical poems. The story of young love, which is doomed to death, is tragic. But this tragedy is bright. Death of young people is a triumph of their love, putting an end to discords. Contrasts of death and youth, love and hatred help readers to share the feelings, to understand the depth of real love and self-denial.
“Othello” is the most ‘chamber’ Shakespeare’s tragedy. There is no triumphant archaism – it is a tragedy of subjective passion. Love of Venetian Moor Othello and daughter of Venetian senator Desdemona is the main idea of the play. Othello narrates about difficulties in his life and his sufferings. By words of Othello, Desdemona loved him because of disasters he survived and he loved her because of her compassion. In such a way a huge disturbing world with its ordeals and cruelty enters their lives.
Othello couldn’t feel himself free and easily – that’s why Desdemona became for him the personification of light and harmony. “Love, if he loves, must be to him the heaven where either he must leave or bear no life” (A. C. Bradley, Website) Words that he says accidentally have great sense: I love you and let’s my soul dies! If I stop loving you, chaos will come back.
Those harmonic relations are also doomed. World of Othello and Desdemona – the world of sincere human feelings; world of Iago is the world of Venetian egoism, hypocrisy and cold prudence. Noble world of loving hearts collapses under pressure of that rapacious world. The root of Shakespeare’s tragedy is in contrasting of love and death.
Final words of Othello show his drama. Still, the matter is not in jealousy – the matter is in unwarranted trustfulness. The loss of trust in Desdemona for him meant loss of trust in human being. Chaos ruled in his soul. Murder of Desdemona is not only explosion of dark passions, but the act of justice. He takes revenge on lost love and world, which lost harmony. He is not so much a jealous husband, as menacing judge who fights with world of lie, meanness and deceit. Still, he cannot realize life without his love, – he “pulls a hidden dagger and kills himself” (The Tragedy of Othello, Website)
The love and tragedy cannot be divided – it is one whole; it is a unique process of soul, the rule of life, the fate.
In the novel “The Garnet Bracelet” love and tragedy are also mixed together. The main hero of novel is married, but she loves her husband. She doesn’t have any feeling to Mr. Zheltkov; on the contrary, she feels only slight annoyance. Zheltkov also seems to be a vulgar admirer, who pretends that he loves Vera (the main hero). At least, Vera and her family in such way interpret his actions. A bit later alarm signals appear in the novel: a fatal love of brother; love-admiration, which her husband feels to her sister; unfortunate love of Vera’s grandfather…
Her grandfather also says that a real love should be a tragedy (Let’s remember Shakespeare’s words?) and in real life love is often vulgarized by way of life and other conventionalities. He tells two stories, where a true love changes into false play. To the moment, when Vera listens to this story, she already received the garnet bracelet. This bracelet had to save her from misfortune, and it could save his former owner from being murdered. From that moment relation of reader to Zheltkov changes drastically. Zheltkov sacrifices with everything for his love: career, money and peace of mind. He doesn’t demand something in return for. This is a tragedy of unfortunate unrequited love.
Again some conventionalities kill this phantasmal happiness. The brother-in-law remembers his renunciation of love in youth and demands Zheltkov to do the same. He threatens Zheltkov with his power, court and prison. Zheltkov objects to those words and says that he cannot do anything with his love. He cannot kill this feeling. In contrast to heroes of Shakespeare, he is ready to fight for his love. Society doesn’t mean anything for him. Still, in spite of such energy, the novel finishes with tragedy: Zheltkov is ready to renounce love, but only with his life. He commits a suicide (Alexander Kuprin p.120).
He confesses that he wedged himself into Vera’s life and he is thankful to her even for the fact of her existence. His love is not a disease, a maniacal idea; – it is award, sent to him by God. His tragedy doesn’t have way out – he is a dead person. His lips were smiling blissfully and serenely as if he understood some deep and sweet mystery, which solved all his human life before he died. And Vera understood that love, the dream of each woman, passed by her.
Kuprin puts such words into the mouth of Zheltkov: Where is love? Love… true love, disinterested, self-sacrificing, love which doesn’t wait for award… The love, which is as strong as death is. You can perform any deed, give your life, experience a torture – it will not be difficult – it will bring only joy. (Nicholas Luker pp. 104-108)
Love should be s tragedy – this is their opinion. It should be the greatest mystery in the world. Nothing should touch it! Writers tried to find such life in real life and berhymed it in their novels and poems. They are sure that any man and woman can show the greatest heroism in their love. Love means the sense of life – the whole Universe. Any person dreams of love, which is the one, forgiving, ready for everything, modest and self-denying. This is ideal of love. It is difficult to find such ideal – practically impossible. When there is no love, people avenge.
Those books are textbooks of love, source of wisdom and moral purity. We see the essence of great feeling. We think about the eternal, the feeling, which will not die… the feeling which troubles people at all times… again and over again.
Probably, we can see the lesson, which we have to learn: world is cruel and we have to defend our love. All those plays and novels are full with life energy, in spite of tragic events. Love and death here are the one whole. Theme of death fills Shakespeare’s plays and Kuprin’s novel.
True love is usually a tragedy. Why is it so?
In conclusion I want to tell that theme of tragic love in literature is endless. Probably, true love is in that height of feelings, that made us suffer – a mixture of hatred and passion, death and birth, day and night, eternal devotion… Just have a look – all famous literature works about love have almost similar plot line: it is drama, an unfortunate love with tragic ending, or a story, where heroes part at the height of those feelings and live their lives separately, loving each other (particularly, living with those high feelings) all their life until death. The stronger love is, the more tragic it is.
1. Mabillard, Amanda. Romeo and Juliet: General Analysis. Shakespeare Online. 2000. http://www.shakespeare-online.com/romeocommentary.html October 24, 2004
2. Romeo and Juliet [online] http://search.eb.com/shakespeare/micro/731/0.html October 24, 2004
3. Shakespearean Tragedy (1904), by A. C. Bradley. [online] http://sunflower.singnet.com.sg/~yisheng/notes/shakespeare/othello_b.htm October 24, 2004
4. The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice [online] http://www.online-literature.com/shakespeare/othello/ October 24, 2004
5. Nicholas Luker “Alexander Kuprin” [online] www.kuprin.de/luker.pdf October 24, 2004
6. The Garnet Bracelet and Other Stories by Alexander Kuprin Fredonia Books (NL); (April 1, 2003)