Tragic Motivation in Romeo and Juliet and Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Tragic Motivation in Romeo and Juliet and the Life and Death of Richard III

One may argue that people behave the way they do based on their motivations, which can be complicated and interwoven in the psyche of human nature. Often, simplifying what motivates people helps define those motivations, such as the examination of good and evil, or love and hate. Engaging characters developed by authors to tell compelling stories often are given those elements that define the human condition, and are an examination of what motivates people to act in the way they do. In Shakespeare's plays, Romeo and Juliet and The Life and Death of Richard III, there is a stark difference in the motivation of the primary characters demonstrated by their words and actions. The difference in the concept of nobility is given through motivation, whether through honorable intentions or claimed entitlement.

Motivation of Love

In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo is motivated by love. Though not necessarily entitled by birth, his family is one of prominence in Verona. However, his position in society is not the motivation for his ardent pursuit of love, or the object of his love, Juliet. His actions and thoughts seem to seal his fate, a tragic spiral of the heart that motivates him to the end.

In the first act of Romeo and Juliet, the motivation for Romeo's actions throughout the play first shows itself in this passage as he laments the loss of Rosaline to Benvolio.

Alas, that love, whose view is muffled still,

Should, without eyes, see pathways to his will!

Where shall we dine? O. me! What fray was here?

Yet tell me not, for I have heard it all.

Here's much to do with hate, but more with love.

Why, then, O brawling love! O. loving hate!

O any thing, of nothing first create!

O heavy lightness! serious vanity!

Mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms!

Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!

Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!

This love feel I, that feel no love in this.

Dost thou not laugh? (I.i.165-178)

Love weighs heavily on Romeo, specifically the loss of love, to the point where he yearns for it so much that talking about it with his cousin causes him grief. Love in this passage is about wrenching heartache, but it is the need for love that motivates his passions. His need makes him vulnerable, open to any thing to fill the void in his heart. Romeo is motivated by the pressing desire that he is enamored with Juliet's beauty and instantly falls in love with her. Indeed, he does fall in love with Juliet, and is compelled consummate his love and to marry her, even in secret. Love is his defined motivation, both in loss and gain.

It is in his passion, too, that he kills Tybalt for the murder of his beloved cousin, Murcutio. A fury over Murcutio's death is motivated by love for his own family, causing him to immediately seek vengeance. This passion causes him to act hastily, despite earlier refusing the duel with Tybalt based on the reason of love for Juliet. Although Romeo ignores Tybalt, Murcutio is motivated by the taunts to defend Romeo and the Montegue family, an opposing compulsion than Romeo. Murcutio is ignorant of Romeo's marriage to Juliet and does not understand this contrary motivation. One wonders if Murcutio's motivations and actions, in defense of his family's honor, would have been different if he had known of Romeo's love for Juliet, perhaps saving his own life.

Romeo's love for Juliet also causes him to set aside his reason in favor of passion. The raging feud between their families gives him no pause in marrying Juliet. His own love for Juliet overrides his loyalties to his own family.

Love is also the motivation that leads to Romeo's death, and subsequently to Juliet's. In love he kills himself in the face of once again coping in grief of lost love. This motivation shows how selfish humans can be, even if it seems to within a noble cause such as love.

2. Motivation of Power

Nobility itself is a motivator, but not necessarily the nobility of character. Nobility of birthright among royalty is a different form of selfish motivation. In The Live and Death of Richard III, Shakespeare demonstrates that the quest for power over others is not a motivation of love, but of evil.

Richard, not yet king, describes his motivation and lays his plans to usurp the throne right at the beginning of the first act in the last part of his opening soliloquy.

Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,

Have no delight to pass away the time,

Unless to spy my shadow in the sun

And descant on mine own deformity:

And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,

To entertain these fair well-spoken days,

I am determined to prove a villain

And hate the idle pleasures of these days.

Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,

By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,

To set my brother Clarence and the king

In deadly hate the one against the other:

And if King Edward be as true and just

As I am subtle, false and treacherous,

This day should Clarence closely be mew'd up,

About a prophecy, which says that 'G'

Of Edward's heirs the murderer shall be.

Dive, thoughts, down to my soul: here

Clarence comes. (I.i.24-42)

His ambition for a loftier position in the line of succession compels him to act in the opposite manner as a more honorable member of nobility. So manipulative and deceitful, his motivation is not of love, unless it is love of self. His motivation is of single minded ambition and focused on power. Where Romeo was motivated by his love, both for Juliet and for his family, Richard does not hesitate to dispose of his family members to get what he wants.

Richard outright proclaims his dedication to be the villain, resolving to be subtle, false and treacherous. His passion lies with plotting the deaths of those who stand in his way. He is also careful to keep his plans secret, even if his actions threaten to expose his ambitions.

Hate for his family does not necessarily factor into his motivations or ambitions, but he uses lies and deceit to create hate among others, specifically between King Edward and Clarence. He also describes his own hate of "idle days" that prompts the beginning of his manipulation, starting with the devious accusations that imprison Clarence. He does, however, despise his family because of their loftier positions, but does not necessarily hate them. They only stand in the way of his ambitions.

The power that goes with the monarchy is Richards's prime motivation, but in the opening soliloquy, he makes reference to his desire to cause mischief as well, to cause trouble in peaceful times as a method of advancing his political ambitions. He knows that such a peace will not allow him to rise to power. Violence, distrust, murder, and lies are the tools he will use to gain the crown.

Richard also knows that he cannot be a great lover, or a man of peace for that matter. He proclaims his deficiency as a lover, acknowledging a deformity that prevents him from pursuing this aspect of his personality and instead turning his attention to his ambitions. This disparity perhaps fuels his discontent with his familial position in succession to the crown, his ambitions proving greater than where fate has placed him.

This inadequacy as a man of love becomes Richards motivation, his passion is directed to his ambition of power. In contrast to Romeo's motivation to marry Juliet out of love and passion, Richard's passion and ambition to be king lead him to marry Lady…

Cite This Essay:

"Tragic Motivation In Romeo And Juliet And" (2010, December 11) Retrieved January 16, 2018, from

"Tragic Motivation In Romeo And Juliet And" 11 December 2010. Web.16 January. 2018. <>

"Tragic Motivation In Romeo And Juliet And", 11 December 2010, Accessed.16 January. 2018,