Love is the ruling force of the evolution. People all over the world consider love as the brightest and the warmest feeling. Love is often the main theme of the greatest works of world literature. The theme of romantic love is also discussed in such masterpieces as William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Voltaire’s Candide. What is the meaning of romantic love for the main characters of these works? How do they consider the place of love in their lives? Is their love true and fair? Hamlet and Candide are inclined to romantic love and any kinds of romantic feelings, but they have their own vision of the problem of love in their lives, and this feeling receives a definitely new meaning as a result of their attitude to it.
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The attitude of Hamlet and Candide to love can be examined through the analysis of their attitudes to the reality of life and its issues. Hamlet considers the reality in which he is forced to live as extremely hostile. Under the pressure of dangerous events he lost his faith in people’s honesty. He has no trust in people anymore. His friends become his opponents, and the women whom he loves become isolated in his heart. Moreover, Shakespeare emphasizes on the notion of ‘love’ in the relation to the notions of ‘fear’ and ‘doubt’, “Where love is great, the littlest doubts are fear; / Where little fears grow great, great love grows there” (Shakespeare Act 3, Scene 2, pp. 171-172).
In his turn, Candide perceives the reality through the prism of his innocent idealism and rejects all the cruel factors and aspects of real life. He creates his own reality in which he concentrates on his love for Cunégonde. The awareness of this feeling gives him power to act. Nevertheless, it is his way of self-delusion, and his actions are rather absurd and rude. However, he believes in what he says, “I deeply love Miss Cunégonde” (Voltaire Ch. 2).
Romantic love appears to be a kind of a great illusion also for Hamlet. He can declare the meaning of love in his life, but he evaluates it according to the other aspects. “Doubt thou the stars are fire; / Doubt that the sun doth move; / Doubt truth to be a liar; / But never doubt I love” (Shakespeare Act 2, Scene 2, pp. 116-119). In spite of the fact Hamlet even stresses on his love for Ophelia, he prefers to preserve his inner world from the others’ eyes and even from Ophelia’s and stay alone in his reality.
Sometimes it seems that Candide really measures his life with the value of love and that he is even blinded with this feeling, “I know this love, that sovereign of hearts, that soul of our souls; yet it never cost me more than a kiss and twenty kicks on the backside” (Voltaire Ch. 4). However, love is only a kind of false impression in his life, and he understands it when he achieves his goals, when he is over the situation, “At the bottom of his heart Candide had no wish to marry Cunégonde” (Voltaire Ch. 30). Candide faces the fact that his dreams come true, but it is a challenge for him. His desires gave an exact sense to his life and the fact that they are satisfied breaks his vision of the reality.
The role of romantic love in the lives of Hamlet and Candide can be analyzed from the point of their visions of the notion of ‘love’. The trials of romantic love as a way to achieve some peace in their hearts are not the best choice for them. They are inclined to create some image of love and then play their roles according to it. Thus, love is much more a fantasy and illusion for them than a real strong emotion, something that makes you feel.
- Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. shakespeare-navigators.com. n.d. Web. 2011.
- Voltaire. Candide. literature.org. n.d. Web. 2011.