Love’s Emotions

Romeo and Juliet_1867_Ford Madow Brown_Whiteworth Art Gallery_The University of Manchester UK

Romeo and Juliet painted 1867 by Ford Madow Brown (1821-93), Whiteworth Art Gallery, The University of Manchester UK

by Catherine DeAngelis

“Love is heavy and light, bright and dark, hot and cold, sick and healthy, asleep and awake – it’s everything except what it is!”


(Act 1, scene 1)
William Shakespeare
Romeo and Juliet

Oh that William Shakespeare certainly had something going on. And then present day researchers have something to say about it!

Were we taught life skills and love’s human emotions and conflict through Shakespeare especially to crave love so much to the point that we would die for it?

From the 17th to the 21st Century what are we teaching youth about human emotion and conflict and is it real?

Easy as it is to want to analyse Shakespeare’s poems and sonnets or plays like Hamlet or Macbeth and cite the omnipotent “to be or not to be,”  “The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,”  and “To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow.”

Shakespeare  revolutionized  human emotion and conflict simply by his dramatics, words and passion he weaved into his works. He brought to us the “why do we crave love so much, even to the point that we would die for it?”

Refraining from refuting scholars who have studied the works of Shakespeare indelibly, let us hugely celebrate the high school principals and teachers who year after year bring this mysterious Literary King into a teen’s mind and heart. They are deserving for making it part of a youth’s coming of age while trying to spring forward a sneak peek at the understanding of the complexities of love and human emotions.

How many recall the passionate teacher, provoked by an early morning’s lesson on Romeo and Juliet, “O! she doth teach the torches to burn bright” – as you frightfully sat, still unawake and withdrawn at your desk?  The teacher marched forward and stopped and stared while she bellowed “what does love mean TO YOU?”

Love, as twisted and confusing as the English language is, is diversely described as:

“deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and concern toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness.  An intense emotional attachment, as for a pet or treasured object.  A person who is the object of deep or intense affection or attraction; beloved. Often used as a term of endearment.  An expression of one’s affection.  A feeling of intense desire and attraction toward a person with whom one is disposed to make a pair; the emotion of sex and romance.” (freedictionary.com)

Of course, is this the forum to argue if  Shakespeare should or should not be on the curriculum or address the impact of Shakespeare’s passion since the 17th century where his breath of his own personal love of man may be viewed differently now than it did back then.

“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

Let’s marshall forward to the 21st century where our view of love may be focused more around what many Psychologists report. It can take between 90 seconds and 4 minutes to decide if you fancy someone. And further they prove it has little to do with what is said, rather than 55% is through body language, 38% is the tone and speed of your voice, only 7% is through what we say. Scientists who love to investigate the power of ruling out something discovered there are 3 phases to falling in love because of how our hormones respond to the process: stage 1 – lust, stage 2 – attraction and stage 3-attachment.

Love  has lots to do with biochemistry.  Helen Fisher, PhD  is Biological Anthropologist and a Research Professor and member of the Center for Human Evolution Studies in the Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Internet dating site, Chemistry.com, a division of Match.com.

We can only imagine Shakespeare walked the streets and relied on the day-to-day passions of his life’s loves.  However, Fisher’s life’s love is to conduct extensive research and has written five books on the evolution and future of human sex, love, marriage, gender differences in the brain and how our personality type shapes who we are and who we love.

Like Shakespeare, Fisher addresses the “need ” of  “why do we crave love so much, even to the point that we would die for it?”  She wants you to learn more about our very real, very physical need for romantic love.  She took her research team and looked at MRIs of people and studied them while in and out of love.

It’s okay to put Shakespeare aside and listen up, hear the less dramatic and engage youth, ourselves,  in understanding how love and all of its raw emotions can be expressed and understood more realistically and openly.


Sujen Man
 quotes this poem, as recited by an anonymous Kwakuitl Indian of Southern Alaska to a missionary in 1896, captures the excruciating pain of lost love. This poem is often recited by Helen Fisher, an expert on Romantic Love, in her talks.

Powerful Love Poem (1896)

Fire runs through my body with the pain of loving you
Pain runs through my body with the fires of my love for you
Sickness wanders my body with my love for you
Pain like a boil about to burst with my love for you
Consumed by the fire with my love for you
I remember what you said to me
I am thinking of your love for me
I am torn by your love for me
Pain and more pain
Where are you going with my love?
I am told you will go from here
I am told you will leave me here
My body is numb with grief
Remember what i have said, my love
Good bye, my love, good bye.

~ The author acknowledges the diversity of our cultures and how the impact of identified and unidentified childhood traumas and stresses can affect love’s emotions and create conflict. Active measures need to be constantly assessed by educational leaders and politicians to ensure empathy and compassion are foremost in the understanding of how a brain loves with a pained heart.

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