As any hopeless romantic knows, relationships in Shakespeare can be the quintessence of romance, but they can also be the epitome of tragedy. A huge Shakespeare fan and hopeless romantic myself, I’m going to unravel some of the most famous Shakespearean couples based on their love stories.
5. Othello and Desdemona in Othello
This couple was doomed from the start when Roderigo and Iago caused a ruckus outside of Desdemona’s father’s room late at night in Venice to tell him Othello was with his daughter at that moment. We see many pure moments between Othello and Desdemona that some may argue is the purest love found in Shakespeare, but, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. The miscommunication and deceit amongst Othello, Iago, Cassio, and Desdemona, as well as the extreme measures Othello takes against Desdemona, show how immature and ill-tempered these characters are, which is why they are my least favorite couple out of this ranking.
4. Hamlet and Ophelia in Hamlet
Hamlet and Ophelia are another incredibly immature couple who could’ve had a much better ending. Hamlet pushing Ophelia away when he could be using her as a support system, Ophelia staying hung up on Hamlet even though he is the worst to her, and their odd, secret moments where it looks like they do love each other again all sum to yet another tragic love story Shakespeare has cooked up. I am not sure if death could have been avoided for these two had they communicated better, but they at least would’ve had a chance. The hot and cold actions between Hamlet and Ophelia leave them second to last on my order of ranking.
3. Romeo and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet
This may be an unpopular opinion, but I do not believe that Romeo and Juliet is the most romantic couple Shakespeare has ever created. Their love is so fiery from the start that it is bound to burn out quickly in one way or another. Although they claim to love each other profoundly, it was barely any time before that when Romeo was spurting pretty words about another woman. While I don’t think that they were too young to have real love, I am just not sure if what they had was truly love. In comparing Romeo and Juliet to Hermia and Lysander in A Midsummer’s Night Dream, we see how love can distort or manipulate one’s thoughts. Romeo and Juliet wish to defy their families’ feud, while Hermia and Lysander fall under a spell through a magic flower. This brings in the question of whether or not there is true love in Shakespeare at all.
2. Rosalind and Orlando in As You Like It
I may be biased, but when Bucknell did an adaptation of As You Like It this past spring, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the dynamic between Rosalind and Orlando. I assistant- stage managed the show and got to be at many rehearsals and saw all of the performances, which definitely skewed my view to simply loving this play and the characters in it. The couple falls in love at a wrestling match, when Orlando wins the fight as well as Rosalind’s heart. The love between Rosalind and Orlando is true, and hardly tampered with by external factors, which makes it one of the most pure romances in Shakespeare’s works, bringing it up to my second favorite Shakespearean relationship.
1. Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing
The one we’ve all been waiting for: the number one relationship in Shakespeare. There’s just something about the way Benedick talks about Beatrice that simply gives you the chills. Even when they are angry and teasing each other, you can still sense the tension and love between them that never truly faded from their last fling together. Throughout the play, even with all of the misunderstandings and hurt, you know that they are meant to be together. At the masked ball when Benedick approaches Beatrice and she is bad-mouthing him without knowing she’s talking to him, it is still obvious how intrigued and in love he is with her and vice versa. The magnetism between the two and the way their true feelings are put on display is what makes them my ultimate favorite couple in Shakespeare.
I know Shakespeare isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I highly recommend becoming familiar with at least one of his works and trying to truly grasp it. I myself did not appreciate Shakespeare to its full extent until I took Studies in Shakespeare my freshman year of college and from that class I grew to love his work and the historical context surrounding it. Taking Shakespeare and Film my sophomore year further solidified my interest, and now I’m one of the biggest proponents of reading good ‘ole Willy Shakes. While I know this is an unpopular opinion, who knows, maybe you’ll be converted into a fan and will write about your favorite Shakespearean relationships next!