The final couple in my list is Cleopatra and Marc Antony. This tragic couple began their love affair after the death of Julius Caesar. Marc Antony ruled the eastern half of the Roman Empire and Cleopatra ruled the land of Egypt. Did Cleopatra really love Antony like the story says or was she motivated by power? Cleopatra was nothing if not practical enough told realize that having a relationship with the Caesar’s best friend would be as beneficial to her as her relationship with Caesar had been. Antony had been Caesar’s preferred heir and was just as powerful. With a ruler of Rome in her bed, no one would attack Egypt and her people would flourish. Whether it was for love or power, these two lovers combined their kingdoms and spent many years living in Egypt. They had several children together. When they began to gift several parcels of their kingdoms to their children, Octavian declared war on them. They waged a long and bloody campaign against Octavian’s forces. Antony was said to have been given false information that stated Cleopatra had died, so he rushed back to Alexandria to fall see for himself. When he realized that he had abandoned his men for nothing, Anthony fell upon his own sword in despair. Rather than allow Octavian to capture her and Antony’s body, Cleopatra took her own life by allowing an asp to bite her. The two lovers would not be separated and chose to die together. It seems kind of cowardly to me; they chose to die rather than to live. It is said that these two were some of the bases that Shakespeare used to pattern his tragic lovers Romeo and Juliet. Suicide seems dramatic and somewhat romantic, but suicide is never the answer to anything.
Odysseus and Penelope’s story is the ultimate example of waiting for your love to return. Shortly after their marriage, Odysseus is drafted into the Trojan War. The war lasts for 10 long drawn out years. After the Greeks win, Odysseus is so happy at the thought of returning home that he forgets to give thanks to his personal goddess Athena. Athena punishes him by having him wander the world struggling to get home for the next 10 years. He struggles to get back to his wife and home. He refuses eternal life with a sorceress for Penelope. Although he may have stumbled in his relations with the sorceress and others, his main objective was to return to his wife. Meanwhile, Penelope waits patiently for her husband to return and is a great example of never losing hope. The entire time Penelope is visited by over 100 suitors begging to take the place of her husband. She puts them off saying over and over again that until her tapestry is completed she will not choose among them. What she does not say is that she unravels her work every night before she goes to bed to give her husband more time to reach her. She is a loving and faithful wife through it all. She spends 20 years waiting for her husband, raising her son, and making sure her husband’s kingdom functions while its men are away. She never considers taking the offer of any of her suitors. When Odysseus finally returns and he finds his home overrun with suitors, he has a moment of doubt about his wife’s faithfulness but is soon corrected. The suitors have found out Penelope’s secret and demand that she pick a new husband. With the knowledge that her husband has returned, Penelope asks the suitors to complete an archery feat. They have to hit the center of a target while shooting through the rings on the end of fighting axes. Each ring is about the size of a half-dollar, and their arrow has to fly through the row of rings and land in the center of the target. None of the suitors can complete this task. Odysseus, in disguise, makes the shot and with his son’s help rid the home of all the suitors. After 20 long and lonely years, the couple is finally where they want to be, back in each other’s arms.
Paris and Helen, the couple that launched 10,000 ships has been told and retold for centuries. According to myth, Paris was given Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world after picking Aphrodite from a choice of Hera, Athena and Aphrodite to receive the golden apple. Helen was married to the King of Sparta and had a daughter, but was kidnapped by Paris and taken to Troy. Their story did not start as an affair, but a violent act against a married woman. Paris did not anything about Helen; all he knew of her was that she had a beautiful face, and he wanted her. The two were married and the Greeks were enraged. Menelaus demanded that Helen be returned, and when he was refused, the Greeks went to war. The war was long, bloody and full of destruction and hardship. Paris did not care if he destroyed his country as long as he got to keep his trophy wife. Both his family and his country paid the price for his foolish greed. After 10 years of bloodshed and tears, Troy fell to the Greeks. According to legend, only one Trojan prince survived. The moral of this love affair is that beauty is not everything. Possessing the prize might not be worth it.
Today’s couple is Tristan and Isolde. Tristan was a warrior in the employ of KIng Mark of Cornwall. After a battle, Tristan is wounded by a poisoned blade and believed to have died. His friends put his body in a small boat and set it adrift. The boat washes ashore in Ireland in the kingdom of Donnchladh and found by the king’s daughter Isolde. Isolde discovers that Tristan is not dead and nurses him back to health. The two fall in love and spend many happy weeks in each other’s company. Through out this time, Isolde does not tell Tristan her real name; she had told him her name was Brittany on the advice of her lady-in-waiting. Tristan is discovered by her father’s men and must return to Cornwall. Before leaving, he promised that he will see her once again. Upon his return to Cornwall, Tristan is welcomed like a hero especially by Mark. Word comes after several weeks that the King Donnchadh is hosting a tournament for all the British kings with his daughter Isolde’s hand in marriage as the prize. Tristan fights in Mark’s stead hoping to see Brittany again and wins the tournament only to be devastated to find that Brittany is really Isolde. The two are shocked and horrified to find themselves in this situation. Isolde marries Mark, but her and Tristan fight against their feelings. When the feelings become too much to deny, Tristan and Isolde begin an affair behind Mark’s back. Amid King Donnchadh’s attempt to destroy the British kings, Tristan and Isolde are discovered. Mark, although crushed, gives the lovers the chance to runaway together, but Tristan refuses wanting to right the wrongs they had done. In the ensuing fight, Tristan saves the day and kills the traitors, giving Mark the chance to turn all the British kings against Donnchadh. Isolde buries Tristan in the trysting place and disappears from history, never to be heard from again. The moral of these lovers is to always tell the truth. You will never know when it might come back and bite you if you lie.
Today we are looking at Lancelot and Guinevere. Guinevere was still married when these two lovers got together. As the queen, she commanded Lancelot to debase himself to prove his love over and over again. She made a proud heroic knight walk into the prisoner cart to prove himself. When she found out that he hesitated for only a second, she turned away from him in a hissy fit. He was forced to beg and plead in order to retain her favor. She constantly made him jump through hoops for her love and favor, and he did these tasks blindly for her. He betrayed his king and country for her, and she betrayed her husband. Lancelot and Guinevere both battled the guilt of their affair constantly, but they could not be denied. After they were discovered, both were disgraced. The two did not continue their love after the truth was learned. Guinevere went to live in a convent and Lancelot wandered the world in shame. Their love only held as long as they were sneaking around. The thrill of getting away with something naughty was a major attraction for them. As soon as the country learned of them, the affair ended. Their love was about making a strong man become a lowly servant. Then their love ended a great kingdom and left these two alone and shameful. This sounds more like a tragedy than a romance as well.
When people are asked which is the most famous couple in history, most will say Romeo and Juliet. What do we know about this pair of tragic lovers? We know that their families hated each other, and somehow they fell in love after a chance encounter at a party hosted by Juliet’s father. We have a 13-year-old sheltered girl and a rambunctious 17-year-old boy running into each other and instantly falling in love. Whether one believes in love at first sight, these two kids had issues that lead to their untimely ending. With one look, Romeo falls so love with Juliet and forgets that he was pinning for another just 2 minutes before. Juliet is a very sheltered girl enjoying her very first party and sees that a group of Montagues have crashed the party. She is attracted to this bad boy, and is excited by his ability to break rules. They meet briefly and exchange poetic compliments and say they will be married and live happily ever after. The two misguidedly give no thought as to how their families would take such an announcement. Then Romeo goes out with his boys and gets into a fight with Juliet’s cousin. He loved his girl so much he gets into a fight with her cousin to save face with his boys and ends up losing his best friend and killing said cousin. After that he has to run or go to jail. Before going into exile, he talks to his priest and begs him to find a way to help him and Juliet still get married. The priest agrees to help, but he doesn’t say how he will help. Romeo goes into exile blindly trusting in fate and his priest to work everything out. Juliet on the other hand is faced with the decision of loving her cousin’s killer or marring a man her father picked for her all at the tender age of 13. Juliet defies her father and presents herself to the priest that Romeo trusts and demands that he help her get out of this forced marriage or she will kill herself in front of him. The priest calms her dramatic cries and gives her a plan that will help both of the young lovers. A potion to mimic death followed by the missed message leading to the dramatic double suicide. The moral is that the hatred of the two families brought about this tragedy, but I wonder if the two would have met and fallen in love if the families were not at war with each other. Romeo is found to be fickle in his affection which is proven by his disregarding of Rosaline after seeing Juliet. Juliet is a very young girl in the midst of her first crush. Not many 13-year-old girls know who they are going to spend the rest of their lives with. They want each other because they can’t have each other and their obsession leads to their suicide. Not very romantic when you look at all the factors, which is why Shakespeare labeled this play a tragedy not a romance.