When it comes to love, once we get into the literature of the seventeenth and eighteenth century we have a lot more scope for doing a little picking and choosing…
For drama, your first stop is going to be Shakespeare, and remember, if you can watch performances of plays such as Romeo and Juliet, Othello, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, all the better! You will find a lot of the positive and negative sides of love in those plays. It also pays if you can remember to take a note of any short, apt quotations which might come in useful later.
When we are looking at the more unpleasant sides of love look at some of the Jacobean drama, at plays like The Duchess of Malfi and the Revenger’s Tragedy. Interestingly, the Globe in London is putting on some Jacobean drama in the New Year, so if you get a chance to see them, seize the opportunity. They may also be streaming them into local cinemas later in 2014 so keep your eyes peeled! You can also now get some views of love from a woman’s point of view: look at the plays of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, who wrote The Convent of Pleasure and The Bridals.
When looking at novels, Richardson’s Clarissa and Fielding’s Tom Jones are good places to begin. They have contrasting views of love which will be helpful for you. You can also look at the female viewpoints of Aphra Behn in her novel Oroonoko and of Delarivier Manley in The Adventures of Rivella. Make sure you don’t forget to dip into Jane Austen and her witty view of love and marriage, either.
Aphra Behn also wrote poetry, with The Disappointment being one of my favourites. Look too at the poetry of such Elizabethan poets as Spenser, Wyatt and Sidney and the metaphysical love poets like John Donne.
Looking through these texts should give you a good overview of most of those types of love we have talked about, but as I said before, you don’t necessarily have to read the whole of every text, some of these early books in particular can be rather lengthy!