Unrequited love is love that is not reciprocated, even though reciprocation is usually deeply desired. The beloved may not even be aware of this person's deep feelings for them. This can lead to feelings such as depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, and rapid mood swings between depression and euphoria. Being such a universal feeling, it has naturally been a frequent subject in popular culture.
Layla and Majnun, Nezami's Persian tale about a moon-princess who was married off by her father to someone other than the man who was desperately in love with her, resulting in his madness. This story, along with complex occurrences in the personal lives of Eric Clapton and George Harrison, was an inspiration for Clapton's song "Layla".
The 1st century BC Roman poet Catullus wrote about his unrequited love for Lesbia (Clodia) in several of his Carmina.
Abraham Cowley wrote of the emotion (in "Anacreontiques: Or, Some Copies of Verses Translated Paraphrastically out of Anacreon"):
"A mighty pain to love it is,
And 'tis a pain that pain to miss;
But of all pains, the greatest pain
It is to love, but love in vain."
Robert Burns' poem "Anna, Thy Charms" catches it succinctly:
"Anna, thy charms my bosom fire,
And waste my soul with care;
But ah! how bootless to admire,
When fated to despair!
Yet in thy presence, lovely Fair,
To hope may be forgiven;
For sure 'twere impious to despair
So much in sight of heaven."
Dante Alighieri for Beatrice Portinari- Perhaps the most famous example in Western culture of unrequited love. Dante apparently spoke to Beatrice only twice in his life, the first time when he was nine years old and she was eight. Although both went on to marry other people, Dante nevertheless regarded Beatrice as the great love of his life and his "muse". He made her the guide to Heaven in his work The Divine Comedy. Additionally, all of the examples in Dante's manual for poets, La Vita Nuova, are about his love for Beatrice. The prose which surrounds the examples further tells the story of his lifelong devotion to her. Similarly, the fictional writer Lemony Snicket also has an unrequited passion by a Beatrice.
Petrarch is famous for his love for the lady Laura. He is best remembered for the sonnets he wrote her, despite her marriage to another man. Indeed, the sonnet form later became related to the idea of unrequited love, among other themes. Petrarch is directly responsible for this association.
Unrequited love is present in all of Jane Austen's novels. Both Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet feel their love is unrequited at some point during Pride and Prejudice. In Mansfield Park Fanny Price suffers from a particularly drawn out case of unrequited love. It is also present in Emma, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility. Generally, however, it is discovered by the end of the book that the love is actually requited and the two characters live happily ever after.
A.E. Housman wrote a poem inspired by his life-long unrequited love for his best friend Moses Jackson:
"He would not stay for me, and who can wonder?
He would not stay for me to stand and gaze.
I shook his hand and tore my heart in sunder
And went with half my life about my ways."
Don Quixote and Dulcinea in Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes. Don Quixote, who believes he is a knight, imagines that he serves a noblewoman named Dulcinea. Unfortunately, the object of his desire is actually a homely peasant in his hometown, and his love for her is not returned. Her name has come to be a metaphor for unrequited love, in the sense, "That woman is my Dulcinea."
Shakespeare touched on the topic, in his plays Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, ''A Midsummer Night's Dream and Twelfth Night. A more threatening unrequited lover, Roderigo, is shown in Othello''.
The classic French play Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmond Rostand, is about a brilliant swordsman and poet who is in unrequited love with his cousin for decades.
Victor Hugo's two most famous works' Notre-Dame-de-Paris and Les Misérables feature characters suffering from unrequited love (namely those of, from Notre-Dame-de-Paris; Quasimodo, Esmeralda, Frollo and Gringoire, and the characters of Fantine and Eponine from Les Misérables).
The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was one of the beginnings of romanticism. Unrequited love combines two main themes in romanticism: Weltschmerz and love.
Gaston Leroux's character Erik from The Phantom of the Opera, who was born hideously deformed (said to have looked like a 'Living Corpse') and yet whom falls for the young soprano Christine Daaé who, it turns out, also loves another man—the Viscount Raoul de Chagny. In the horror film version of the same title, the phantom kills both the object of his affection and her lover, before perishing in flames(symbolic of the feeling of being in the Hell of unsatisfied passion).
Stendhal writes in a more clinical manner in On Love.
Unrequited love is the most potent theme in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, manifested mostly in the character of Pip and his affections for Estella. Another Dickensian character who famously suffers from unrequited love is Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities.
In Louisa May Alcott's book Little Women, Laurie has unrequited feelings for his friend, Josephine March, who only views him as a good friend. He then moves on and married her sister, Amy, while Jo marries Professor Bhaer.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë, contains an unrequited love subplot: the efforts of Mr. Hargrave to win Helen Graham.
Charlotte Brontë's Villette describes isolation and unrequited love. For much of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre it seems as though Jane Eyre's love for Mr Rochester is unrequited.
The Slovene poet France Pre?eren wrote a devastatingly beautiful sonnet cycle dedicated to his unhappy love for Julija Primic.
In Russian literature, among innumerable examples, one could mention First Love, by Turgenev or The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov, in which several characters have unrequited feelings for others.
T. S. Eliot writes of the unrequited love of Prufrock
Jacob Morrisey once wrote of a man by the name of Daymorn trapped between two unrequited loves, Lenae and Dekran, one of them male and one of them female. He is murdured by a jealous lover of Lenea's before he can decide which of them he wants.
F. Scott Fitzgerald offers his ideas on unrequited love in The Great Gatsby, wherein the main character Jay Gatsby builds wealth through alcohol smuggling during prohibition to try and lure back his one time lover Daisy Buchanan. He wastes his youth throwing lavish parties at his house in the hope that one day she will attend. This is an example of how a person can build their whole life around someone who cares little or not at all for them. However her shallowness, while allowing physical consummation, does not provide the emotional security that Gatsby is seeking.
The character Heathcliff in Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights is depicted as a man suffering from varying extents of unrequited love in his complex relationship with Catherine Earnshaw.
Carl Sandburg treats the theme of unrequited love with minimalist elegance in poems from his 1963 book, Honey and Salt. In the poem, "Little Word, Little White Bird", the narrator asks, "Love, can it hit one without hitting two and leave the one lost and groping?" And in the poem, Offering and Rebuff (also from Honey and Salt), the rebuffer says to the one professing his love, "Let your heart look on white sea spray and be lonely...Love is a fool star."
Charles Schulz; his Peanuts character Charlie Brown suffers from unrequited love for the Little Red-Haired Girl, as does Lucy van Pelt for Schroeder, Sally Brown for Linus van Pelt, and Linus for his teacher Ms. Othmar (later on a girl in his class, Lydia). Charlie Brown famously notes in one strip:
"Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love."
In William Somerset Maugham's novel, Of Human Bondage- The main character Philip Carey becomes enticed by a woman named Mildred, who does not care an ounce for Philip. He becomes masochistic, willing to put himself in the line of pain to gain Mildred's affection. In the end, he realizes that this is a one-sided love and that he is controlled by his own passions.
The Bible; The Wife of Potiphar. A great representation of the story is at the Getty Museum. (See external link below.)
Félix Arvers' silent love for Marie, immortalized in poem "Un secret" also known as "Sonnet d'Arvers". This poem was taken from a piece he wrote aged 25, "Mes heures perdues" (My lost hours).
Gabriel Garcia Márquez's novel, Love in the Time of Cholera opens with the sentence, "It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love," and tell the story of a 51-year unrequited affair.
Dodie Smith's classic novel, I Capture the Castle, is about an enormous triangle of unrequited love, in which the main character is in love with her sister's fiance, who is in love with her sister, who is in love with her fiance's brother. Nearly all the characters suffer at some point from unrequited love.
Unrequited love has been a topic used repeatedly by musicians. Blues artists incorporated it heavily; it is the topic of Gene Pitney's "It Hurts to Be in Love," The Doobie Brothers' "What A Fool Believes", B.B. King's "Lucille" and "The Thrill is Gone," Ray Charles' "What'd I Say" and "Half as Much" and many early and later blues songs. Eric Clapton's band Derek and the Dominos devoted a whole album to the topic, Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs, which included such famous songs as "Layla" and "Bell Bottom Blues". British singer James Blunt's hit song, You're Beautiful, is about an unrequited love as well.Taylor Swift's song " Teardrops on My Guitar''also is about unrequited love.
Many Rock n' Roll musicians also based songs on unrequited love. Symphonie Fantastique (1830) by Romantic composer Hector Berlioz is one example of a classical work about unrequited love. Rodgers and Hart composed the song Glad To Be Unhappy covered by artists such as Frank Sinatra, Billie Holliday and The Mamas and Papas. The song contains the lines "Unrequited love's a bore And I've got it pretty bad But for someone you adore It's a pleasure to be sad". American nu metal band Slipknot's "Vermillion pt.2" Mentions this too with the phrase "She's everything to me, the unrequited dream, the song that no-one sings, the unattainable...".
The bossa nova song "The Girl from Ipanema" ("Garota de Ipanema") also talks about unrequited love: "How can I tell her I love her / ... / But each day, when she walks to the sea / She looks straight ahead, not at me". The many songs of Dusty Springfield convey the theme of unrequited love, most notably "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" and "I Only Want to Be with You."
In the 1990's television series Lexx 'The Dark Stories', a triangular pattern of unrequited love exists within the small crew of the vessel the Lexx; a robot head who loves a beautiful woman named Xev impossibly; a crew member of little merit named Tweedle who also loves or lusts after Xev; and Xev's love for Kai, a dead assasin artifially allowed a short time (albeit the entire series) to redress the wrongs of his life, yet unable to return Xev's love: 'the dead do not love'.
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