What Is Romance? Definition & 40+ Examples

What if you could journey through time to explore love’s infinite possibilities? Romance in literature does just that, immersing us in the intricate dance of desire and passion across the ages.

This powerful genre, which has evolved from medieval tales of chivalry to modern-day stories of emotional connection, captures our hearts and fuels our dreams.

Let us embark on an expedition through the enchanting world of romance literature, where we’ll unravel its complex history and discover how its ever-changing definition continues to captivate readers and inspire generations of authors.

Table of Contents

Romance: Definition and Historical Context

The term “romance” has evolved over time, and its current definition is the result of a rich and complex history. Romance now generally refers to feelings of love or affection, but it originally described a literary tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages.

Medieval Romance and Chivalry

In the medieval period, romance literature was characterized by tales of chivalry, noble quests, and courtly love. One of the most important aspects of these stories was the code of chivalry, a set of ideals that defined how a knight should behave.

They were expected to show loyalty, courage, and honor, both on the battlefield and in their personal relationships. This concept of chivalry influenced how love was depicted in romance literature, with the idealized, unattainable object of desire often at the center of the narrative.

King Arthur and the Legend

One of the most significant figures in romance literature is King Arthur, a legendary British leader who has been the subject of numerous works since the Middle Ages. The Arthurian legend encompasses various themes, including chivalry, courtly love, and the quest for the Holy Grail.

Surrounding Arthur are knights and other characters who embody the virtues of the chivalric code, such as Sir Lancelot, Sir Gawain, and Queen Guinevere. These stories continue to captivate readers and have been adapted and reimagined by countless authors over the centuries.

Gothic and Contemporary Romance

As the genre evolved, Gothic romance emerged, blending elements of horror, mystery, and doomed love. Unlike the idealized love found in earlier romances, Gothic literature often features tragic, ill-fated relationships.

In the contemporary era, romance has continued to evolve, covering various sub-genres such as historical, paranormal, and contemporary romance novels. Modern romance literature encompasses a wide range of styles and themes, but its focus on love and relationships remains a central aspect.

Themes and Elements of Romance

Romance literature encompasses a plethora of themes and elements that contribute to the genre’s iconic appeal.

Emotional and Exciting Plots

Central to any romance story are the emotional and exciting plots that captivate the reader. These narratives often revolve around the pursuit of love or the resolution of conflicts that may arise from relationships.

Emotional plots often highlight sentiment, vulnerability, and the power of love, while exciting plots focus on intrigue and tension to fuel the reader’s engagement with the story.

Challenges and Battles

Challenges and battles, both internal and external, play a significant role in romance narratives. These conflicts can range from personal insecurities to external forces that pose obstacles for the characters.

Whether physical or emotional, these battles serve to develop the characters and their relationships, often leading to growth and transformation as they overcome their challenges.

Love and Relationships

Central to the romance genre are the themes of love and relationships. These narratives often chronicle the journey of two individuals as they explore their connection with one another, navigating the highs and lows of romantic relationships.

Love in romance literature can take many forms, such as passionate, enduring, or unrequited, each contributing to the richness of the genre.

Quests and Adventures

Quests and adventures frequently feature in romance literature as the main characters embark on journeys that test their mettle and shape their destinies.

These exploits often serve as a backdrop for the romantic relationships to evolve, as characters grapple with challenges and discover the true depth of their love for one another in the face of adversity.

Supernatural and Fantasy Elements

Many romance narratives incorporate supernatural or fantasy elements to heighten intrigue and the allure of the story. These elements may materialize in the form of magical powers, mythical creatures, or otherworldly settings.

By adding a fantastical touch, romance authors can create rich, imaginative realms where love transcends the bounds of reality, further captivating the reader.

Subgenres of Romance

Romance literature encompasses various subgenres, each with distinct characteristics and themes. The exploration of these subgenres enables readers and writers to find unique ways to communicate love and romantic relationships.

Historical Romance

Historical romance novels primarily take place in past time periods, often featuring historical events or customs as key plot elements. The settings can range from medieval times to the regency era and even the Wild West.

Authors of historical romance can adhere closely to historical details, while others may opt for a more imaginative approach.

Contemporary Romance

Contemporary romance is set in the present day, often reflecting the current social, political, and cultural climate. Settings in this subgenre can be diverse and are typically chosen to create relatable characters and realistic storylines.

Contemporary romance can cover a wide array of themes and tropes, such as friends-to-lovers, enemies-to-lovers, or small-town romances.

Gothic Romance

Gothic romance blends elements of romance and horror, often incorporating atmospheric settings like haunted mansions or isolated castles.

Themes of mystery, suspense, and the supernatural are prevalent in this subgenre, with protagonists typically facing not only romantic challenges but also external obstacles and dangers.

Gothic romance emerged in the 18th century and continues to captivate readers today.

Science and Technology Romance

Science and technology romance weaves scientific concepts, futuristic technology, and romantic storylines together.

This subgenre often falls under the umbrella of science fiction romance or cyberpunk romance, with plots sometimes featuring advanced technology, genetic manipulation, or alien encounters.

The focus remains on the romantic relationship, with science and technology serving as a backdrop.

Spiritual Romance

Spiritual romance explores themes related to religion, spirituality, and faith, alongside romantic elements. Stories in this subgenre involve protagonists who may face spiritual or existential challenges, with faith serving as a guiding force in their romantic relationships.

Personal growth and transformative experiences often play a role in these novels, creating meaningful connections between the characters.

Examples of Romance

Romance, as a genre or theme, can take many forms in different mediums. Some of the most iconic examples come from Romantic literature and Romantic movies.

Romantic Literature

Romance is a popular theme in both classic and contemporary literature. Here are some examples from both categories:

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (1874)

“I shall do one thing in this life  one thing certain  that is, love you, and long for you, and keep wanting you till I die.”

The novel is set in the rural landscape of Wessex, a fictionalized version of the real region in southwest England. This pastoral setting serves as a backdrop for the love story, highlighting the beauty and simplicity of rural life.

The central character, Bathsheba Everdene, is a strong, independent woman who inherits her uncle’s farm and must navigate the intricacies of love, social expectations, and responsibility.

The romantic aspect of the novel is most evident in the three distinct love interests that surround Bathsheba.

These men — Gabriel Oak, a steadfast shepherd; William Boldwood, a wealthy and mature farmer; and Sergeant Francis Troy, a dashing but reckless soldier — each represent different types of romantic love, contributing to the complexity of the story.

The relationships between Bathsheba and these men form the core of the novel’s romantic storyline.

Maurice by E.M. Forster (1913-14, published posthumously in 1971)

“You do care a little for me, I know... but nothing to speak of, and you don't love me. I was yours once till death if you'd cared to keep me, but I'm someone else's now... and he's mine in a way that shocks you, but why don't you stop being shocked, and attend to your own happiness.”

Set in the Edwardian era, the novel follows the life of Maurice Hall, a young man from a privileged background who struggles with his homosexuality in a time when same-sex relationships were both socially unacceptable and illegal.

The novel’s romantic elements primarily revolve around Maurice’s relationships with two different men: Clive Durham and Alec Scudder.

Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand (1897)

“My heart always timidly hides itself behind my mind. I set out to bring down stars from the sky, then, for fear of ridicule, I stop and pick little flowers of eloquence.”

At the heart of “Cyrano de Bergerac” is a complex love story that revolves around Cyrano, his beautiful and intelligent cousin Roxane, and the handsome but tongue-tied soldier Christian de Neuvillette.

Cyrano is deeply in love with Roxane but fears that his physical appearance will prevent her from reciprocating his feelings. When he learns that Roxane has fallen in love with Christian, Cyrano decides to help Christian woo Roxane by writing eloquent love letters on his behalf, allowing his own poetic words to express his love indirectly.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (1920)

“I swear I only want to hear about you, to know what you've been doing. It's a hundred years since we've met—it may be another hundred before we meet again.”

The novel’s central characters are Newland Archer, a young lawyer from an upper-class family; his fiancée May Welland, who represents the traditional values of their social circle; and the Countess Ellen Olenska, May’s worldly and unconventional cousin who has recently returned to New York after separating from her husband.

The romantic storyline primarily revolves around Newland’s growing infatuation with Ellen and his internal struggle as he is torn between his duty to May and his passion for Ellen.

Persuasion by Jane Austen (1817)

“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you..."

The central love story revolves around Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth. Eight years before the novel begins, Anne had been persuaded by her godmother, Lady Russell, to reject Wentworth’s marriage proposal due to his lack of wealth and social standing.

However, when the novel takes place, Wentworth returns to Anne’s life, having made his fortune in the navy. Both characters harbor lingering feelings for each other, despite the passage of time and the circumstances that once separated them.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1991)

“Does it ever stop? The wanting you?" "Even when I've just left ye. I want you so much my chest feels tight and my fingers ache with wanting to touch ye again.”

The novel’s protagonist, Claire Randall, is a British nurse who served during World War II. While on a trip to Scotland with her husband, Frank, in 1946, she accidentally travels back in time to 1743. There, she encounters the rugged and charming Scottish warrior, Jamie Fraser.

Despite her initial attempts to return to her own time and reunite with her husband, Claire eventually falls in love with Jamie and becomes embroiled in the political conflicts of the era, including the Jacobite uprising against the British crown.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (2003)

“It's hard being left behind...It's hard to be the one who stays...Why is love intensified by absence?”

The novel’s central characters are Henry DeTamble, a man with a rare genetic disorder that causes him to involuntarily time travel, and Clare Abshire, an artist who meets Henry at different points in her life.

Their love story unfolds across various periods of time, as Henry’s unpredictable time-traveling takes him to moments in the past and future, affecting his relationship with Clare and the course of their lives together.

Normal People by Sally Rooney (2018)

“I'm not a religious person but I do sometimes think God made you for me.”

The central characters are Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan, two high school students from different social backgrounds who form an unlikely bond.

Their relationship begins as a secret physical connection, but over time, it evolves into a deep emotional attachment that persists through various stages of their lives.

The novel follows Connell and Marianne as they navigate the challenges of adolescence, college, and early adulthood, charting the ways their relationship ebbs and flows over time.

Romantic Movies

Romance is a popular genre in movies as well, often featuring heartwarming stories, passionate affairs, and complex relationships. Here are some examples of romance movies from various time periods and subgenres:

Titanic (1997)

"I’ve never spoken of him until now. Not to anyone, not even your grandfather. A woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets. But now you know there was a man named Jack Dawson and that he saved me in every way that a person can be saved. I don’t even have a picture of him. He exists now only in my memory."

The story begins with an older Rose, now Rose Dawson Calvert (played by Gloria Stuart), recounting her memories of the Titanic to a treasure hunter searching for a valuable diamond, the Heart of the Ocean, which Rose once possessed.

The film then transitions to a flashback of the young, upper-class Rose boarding the Titanic with her fiancé Cal Hockley (played by Billy Zane) and her mother Ruth DeWitt Bukater (played by Frances Fisher). Rose feels trapped in her privileged life and is unhappy with the prospect of her arranged marriage to Cal.

The Notebook (2004)

“I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I've led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I've loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough.”

The film’s story is framed within a narrative device involving an elderly man named Duke (played by James Garner), who reads the story of Noah and Allie from a notebook to a fellow nursing home resident (played by Gena Rowlands) suffering from dementia.

The story then transitions to a flashback of the young Noah and Allie, who meet and fall in love during a summer in the 1940s in the town of Seabrook, South Carolina.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

“You’ll remember me in the morning and you’ll come to me, and you’ll tell me about us, and we’ll start over.”

The story begins with Joel and Clementine meeting on a train, unaware that they have previously been in a relationship. As the narrative unfolds, the film delves into the memories of their relationship, revealing the ups and downs they experienced.

The memory erasure procedure, conducted by the fictional Lacuna Inc., serves as the film’s central science fiction element, providing a unique lens through which to examine the characters’ emotions and experiences.

The Princess Bride (1987)

“Do I love you? My God, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches.”

“The Princess Bride” focuses on the love story between Westley and Buttercup, who are separated by various obstacles, including Westley’s apparent death, Buttercup’s forced engagement to the evil Prince Humperdinck, and the dangerous journey through the mythical land of Florin.

Throughout the story, the couple’s love remains strong, and Westley’s famous line, “As you wish,” serves as an enduring symbol of his devotion to Buttercup.

A Walk to Remember (2002)

"Jamie saved my life. She taught me everything. About life, hope and the long journey ahead. I'll always miss her. But our love is like the wind. I can't see it, but I can feel it."

Set in the small town of Beaufort, North Carolina, the story begins with Landon as a rebellious teenager who gets into trouble with his group of friends.

As a punishment, he is forced to participate in various community service activities, including the school play, where he meets Jamie, the local minister’s daughter. Jamie is a kind-hearted, religious, and somewhat introverted girl who is often ridiculed by her peers for her modest clothing and behavior.

P.S. I Love You (2007)

"You made me a man, by loving me, Holly."

The film begins with Holly and Gerry, a deeply in love married couple, living in New York City. Gerry is diagnosed with a terminal illness and passes away, leaving Holly devastated and struggling to come to terms with her loss.

Following Gerry’s death, Holly receives a series of letters that he wrote before he passed away, each one containing a message or task designed to help her overcome her grief and rediscover her love for life.

The letters arrive periodically, each one ending with the phrase “P.S. I Love You,” reminding Holly of Gerry’s unwavering love and presence in her life. Through these letters, Holly embarks on a journey of healing and self-discovery, gradually learning to live without her husband and find happiness once again.

Notting Hill (1999)

"After all, I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her."

Set in the charming and vibrant neighborhood of Notting Hill in London, the film begins when Anna stumbles into William’s bookstore during a trip to the UK. Their chance encounter leads to a series of meetings and an undeniable connection between the two.

Throughout the film, William and Anna face various obstacles, including the pressures of fame, the intrusion of the media, and their own personal insecurities. Despite these challenges, their love for each other grows stronger, as they learn to trust and support one another.

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

“I've been going crazy. I can't stop thinking about you, and thinking about what an idiot I've been. Christ, is that blue soup?”

The film begins with Bridget deciding to keep a diary to chronicle her journey towards self-improvement and finding love.

“Bridget Jones’s Diary” focuses on Bridget’s romantic relationships with two very different men: her charming but womanizing boss, Daniel Cleaver, and the reserved, seemingly aloof, and ultimately caring Mark Darcy.

Throughout the film, Bridget finds herself torn between the two men, navigating the ups and downs of love and heartbreak.

50 First Dates (2004)

“You erased me from your memories because you thought you were holding me back from having a full and happy life. But you made a mistake. Being with you is the only way I could have a full and happy life. You’re the girl of my dreams—and apparently, I’m the man of yours.”

Set in Hawaii, the film begins with Henry, who enjoys casual romances with tourists but avoids long-term commitment. His life takes an unexpected turn when he meets Lucy at a local café.

The two hit it off, but when Henry returns the next day, he discovers that Lucy has no memory of him due to her anterograde amnesia, which was caused by a car accident a year earlier.

“50 First Dates” focuses on Henry’s unwavering determination to win Lucy’s heart every day, despite her memory loss. In order to make Lucy fall in love with him repeatedly, Henry concocts various creative and heartfelt ways to help her remember their previous encounters and the love they share.

Romance in Arts


Romance in music can be found across various genres, time periods, and cultures. Here are some examples of songs and compositions that embody romance or convey romantic themes:

Can’t Help Falling in Love by Elvis Presley (1961)

“Can’t Help Falling in Love” is a song recorded by Elvis Presley in 1961 for the album “Blue Hawaii,” which served as the soundtrack for the film of the same name.

The lyrics of the song express the feeling of falling deeply in love and the irresistible nature of this powerful emotion. The song’s message is one of surrendering to love and accepting its undeniable pull, even when it might be a risk.

Some of the most important lyrics of the song include:

Wise men say
“Only fools rush in”
But I can’t help
Falling in love with you

Shall I stay?
Would it be a sin
If I can’t help
Falling in love with you?

My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion (1997)

“My Heart Will Go On” is a 1997 song by Canadian singer Celine Dion, written by James Horner and Will Jennings, and serves as the theme song for the blockbuster film “Titanic” directed by James Cameron.

The lyrics of the song speak to the deep and unbreakable bond between two people in love, even after they have been separated by tragedy or death. The song’s message is one of resilience and the eternal nature of love, as the singer expresses the belief that their love will continue to live on despite the physical absence of their loved one.

Some of the most important lyrics of the song include:

Near, far, wherever you are
I believe that the heart does go on
Once more you open the door
And you’re here in my heart
And my heart will go on and on

Fly Me to the Moon by Frank Sinatra (1964)

“Fly Me to the Moon,” originally titled “In Other Words,” is a song written by Bart Howard in 1954 and made famous by Frank Sinatra in 1964 when he recorded it for his album “It Might as Well Be Swing.”

The song has since become a jazz standard, with numerous artists covering it over the years. Frank Sinatra’s version, accompanied by the Count Basie Orchestra and arranged by Quincy Jones, is perhaps the most well-known rendition of this timeless classic.

The lyrics of the song express a romantic sentiment, with the singer requesting to be flown to the moon and to be able to explore the stars with their loved one. The song’s message is one of love and a desire for adventure, accompanied by the feeling of limitless possibilities when you are with the person you love.

Some of the most important lyrics of the song include:

Fly me to the moon
Let me play among the stars
And let me see what spring is like
On a-Jupiter and Mars
In other words, hold my hand
In other words, baby, kiss me

Fill my heart with song
And let me sing forevermore
You are all I long for
All I worship and adore
In other words, please be true
In other words, I love you

I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston (1992)

“I Will Always Love You” is a song originally written and recorded by Dolly Parton in 1973. Whitney Houston’s powerful 1992 rendition, produced by David Foster, was recorded for the soundtrack of the film “The Bodyguard,” in which Houston starred alongside Kevin Costner.

The lyrics of the song convey a bittersweet message of love and farewell, as the singer acknowledges that they must part ways with their loved one for the greater good of both parties.

The song’s message is one of selflessness and enduring love, as the singer expresses their wish for their loved one’s happiness, even if it means they can no longer be together.

Some of the most important lyrics of the song include:

I hope life treats you kind
And I hope you have all you’ve dreamed of
And I’m wishing you joy and happiness
But above all this, I wish you love

And I… will always love you
I will always love you
I will always love you
I will always love you

A Thousand Years by Christina Perri (2011)

“A Thousand Years” is a 2011 song by American singer-songwriter Christina Perri, written by Perri and David Hodges. The song was featured on the soundtrack of the film “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1,” and its romantic lyrics and melody resonate with the love story between the film’s characters, Bella Swan and Edward Cullen.

The lyrics of the song convey the feeling of timeless love and the willingness to wait for one’s true love, no matter how long it takes. The song’s message is one of devotion, patience, and the belief in the enduring power of love, as the singer expresses their unwavering commitment to their loved one.

Some of the most important lyrics of the song include:

Heart beats fast
Colors and promises
How to be brave?
How can I love when I’m afraid to fall?
But watching you stand alone
All of my doubt
Suddenly goes away somehow

One step closer

I have died every day waiting for you
Darling, don’t be afraid
I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

All of Me by John Legend (2013)

“All of Me” is a 2013 song by American singer-songwriter John Legend, written by Legend and Toby Gad. The song is a soulful piano ballad dedicated to Legend’s wife, Chrissy Teigen, and has become one of his most popular and enduring hits.

The lyrics of the song express the singer’s unconditional love for their partner, embracing both the flaws and the qualities that make them unique. The song’s message is one of deep affection, vulnerability, and acceptance, as the singer expresses their willingness to give all of themselves to their loved one, even in the face of imperfections.

Some of the most important lyrics of the song include:

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginnin’
Even when I lose, I’m winnin’

‘Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, oh-oh

I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing by Aerosmith (1998)

“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” is a 1998 power ballad by American rock band Aerosmith, written by Diane Warren. The song was featured on the soundtrack of the film “Armageddon,” which starred Steven Tyler’s daughter Liv Tyler. The song became one of Aerosmith’s biggest hits and is widely recognized as one of the most memorable power ballads of the 1990s.

The lyrics of the song convey the intensity of love and the desire to be fully present and connected to one’s partner. The song’s message is one of devotion and appreciation for every moment spent together, as the singer expresses their wish to be fully immersed in the experience of loving their partner.

Some of the most important lyrics of the song include:

Don’t wanna close my eyes
I don’t wanna fall asleep
‘Cause I’d miss you, baby
And I don’t wanna miss a thing

‘Cause even when I dream of you
The sweetest dream would never do
I’d still miss you, baby
And I don’t wanna miss a thing

Can’t Take My Eyes Off You by Frankie Valli (1967)

“Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” is a 1967 song by American singer Frankie Valli, written by Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio. The song has become a classic pop hit, known for its catchy melody and romantic lyrics. Over the years, it has been covered by numerous artists, demonstrating its enduring appeal as a love song.

The lyrics of the song convey the singer’s deep infatuation and admiration for their loved one. The song’s message is one of affection, attraction, and the magnetic pull that the singer feels towards their partner.

Some of the most important lyrics of the song include:

You’re just too good to be true
Can’t take my eyes off you
You’d be like heaven to touch
I wanna hold you so much

At long last love has arrived
And I thank God I’m alive
You’re just too good to be true
Can’t take my eyes off you

Secret Love Song, Pt. II by Little Mix (2015)

“Secret Love Song, Pt. II” is a 2015 song by British girl group Little Mix, featured on their third studio album “Get Weird.” The song is a stripped-down version of the original “Secret Love Song,” which features American singer Jason Derulo.

The lyrics of the song delve into the feelings and emotions associated with a hidden or forbidden love. The song’s message is one of longing, heartache, and the struggle of loving someone that one cannot openly be with, whether due to societal pressures, disapproval, or other barriers.

Some of the most important lyrics of the song include:

Why can’t I hold you in the street?
Why can’t I kiss you on the dance floor?
I wish that it could be like that
Why can’t it be like that? ‘Cause I’m yours
Why can’t I say that I’m in love?
I wanna shout it from the rooftops
I wish that it could be like that
Why can’t it be like that? ‘Cause I’m yours

Make You Feel My Love by Adele (2008)

“Make You Feel My Love” is a song originally written and recorded by Bob Dylan in 1997. However, in 2008, British singer-songwriter Adele covered the song for her debut album, “19.”

The lyrics of the song convey the singer’s unwavering devotion to their loved one and their willingness to do anything to prove their love. The song’s message is one of selflessness, loyalty, and the unyielding power of love.

Some of the most important lyrics of the song include:

When the rain is blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love

When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love

Visual Arts

Romance has been a popular theme in visual arts for centuries, often depicted through paintings and sculptures that capture the emotion, passion, and intimacy of romantic love. Here are some examples of romance in visual arts:

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt (1907-08)

“The Kiss” is a painting created by the Austrian Symbolist painter Gustav Klimt between 1907 and 1908. It is widely regarded as one of his most famous and celebrated works, and it is a prime example of his signature “Golden Phase.”

The painting features a couple locked in a passionate embrace, with the man gently kissing the woman’s cheek or neck. The two figures are set against a shimmering background adorned with gold leaf, a characteristic feature of Klimt’s Golden Phase.

The gold leaf and intricate, decorative patterns in the painting are inspired by the Byzantine mosaics Klimt saw during his travels to Ravenna, Italy.

Romeo and Juliet by Sir Frank Dicksee (1884)

“Romeo and Juliet” is an oil painting created by the British Victorian painter Sir Frank Dicksee in 1884. The artwork is based on the famous tragedy “Romeo and Juliet” written by William Shakespeare, which tells the story of two young lovers from feuding families in Verona, Italy.

In the painting, Dicksee depicts Romeo and Juliet sharing an intimate embrace on a balcony, a scene inspired by Act 2, Scene 2 of the play, commonly referred to as the “Balcony Scene.” Juliet, dressed in a flowing white gown, leans in towards Romeo, who is shown wearing a dark, richly embroidered outfit.

Their faces are close together, with their eyes locked in a tender gaze, expressing the intense love and passion they share. The setting is lush and moonlit, with climbing roses and ivy surrounding the couple, adding to the romantic atmosphere of the scene.

Le Printemps (Spring) by Pierre-Auguste Cot (1873)

“Le Printemps” (Spring) is an oil painting created by the French academic painter Pierre-Auguste Cot in 1873. The painting is known for its romantic and allegorical depiction of two young lovers caught in a tender moment, embodying the freshness and vitality of spring.

In the painting, a young couple is portrayed in a lush, verdant landscape surrounded by blooming flowers and foliage, which represent the renewal and growth associated with spring.

Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss by Antonio Canova (1787-1793)

“Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss” is a neoclassical marble sculpture created by the Italian artist Antonio Canova between 1787 and 1793. The sculpture is based on the mythological story of Cupid and Psyche, which is found in “The Golden Ass,” a Latin novel written by the Roman philosopher and author Apuleius in the 2nd century AD.

Canova’s sculpture portrays the moment when Cupid revives the unconscious Psyche with a gentle kiss after she has opened a forbidden box containing a potion of beauty, causing her to fall into a death-like sleep. Cupid’s powerful yet delicate wings are spread behind him as he bends down to kiss Psyche, who is depicted lying in a graceful and sensual pose.

The composition captures the tenderness and intimacy of the couple’s reunion, with their limbs entwined and their faces close together.

Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta by Alexandre Cabanel (1870)

“Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta” is an oil painting created by the French academic painter Alexandre Cabanel in 1870. The artwork is inspired by the story of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta, two tragic lovers from Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy,” specifically the “Inferno” section.

The painting captures a poignant and intimate moment between the ill-fated lovers and serves as a visual representation of the themes of love, passion, and tragedy present in Dante’s work.

The Stolen Kiss by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (c. 1786)

“The Stolen Kiss” is an oil painting created by the French Rococo artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard around 1786. The artwork captures a playful and intimate moment between two young lovers, embodying the lightheartedness and sensuality characteristic of the Rococo style.

The painting is known for its vibrant color palette, delicate brushwork, and its ability to convey a sense of narrative and emotion through its composition.

Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene by Simeon Solomon (1864)

“Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene” is an oil painting created by the British Pre-Raphaelite artist Simeon Solomon in 1864.

The artwork captures a tender and intimate moment between the ancient Greek poet Sappho and her friend and fellow poet Erinna. Set in a lush garden on the island of Mytilene (now known as Lesbos), the painting embodies the themes of love, friendship, and intellectual companionship.

In the painting, Sappho and Erinna are portrayed seated closely together on a bench, surrounded by a verdant and colorful garden.

Sappho, who is wearing a richly patterned robe, holds a scroll in her hand, indicating her status as a poet and intellectual. Erinna, dressed in a simpler gown, leans towards Sappho, listening intently as Sappho reads from the scroll.

The two women’s faces are close together, and their expressions convey a sense of deep connection and mutual affection.

Medieval Romance

Tristan and Iseult by Gottfried von Straßburg (12th century)

The central characters are Tristan, a noble and valiant knight, and Iseult, an Irish princess. Tristan is sent by his uncle, King Mark of Cornwall, to escort Iseult back to Cornwall to become the king’s bride.

However, during their journey, Tristan and Iseult accidentally consume a love potion intended for Iseult and King Mark, causing them to fall deeply and irrevocably in love with each other.

Despite their genuine affection and loyalty towards King Mark, the two lovers find themselves unable to resist their passion for one another.

Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart by Chrétien de Troyes (12th century)

The plot revolves around the abduction of Queen Guinevere by the villainous knight Meleagant, who takes her to his realm. Upon learning of the queen’s kidnapping, Lancelot embarks on a quest to rescue her, facing various trials and tests of his courage, loyalty, and devotion along the way.

The story is marked by Lancelot’s willingness to endure shame, such as when he rides in a cart meant for criminals (hence the title “The Knight of the Cart”), in order to save Guinevere.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (14th century)

The story begins when the Green Knight, a supernatural figure with green skin and clothing, arrives at King Arthur’s court during a Christmas feast.

He challenges the knights to a beheading game, in which one knight will strike him with an axe, and in return, the Green Knight will deliver the same blow a year and a day later.

Sir Gawain, as the youngest and most virtuous of Arthur’s knights, accepts the challenge and beheads the Green Knight. However, to everyone’s astonishment, the Green Knight picks up his severed head and reminds Gawain of their agreement, then departs.

The Song of Roland (11th century)

The story is set during Charlemagne’s campaign against the Muslim forces in Spain, where the historical Battle of Roncevaux Pass took place. The poem focuses on the heroic deeds of Roland and his companions, the Twelve Peers of Charlemagne, as they confront the enemy forces.

When Roland’s stepfather, Ganelon, betrays him and his troops by plotting with the Muslim king Marsile, Roland is left to defend the rearguard of Charlemagne’s army, vastly outnumbered by the enemy.

Amadis of Gaul by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo (14th century)

The story begins with Amadis, the son of King Perión of Gaul and the princess Elisena, who is secretly abandoned at birth and raised by a knight named Gandales.

As he grows up, Amadis discovers his true identity and embarks on a series of chivalric adventures to establish his reputation as a brave and noble knight. Throughout his quests, Amadis encounters giants, enchanters, and other fantastical creatures, as well as various tests of his skills and virtues.

Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach (13th century)

“Parzival” is an epic poem written in Middle High German by the poet Wolfram von Eschenbach in the early 13th century. The work is a reworking of the 12th-century French romance “Perceval, the Story of the Grail” by Chrétien de Troyes.

It tells the story of its titular hero, Parzival, and his quest to become a knight, find the Holy Grail, and achieve spiritual enlightenment. The poem is notable for its exploration of themes such as chivalry, love, and the search for personal identity and self-discovery.

The Romance of the Rose by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun (13th century)

“The Romance of the Rose” is an allegorical dream vision poem written in Old French during the 13th century. It is a collaboration between two poets: the first part, comprising around 4,000 lines, was written by Guillaume de Lorris circa 1230, while the much longer second part, consisting of over 17,000 lines, was composed by Jean de Meun approximately 40 years later.

The narrative begins with the dream of the protagonist, who enters a beautiful, walled garden representing the Court of Love. Inside the garden, the lover encounters various allegorical figures, such as Idleness, Reason, and Nature, each of whom offers their perspective on love and desire.

The central focus of the garden is a rosebud, symbolizing the object of the lover’s desire and his quest to win the love of the woman represented by the rose.

The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser (1590, 1596)

“The Faerie Queene” is an epic allegorical poem written by the English poet Edmund Spenser. It was first published in 1590 and then again, in an expanded version, in 1596. The poem is one of the longest and most significant works in the English language, consisting of six books (out of a planned twelve) and totaling over 35,000 lines.

The poem is set in a mythical realm called Faerie Land and revolves around the central figure of the Faerie Queene, Gloriana. The story follows the adventures of a group of knights, each embodying a specific virtue, such as holiness, temperance, and chastity.

Sir Orfeo (14th century)

“Sir Orfeo” is a medieval Breton lai, or narrative poem, written in Middle English, dating back to the early 14th century. It is an adaptation of the classical myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, reimagined within a Celtic and medieval context. The poem, which consists of 602 lines, is notable for its blending of the classical myth with elements of Celtic folklore and the medieval romance genre.

The poem centers around Sir Orfeo, a king, and his wife, Lady Heurodis. One day, while sleeping beneath a tree, Heurodis is visited by the king of the fairies, who abducts her and takes her to the fairy realm.

Distraught by his wife’s disappearance, Sir Orfeo relinquishes his throne and becomes a wandering minstrel, spending ten years searching for her.

Romance in Popular Culture

Romance has long been an integral part of popular culture, with countless examples across various forms of media. Through its many portrayals, romance has managed to capture the hearts and imaginations of audiences worldwide.

Bridging the Gap: From Literature to Screens

Historically, romantic literature has laid the foundation for the themes and narratives that have permeated popular culture. Classic novels like Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights still influence modern-day stories, with their timeless tales of love and passion.

The transition from literature to screens has seen romance become a staple genre in both film and television. Romantic drama films like Titanic and The Notebook have achieved great success, showcasing the power of a compelling love story.

Similarly, television series such as Outlander and Grey’s Anatomy intertwine romance and drama, solidifying their prominence in popular culture.

Romanticism in Modern Media and Entertainment

As entertainment continues to evolve, so too does the portrayal of romance in popular culture. Modern media offers a variety of romantic stories, catering to diverse preferences and interests. For example, pro teams and college athletes have become the subject of sports romance novels, merging the worlds of athletics and love.

Digital platforms such as streaming services and social media have allowed for greater accessibility, making romantic content ubiquitous. This increased exposure to romance has also led to the creation of new sub-genres and unique narratives, broadening the scope and appeal of romantic stories.

Contemporary romance takes on various forms, often exploring themes of mercy, succession, and passion. In addition, it incorporates a range of models for relationships, showcasing the many ways in which love can manifest itself. This can be seen through the popularity of inclusive love stories that represent a wide range of cultures, identities, and experiences.

Overall, romance in popular culture has evolved significantly over time, adapting to the demands and tastes of audiences. From literature to screens and modern media, romantic stories continue to captivate and resonate with people, speaking to the universal desire for connection and the power of love.

Romance and Society

Romance plays a significant role in society, shaping individual perspectives on love, relationships, and morals. This section will explore various aspects of romance and its impact on society, including its function in literature and entertainment, the way it informs our moral compass, and the ideals it promotes.

The Function of Romance in Literature and Entertainment

Romance and Morals

Through its portrayal of relationships and love, romance shapes the moral values of individuals and societies as a whole. Typically, romantic stories involve idealized love and the pursuit of happiness, which can influence one’s perception of right and wrong, especially in matters of the heart.

However, it is essential to recognize the potential for romantic narratives to perpetuate both positive and negative moral values.

Idealized Love and Relationships

Often, romantic narratives portray idealized love and relationships, setting high expectations for personal experiences. These ideals can be conflicting; for example, they may promote selflessness and devotion yet also glorify desire and possession.

While idealized love can inspire individuals to strive for better relationships, these narratives can also establish unrealistic expectations, leading to disappointment and frustration.

Mysterious Adventures and Courage

Romantic stories frequently center around mysterious adventures and acts of courage performed by the protagonists. These adventures often serve as a backdrop for the romantic relationship and showcase the characters’ bravery in the pursuit of love.

Such narratives can inspire readers or viewers to embrace their adventurous spirit and pursue their desires. In this sense, romantic stories can contribute to personal growth and self-discovery.

Role of Romance in Language

Romance plays a significant role in language, shaping the way people communicate and express love, affection, and desire.

The Verb ‘To Romance’

The verb ‘to romance’ pertains to the act of wooing, courting, or pursuing someone in a romantic context. In many cultures, it is associated with wealthy young men who use their charm, wit, and material possessions to win over potential romantic partners.

This action of ‘romancing’ someone can involve various forms of verbal communication, such as compliments, declarations of love, or persuasive conversations to gain the affection of the person being romanced.

Romantic Expressions and Language

Romantic expressions can vary greatly depending on cultural backgrounds and individual preferences. Some traditional phrases include terms of endearment, such as ‘sweetheart,’ ‘darling,’ or ‘my love.’

Additionally, there are numerous poetic and literary expressions that convey love, with lines from famous works often becoming the go-to references for adoration and devotion. Examples include:

  • Shakespeare’s “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”
  • Pablo Neruda’s “I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.”
  • Emily Dickinson’s “That love is all there is, is all we know of love.”

Influence on Dialogues and Conversations

Romance undoubtedly has a significant impact on everyday dialogues and conversations, especially between potential or established romantic partners.

Complimentary language, sensitive topics, and more personal disclosures become a common feature of these interactions. In some cases, individuals may be driven to impress, flatter, or show their sincerity to their partners through their choice of words.

Furthermore, this influence of romance also extends to non-romantic situations, especially for potential donors or people in need of support. The use of persuasive and engaging language can establish a connection and evoke a sense of compassion or empathy, making the argument more convincing and increasing the likelihood of securing the desired assistance.

As such, romance in language serves not only to communicate affection but also to enhance interpersonal relationships in various contexts.

Frequently Asked Questions

How has the portrayal of gender roles and stereotypes evolved in romance literature?

Over time, romance literature has made strides in challenging and subverting traditional gender roles and stereotypes.

Modern romance novels often feature strong, independent protagonists who defy societal expectations and actively shape their own destinies.

By presenting characters with a diverse range of traits, skills, and values, romance authors are redefining notions of femininity and masculinity, fostering a more inclusive and nuanced understanding of gender.

How has romance literature evolved in terms of writing style and narrative techniques?

The writing style and narrative techniques in romance literature have evolved over time, reflecting changes in literary conventions and readers’ tastes.

Early romance novels often featured formal, ornate language, while modern works tend to be more conversational and accessible.

Additionally, contemporary romance authors employ a variety of narrative techniques, such as alternating perspectives, epistolary formats, and nonlinear storytelling, to provide fresh and engaging reading experiences.

Are there any common misconceptions about romance literature?

Some common misconceptions about romance literature include the belief that the genre is formulaic or lacks literary merit, that it only caters to a specific demographic, or that it exclusively perpetuates traditional gender roles and stereotypes.

In reality, romance literature is a diverse and dynamic genre that explores a wide range of themes and narrative styles. Many romance novels are well-written and thought-provoking, featuring complex characters and engaging storylines.

Furthermore, the genre has evolved to embrace diversity and challenge societal norms, making it relevant and appealing to a broad audience.


Romance in literature is a testament to the timeless allure of love and its enduring influence on our lives.

From its medieval origins to its contemporary manifestations, this genre has evolved to reflect the ever-changing landscape of human emotions. With each new generation of writers and readers, romance continues to captivate and inspire, proving that love truly knows no bounds.

As we explore the many faces of romance, we are reminded of the transformative power of affection and the myriad ways it shapes our world. So, dear reader, let us celebrate this enchanting literary tradition, for in it lies the heartbeat of our shared humanity.

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Kyna is a writer and aspiring doctor. Besides writing, she likes discovering new music, immersing herself in interactive books, and engaging in multiplayer shooter games. She is passionate about chemistry, human biology, and pharmacology, and is always eager to learn more about these subjects.