If you know me then you’ll know that star-crossed lovers is one of my favourite tropes. And it’s definitely my favourite romantic trope. I think it’s the part about two people overcoming almost cosmic difficulties standing in the way of their love that draws me to it.
So what exactly is star-crossed lovers as a trope. The majority of you probably already know what this trope is or you’ve heard the phrase before.
The phrase Star-Crossed Lovers was coined in the Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet,
A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life,
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-marked love
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,…
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
But the phrase seems to have had astrological origins, deriving from the belief that stars ruled the fates of people, and therefore that the relationship is being opposed by the stars themselves. The pairing is therefore doomed from the start, and therefore describes a couple who’s love is destined to fall apart.
Since the stars are a part of the great chain of being, lovers’ stars becoming misplaced or out of order will upset the great order, therefore chaos and disorder will appear and cause the destiny of the lovers to change.
It is also interesting to take words and language into the discussion, because from a modern perspective star-crossed would seem to mean someone who had been crossed by the stars or even someone who has crossed the stars. But taking Elizabethan and Shakespearean english we know that crossed means thwarted, ergo the stars are opposing and preventing the lovers from their love.
The story of star-crossed lovers can be seen dating much further back than Shakespeare, and the oldest known story including star-crossed lovers is the story of Pyramus and Thisbe from Ovid’s Metamorphosis, first published in the 8th century AD. The story features Pyramus and Thisbe who are lovers in the town Babylon. The live in connecting houses and because of their families’ rivalry they have to whisper to each other through the walls. After a misunderstanding Pyramus takes his own life, cause Thisbe to take hers as well when she finds him.
A large contributor to the aversion the lovers meet is societal, and oftentimes social class is the big obstacle. But also homophobia, racial prejudice and traditional societal duties and gender restrictions. The forces the reader to question these systems and societal divisions.
This trope has been used far and wide since it was coined in the Elizabethan times, and the trope has developed over the years and become less focussed on the tragic ending and more on the adversity the lovers meet in their relationship from outside forces.
This is in large part because the genre the star-crossed lovers trope is usually found in is fantasy and paranormal, and these are genres that have drawn a lot on fairytales and their happy endings. So the tragic fate of the star-crossed lovers end up not being tragic at all, it’s something the lovers and those around them overcome and from that true love is born. I think this is part of the reason so many people, myself included are drawn to this trope. It’s the idea that true love is something to be fought for and in the end.
Historically star-crossed lovers have made the reader examine the restrictions set on love, and be reminded that there are still restrictions needed to be re-examined. But stories containing star-crossed lovers are also just inspiring and interesting stories to read, you get swept up the tragedy and the love, and wether the story ends in tragedy or happily ever after, you’re left with a couple you rooted for through opposition and hardship, and that’s an incredible feeling to be left with.
Here are some books containing star-crossed lovers, I haven’t read all of these books, but they’re known to involve star-crossed lovers.
- Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
Sydney belongs to a secret group who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the world of humans and vampires.
But when Sydney is torn from her bed in the middle of the night, she fears she’s still being punished for her complicated alliance with dhampir Rose Hathaway. What unfolds is far worse. The sister of Moroi queen Lissa Dragomir is in mortal danger, and goes into hiding. Now Sydney must act as her protector.
The last thing Sydney wants is to be accused of sympathizing with vampires. And now she has to live with one . . .
- Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. ‘He never says please’, she sighed, but she gathered up her things.
When Brimstone called, she always answered.
In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’, she has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole.
Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.
- The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. Kestrel has other ideas.
One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in Arin, a young slave up for auction. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him – and for a sensational price that sets the society gossips talking. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for him is much higher than she ever could have imagined.
- This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading. Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.
Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war.
- By Any Other Name by Natasha West
The Whittakers and the Goodwins have been at each throats forever, tearing the small town of Bishop’s Crook right down the centre with their endless fights. But when Lane Whittaker and Casey Goodwin, the eldest daughters of the feuding families, meet for the first time, hate is the last thing on either of their minds. Because Lane and Casey find themselves madly attracted to one another. And even though they know all hell is about to break loose, they’re prepared to risk everything for a love that can’t be stopped; not by small town gossip, not by eccentric relatives, and certainly not by their last names.