Romantic Archetype

Learn all about the romantic archetype, including definition, characteristics, examples and how it relates to the Lover archetype.

What is the Romantic Archetype?

The romantic archetype is one which developed through literature and has now become established in our modern culture through film and television too. The romantic archetype represents the world as we all wish it could be rather than as it actually is in reality.

The archetypal romantic story always involves a quest set in an innocent world which is threatened by some form of evil but over which the goodness and love of the central pair always triumphs in the end.

Common settings for the romantic archetype include gardens, hills, mountains and valleys.

Other regular features of the story include settings and descriptions which emphasize sunlight, water, fire, sunrise, sunset, thunder storms, a harmonious community and a peaceful environment.

Romantic Archetype Characteristics & Traits

  • The main protagonist in the romantic archetype is often of a somewhat obscure background, creating an aura of mystique around them.
  • At least one of the central ‘couple’ in the romantic archetype is usually youthful and inexperienced.
  • A villain or sometimes an obstacle to be overcome will stand in the way of the quest on which the hero of the tale finds themselves and this also prevents the central couple being together properly until the end of the story.
  • The archetypal romance contains themes of love conquering all, and;
    • good being more powerful than evil,
    • nature being a positive force for good and being on the side of love,
    • innocence being more powerful than experience,
    • love being more powerful than hate and of the healing power of redemption.

Romantic Archetype Motifs

Common motifs in the romantic archetype throughout the centuries have included animals with human characteristics, dreams and visions, magic and a dark side to the hero which they must overcome in order to succeed in their quest.

Romantic Archetype Examples

The romantic archetype has been common in fairy tales, with examples such as Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.

A more modern example of the type in film is The Sound of Music, in which Maria and Georg must overcome obstacles such as an age gap, religion and the Nazis in order for their love to triumph in the end.

In literature Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is an example of the romantic archetype, with Jane and Mr Rochester fighting against their class differences, a mad wife in the attic and her relatives, fire and blindness in their quest to be together.

Further Reading

Further reading on the romantic archetype includes:

  • Divine Madness: Archetypes of Romantic Love – by John R. Haule
  • Jane Eyre – by Charlotte Bronte
  • Fairy Tale: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) – by Marina Warner
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