From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"One of the earliest known associations between the media and suicide arose from Goethe's novel Die Leiden des jungen Werthers. Soon after its publication in 1774, young men began to mimic the main character by dressing in yellow pants and blue jackets. In the novel, Werther shoots himself with a pistol after he is rejected by the woman he loves, and shortly after its publication there were reports of young men using the same method to kill themselves in acts of hopelessness. This resulted in the book being banned in several places. Hence the term "Werther effect", used in the technical literature to designate copycat suicides."--Sholem Stein
Unrequited love or one-sided love is love that is not openly reciprocated or understood as such by the beloved. The beloved may not be aware of the admirer's deep and strong romantic affection or consciously reject it. The Merriam Webster Online Dictionary defines unrequited as "not reciprocated or returned in kind."
Psychiatrist Eric Berne states in his book Sex in Human Loving that "Some say that one-sided love is better than none, but like half a loaf of bread, it is likely to grow hard and moldy sooner." Others, however, like the philosopher Nietzsche, considered that "indispensable...to the lover is his unrequited love, which he would at no price relinquish for a state of indifference."
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".
- "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."
- "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.
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.
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."
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 Eponine and Grantaire from Les Misérables).
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.
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 Bhear.
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.
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."Template:Fact
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. Charlie Brown famously notes in one stripTemplate:Fact:
- "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 Rogers, 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.
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.
Jodi Picoult's best selling novels, often use unrequited love. A few examples are "Nineteen Minutes" where Peter's feelings for Josie are not reciprocated, and in "The Tenth Circle" in which Trixie is so in love with Jason, who dumps her after 3 months.
Unrequited love is a central theme of JK Rowling's Harry Potter novels. Several characters suffer from it, and it becomes particularly poignant in the final two parts. The most notable examples are Severus Snape's undying love for Lily Evans Potter (which led to both his death and redemption) and Albus Dumbledore's blinding love of Grindelwald, who terribly disappointed him.
Unrequited love has been a topic used repeatedly by musicians for decades. Blues artists incorporated it heavily; it is the topic of B.B. King's "Lucille" and "The Thrill is Gone," Ray Charles' "What'd I Say" 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".Template:Fact Many Rock n' Roll musicians also based songs on unrequited love; from The Eagles all the way to Led Zeppelin, almost every classic rock band has at least one song on the topic. The exact term may be found in the lyrics of Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow 1995 song "Insatiable", among others. It is also heard in many of the songs by The Wolfe Tones, most noticeably Boston Rose.
Bonnie Raitt's 1991 single, "I Can't Make You Love Me" exemplifies the heartache and sadness associated with unrequited love. The song is about the honest realization of the end of a one-sided love. It was revealed by Starlee Kine on This American Life that the song was written for Raitt by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin who were inspired by a newspaper clipping. A man had gotten drunk and shot up his girlfriend's car. When asked what he had learned from it, he said, "You can't make a woman love you if she don't".
Don Henley showed the concept of unrequited love in his 1985 hit song "The Boys of Summer" in which we see the unmarried, unhappy protagonist go through his life from a young man which he has his first encounter with his now former lover. It then shows him in middle age, still longing for the object of his affection from his younger days.
Gene Pitney had a hit song in 1964 titled "It Hurts to Be in Love", which is about a person loving someone in love with another. It peaked at #7 on the Billboard pop charts.
Rick Springfield had a 1981 hit song, "Jessie's Girl", which was obviously about unrequited love. It involved a man in love with his best friend's girlfriend. It went to #1 on the Billboard pop charts.
Much of Daniel Johnston's music has focused on the subject of unrequited love, revolving around his own experiences with Laurie Johnson, an early obsession. Notably is "Urge" on 1981's Songs of Pain. The narrator tells of being in love with a girl who doesn't return his affections, noting that he "thinks sometimes of holding her," and "wishes to God he could touch her hand." The song ends with him postulating that when she gets old, she'll realize what she could have had and will feel just as awful as he does now.
Chris Isaak's 1991 hit single "Wicked Game" is about unrequited love and the lyrics are sung in both the present and past tense. There is a hint in the song that the beloved has acted to encourage love with no intention of reciprocating. Much of his work is about this same theme, "Can't Do A Thing To Stop Me", "Somebody's Crying", "Don't Make Me Dream About You".
Vertical Horizon gained international recognition with their massive 2000 hit, "Everything You Want". The song, which topped the billboard charts and became one of the most played songs of the year, heavily addresses the subject of unrequited love.
U2's tome on unrequited love, "All I Want Is You," was accompanied by a dramatic music video recounting the tale of a circus troupe where a dwarf is in love with a trapeze artist, and perhaps even dies trying to impress her.
Slipknot uses the theme in some of their songs, notably "Iowa", "Vermilion", and "Vermilion Pt. 2".
Muse uses unrequited love as a theme heavily from their first album Showbiz up through their newest release, Black Holes and Revelations. Songs such as "Unintended", "Endlessly", "Space Dementia", and "Map of the Problematique" have unrequited love as a central and powerful theme.
Although most rap and hip hop artists rarely dabble with such a subject, many R&B artists such as Usher and R. Kelly have written songs about it. The English singer Aqualung has also written a song, entitled, "Strange and Beautiful", which was featured in the sound-track to the 2004 film Wicker Park, in which the singer spends much of their life secretly in love with an unspecified person, eventually resolving to quietly prove his or her affections in the hopes of reciprocation.Template:Fact
The 1972 one-hit-wonder "Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)" by Looking Glass deals with unrequited love between a girl, Brandy, who works in a port city at a bar, and a lonely sailor who's "life, lover and lady" is the sea. He tells her that while he cares for her and thinks she would be a good wife, he cannot and will not leave his job as a sailor. Still, she loves him, even if it is unreturned, and "does her best to understand."
In the musical The Phantom of the Opera, the title character is in love with singer Christine Daaé who mistakes her affection for him as affection for her dead father. In reality, she is in love with her childhood friend Raoul, Viconte de Chagny.
In the musical Les Miserables, based on the novel of the same name, one of the most well-known songs is "On My Own", a vivid account of the crushing loneliness felt by unrequited lovers. In this song Eponine describes the division of her world between her fantasies of life with Marius and the reality of his disinterest. Such fantasies are a common, if not integral component of an unrequited love affair. She is painfully aware that she is marginal in Marius' life.
In the musical "Wicked" by Stephen Schwartz, based on the book Wicked by Gregory Maguire, Elphaba (later to be known as The Wicked Witch of the West) declares her unrequited love for Fiyero through the song "I'm Not That Girl". She tries to accept that Fiyero is in love with her best friend Galinda. Elphaba has always been aware that she can never be the same as everyone else due to her green skin condition and extreme unpopularity with others. She expresses her feelings during the song and attempts to convince herself into believing she can live with it.
Slug from Atmosphere recounts suffering from unrequited love, not only from one individual, but from an entire ilk.
One of the most famous songs dealing with unrequited love is the 1982 George Jones smash hit "He Stopped Loving Her Today". The song was about a man who had an unrequited love for a woman for many years until his death. The moment he died is the moment he stopped loving her.
The 2002 "love-gone-wrong" concept album Gutterflower by Goo Goo Dolls features a track written by John Rzeznik entitled 'Big Machine' that Rzeznik describes as a "propulsive tale of unrequited love".
Christian hardcore/screamo group Chasing Victory recorded a track by the same name, featured on their "I Call This Abandonment" album.
Damien Rice has many songs about the daughter of his clarinet teacher. "I Remember", "The Blower's Daughter", "Elephant", and "Accidental Babies", are all about the girl in question. Lyrics consist of "The pillow in your pillowcase is easier to touch", "Do you cum? Together ever with him? Is he dark enough, enough to see your light?" and "This has got to die, this has got to stop, this has got to lie down, there's someone else on top. You can keep me pinned, it's easier to tease, but you can't paint an elephant, quite as good as she."
Craig Armstrong, known for composing film scores, included the song "Let's Go Out Tonight" with The Blue Nile singer Paul Buchanan on his first solo album The Space Between Us. The song concerns a man who is asking a woman to go out with him to an unknown place with him as he asks for her prayers and for her love.
"The Saturday Boy" by Billy Bragg is a well known song about unrequited love, especially for one involving a teenage boy.
The song cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen by Gustav Mahler takes up this theme of unrequited love, in which the singer narrates how such a love caused him to wander about the world, causing him much pain and sorrow.
Unrequited love is the subject of the James Blunt song "You're Beautiful," in which the narrator sees a girl in the subway and falls in love with her immediately, but never sees her again.
Axl Rose confirmed that the 1993 Guns N' Roses song "Estranged" (from the album Use Your Illusion II) is a song about unrequited love, likely referring to his recent separation from then-girlfriend Stephanie Seymour.
"Shy" by Sonata Arctica tells the story of a man who falls in love with a woman but is too shy to talk to her.
Antonio Caldara's song Sebben, crudele ("Although, cruel one"), a staple of classical voice teachers and students, is sung from the perspective of one who is made to "languish" by the "cruel one" of the song's title, but still hopes to wear down the beloved's pride with his or her faithfulness and length of service.
A very popular R&B song featuring "Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway" and written by Ms. Flack's long time percussionist "Ralph MacDonald" called "Where is the Love" speaks to the subject of unrequited love. It was released in 1972. It peaked at #1 on Billboard's R & B charts, and #5 in the pop charts.
Alicia Keys' 2003 song "You Don't Know My Name" is about unrequited love; however, towards the end of the song, there is a spoken voice-over that suggests the narrator has worked up the courage to successfully ask her crush out on a date, or that she will do so.
Sin Bandera has several songs dealing with this subject; perhaps the best example is their song "Que Lloro" which is sung from the point of view of a man who loves a woman who finally realizes that she will never return his love.
Nick Cave sings in "I Let Love In"; Despair and deception, love's ugly little twins, I let love in, I let love in.
In television and film
This is also a recurring theme both in television and cinema. Perhaps it has most recently been seen in the third contemporary series of Doctor Who - Martha Jones and to some extent Rose Tyler are examples of unrequited love for the Doctor, according to writer Russell T. Davies.
In the Disney film Beauty and the Beast, Gaston's unceasing infatuation with Belle drives him to become a bloodthirsty murderer.
In the series Charmed, Cole Turner loved Phoebe throughout the series but after his fall to darkness Pheobe fell out of love. Cole spends the remainder of his life trying to get Phoebe back even altering reality and giving up his invincibility for her. In the end Phoebe still does not love him and destroys him.
UK sitcom The Office, co-written by and starring Ricky Gervais became increasingly centred around the unrequited love of Tim Canterbury for Dawn Tinsley. This was echoed in the US version created by NBC, in which the character Jim Halpert tries to hide his painfully unrequited love for Pam Beesley.
Several of Paul Thomas Anderson's films have focused on the subject. In Boogie Nights, Scotty, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, idolizes and is secretly in love with Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg). His obsession comes to light in an embarrassing scene where he spontaneously attempts to kiss Dirk, leading to rejection and Scotty cursing himself for being a "fucking idiot". In Magnolia, Donnie Smith (William H. Macy) is in love with a local bartender named Brad, even going so far as to get braces like Brad's in a desperate attempt to connect with him. In another example, John C. Reilly's character Jim Kurring finds himself immediately infatuated with Claudia (Melora Walters) when he responds to her apartment for a noise complaint. A drug addict, she's reluctant at first and their initial meeting goes rather awry. However, the film's final scene shows him visiting her apartment, explaining his affections and intentions, and her accepting him.
In the series Babylon 5, the characters Lennier and Marcus Cole both show forms of unrequited love. While Marcus' love drove him to sacrifice himself to save Susan Ivanova's life, Lennier's unrequited love for Delenn almost drove him to allow her husband be killed.
On the anime Sailor Moon, in the fifth major story arc which was not dubbed in English, a senshi called Seiya Kou/Sailor Star Fighter from the Starlights falls in love with Usagi/Serena/Bunny. It was unrequited love because Usagi Tsukino didn't feel the same way because she loved someone else (Mamoru Chiba).
In the anime/manga Naruto, Naruto has an unrequitted love for his teammate and friend, Sakura, who is in love with Naruto's rival, Uchiha Sasuke. However, since Sasuke left the village 2,5 years ago to be trained by Orochimaru and becomes an exiled ninja, some events in the second part of the Manga may point towards a change in Sakura's heart. Nothing has been resolved yet, though.
In the anime Ouran High School Host Club, nearly all of the hosts have some sort of romantic feelings for Haruhi Fujioka, mainly Tamaki Suou and Hikaru Hitachiin. Haruhi doesn’t return these feelings, instead adopting them as ‘brother’ figures. In the latest chapters of the manga, however, Haruhi is shown to be flustered and embarrassed in the presence of Tamaki, obviously stating that she has fallen for him. This leaves all the other members (minus Hunny and Mori) with loves unrequited.
In the film Scenes of a Sexual Nature, there is a storyline featuring an elderly woman and man, who it turns out have shared the same unrequited love for each other, despite only meeting once and marry others during their lives.
On the cartoon The Magic School Bus, it is hinted a couple of times that the character Phoebe has a crush on her classmate, Arnold, who appears to have a crush on their classmate Wanda (who sometimes appears to return his crush). Template:Fact
In the TV series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" the character of Spike has a crush on Buffy, which eventually turns into unrequited love, most notably in Season 5 and 6 of the show. Spike can be quoted many times saying "I love you" to Buffy, and is continuously rejected and put down. In the Saturday morning series Sonic the Hedgehog, Antoine D'Coolette was in love with Princess Sally Acorn, although she was in love with Sonic.
In the 2003 film Love Actually Juliet discovers her husband's friend and best man, Mark, is in love with her when she views a wedding video he films that consists almost entirely of close-ups of her. It seems unlikely this love will ever be reciprocated.
In the Nickelodeon cartoon Doug, Doug Funnie had an unrequited crush on Patti Mayonaisse. This unresolved storyline formed the crux of the series and to this date fans discuss whether or not Patti had feelings for Doug. Template:Fact
- Amour fou
- Broken heart
- Courtly love
- Involuntary celibacy
- Existential despair
- Love shyness
- Nice guy
- Obsessive love