Love at first sight
Love at first sight is an experience and a common trope in literature in which a person, character, or speaker feels an instant and extreme romantic attraction for a stranger on the first sight of them. Described by poets and critics from the Greek world on, it has become one of the most powerful tropes in Western fiction.
In the classical world, the phenomenon of "love at first sight" was understood within the context of a more general conception of passionate love, a kind of madness or, as the Greeks put it, theia mania ("madness from the gods"). This love passion was described through an elaborate metaphoric and mythological psychological schema involving "love's arrows" or "love darts," the source of which was often given as the mythological Eros or Cupid, sometimes by other mythological deities (such as Rumor). At times, the source of the arrows was said to be the image of the beautiful love object itself. If these arrows arrived at the lover's eyes, they would then travel to and 'pierce' his or her heart, overwhelming them with desire and longing (love sickness). The image of the "arrow's wound" was sometimes used to create oxymorons and rhetorical antithesis.
"Love at first sight" was explained as a sudden and immediate beguiling of the lover through the action of these processes, and is illustrated in numerous Greek and Roman works. In Ovid's Metamorphoses, Narcissus becomes immediately spellbound and charmed by his own (unbeknownst to him) image. In Achilles Tatius's Leucippe and Clitophon, the lover Clitophon thus describes his own experience of the phenomenon: "As soon as I had seen her, I was lost. For Beauty's wound is sharper than any weapon's, and it runs through the eyes down to the soul. It is through the eye that love's wound passes, and I now became a prey to a host of emotions..." "Love at first sight" was not, however, the only mode of entering into passionate love in classical texts; at times the passion could occur after the initial meeting or could precede the first glimpse.
Another classical interpretation of the phenomenon of "love at first sight" is found in Plato's Symposium in Aristophanes' description of the separation of primitive double-creatures into modern men and women and their subsequent search for their missing half: "... when [a lover] ... is fortunate enough to meet his other half, they are both so intoxicated with affection, with friendship, and with love, that they cannot bear to let each other out of sight for a single instant."
Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque
The classical conception of love's arrows were elaborated upon by the Provençal troubadour poets of southern France in the eleventh and twelfth centuries and became part of the European courtly love tradition. In particular, a glimpse of the woman's eyes was said to be the source of the love dart:
This doctrine of the immediate visual perception of one's lady as a prerequisite to the birth of love originated among the "beaux esprits" de Provence. [...] According to this description, love originates upon the eyes of the lady when encountered by those of her future lover. The love thus generated is conveyed on bright beams of light from her eyes to his, through which it passes to take up its abode in his heart.
Boccaccio provides one of the most memorable examples in his Il Filostrato, where he mixes the tradition of love at first sight, the eye's darts, and the metaphor of Cupid's arrow: "Nor did he (Troilus) who was so wise shortly before... perceive that Love with his darts dwelt within the rays of those lovely eyes... nor notice the arrow that sped to his heart."
These images of the lover's eyes, the arrows, and the ravages of "love at first sight" continued to be circulated and elaborated upon in the Renaissance and Baroque literature, and play an important role in Western fiction and especially the novel, according to Jean Rousset.
Research has shown two bases for love at first sight. The first is that the attractiveness of a person can be very quickly determined, with the average time in one study being 0.13 seconds. The second is that the first few minutes, but not the first moment, of a relationship have shown to be predictive of the relationship's future success, more so than what two people have in common or whether they like each other ("like attracts like").
Occurrence in literature and the arts
In 2 Samuel, King David of Israel observes Bathsheba while bathing - though there is no mention of "love" or "love at first sight." - and commentators equate this to "lust at first sight." He seduces her, fathers a child with her, and orders her husband Uriah the Hittite to be placed in the front of the battle, which leads to the death of Uriah. David marries Bathsheba and makes her queen of Israel. After Bathsheba gives birth to the son fathered by David's adultery, the prophet Nathan extracts a confession and repentance from David when he confronts the king about his sin brought about by lust. Nathan then predicts that the son will die, which comes to pass within a week. David laments his transgression in the writing of some of the Psalms.
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Other literary works that use these tropes include:
- Love at First Sight (1885) by James Brander Matthews, "As soon as the doctor saw her he felt that he loved her with the whole force of his being; no stroke of love at first sight was ever more sudden or more irresistible", said of a human chess game where the queen is the one who is loved at first sight.
- Catch-22 (1961) by Joseph Heller, "It was love at first sight" is the opening sentence.
- The Elegy of Lady Fiammetta (c.1345) by Giovanni Boccaccio, describes the ravages of love at first sight on a woman.
- The Forsyte Saga: To Let (1921), when Jon and Fleur meet at the gallery.
- The Hunger Games (2008) trilogy, the character Peeta falls in love with the protagonist, Katniss, when he first saw her at the first day in school and heard her sing.
- Jerusalem Delivered (1581) by Torquato Tasso, the witch Armida enchants the knights that perceive them.
- Les Misérables (1862) by Victor Hugo, the characters Marius Pontmercy and Cosette fall in love after glancing into each other's eyes.
- Love at First Byte, 2000 book by Christine Harris about online dating.
- The Little Mermaid (1837) by Hans Christian Andersen, the protagonist falls in love with a human prince when she first sees him and rescues him from drowning.
- Orlando Innamorato (1486) by Boiardo, the first sight of the beautiful princess Angelica.
- Romeo and Juliet (c.1595), by William Shakespeare, Romeo falls in love with Juliet when he first sees her.
- Sense and Sensibility (1811), Col. Christopher Brandon was captivated by Marianne's voice and falls in love with Marianne at first sight when he sees her playing the piano.
- The Silmarillion (1977), by Beren, who saw and fell in love with Lúthien.
- Shadow Falls (2011-2013), Derek Lakes feels attraction towards Kylie Galen; Lucas Parker falls in love with Kylie at the age of 7, when they first met.
- Gamble Fish, Emily Dawn is described to have a "love at first sight" personality, especially when she falls for Tomu upon first arriving,
- Gokusen (2008), Sawada claims he was so cooperative with Yamaguchi due to the fact he fell in love with her at first sight; also in the live drama series Yamaguchi seemed to have a love-at-first-sight personality to a specific male character added to each new season.
- Sailor Moon, Sailor Moon falls for Tuxedo Mask when she first sees him, despite not realising who he really is.
- Kanokon, both Chizuru and Nozomu fall in love at first sight to the main character Kouta.
- Yandere Kanojo by Gangan Comics, the main characters, despite their opposite personalities, fall in love when they first pass each other at school.
- "With a Little Help From My Friends" by The Beatles, has the lyric: "Would you believe in a love at first sight? Yes, I'm certain that it happens all the time."
- "Love at First Sight" by Dr. Dieter Massion (composer), feat. Dania König (v) and Ro Gebhardt (g). Diego Imbert (b), Sergio Parra (sax,fl), Thomas Schmidt (g,p), Jochen Krämer (dr,perc). On album with the same titel; 1999, genre jazz.
- "Love at First Sight" by Kylie Minogue describes this phenomenon.
- "Di rigori armato il seno", an aria in the opera Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss, is sung by a lovestruck tenor.
- "Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön", an aria in Mozart's opera "Die Zauberflöte", is sung by prince Tamino after seeing Pamina's portrait.
- "Love at First Sight" by Styx.
- "Get Together" by Madonna, has a line asking "Do you believe in love at first sight?" and then she answers "It's an illusion/I don't care", since the subject of the song falls in love at the first sight, and she doesn't care if her lover believes it or not.
- "Heart Song" by Automatic Loveletter says "Love at first ain't messing around!"
- "As She's Walking Away" by the Zac Brown Band describes a man who fell in love with a woman at first sight.
- "Good Directions" by Billy Currington describes love at first sight.
- In the chart-topping music video for Maroon 5's "She Will Be Loved", the young man (lead singer Adam Levine) falls in love with the socialite mother (Kelly Preston) of his girlfriend at first sight; lyrically, the verse describes his seeing the woman for the first time, "Beauty queen of only eighteen/she had some trouble with her self".
- (500) Days of Summer (2009), when Tom sees Summer for the first time at work.
- 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), Cameron falls in love with Bianca the first time he sees her, although she doesn't see him.
- A Cinderella Story (2004), Austin falls in love with Sam when he looks into her eyes.
- Aladdin (1992), when Aladdin sees Jasmine for the first time at the marketplace.
- April Showers (2009), Sean falls in love with April when they first meet.
- At Close Range (1986), when Brad Whitewood, Jr And Terry first see each other they instantly fall for one another.
- August Rush (2007), when Louis meets Lyla on the top of a building, he fell in love with her instantly.
- Big Fish (2003), Edward Bloom falls in love with Sandra Templeton the first time he sees her, although she doesn't reciprocate his love until he's hunted her down three years later.
- Cinderella (1950), by Disney, when the prince first sees Cinderella he falls instantly in love with her.
- Down to You (2000), when Al first sets eyes on Imogen he falls in love with her instantly.
- Dumb and Dumber (1994) Lloyd falls in love with Mary after she opens the door to him.
- Edward Scissorhands (1990), Edward fell in love with Kim when he first saw her in a photograph.
- Forrest Gump (1994), Forrest falls in love with Jenny when he sees her for the first time in a school bus.
- The Godfather (1972), Michael gets "hit by the thunderbolt" when he first sees Apollonia.
- Head Over Heels (2001), when Amanda first sees Jim she falls head over heels in love with him.
- Hotel Transylvania (2012), Dracula's daughter Mavis and the human Jonathan fall in love when their eyes meet. Dracula and Mavis' mother Martha also fell in love at first sight. They refer to it as a "zing".
- Just Married (2003), when Tom And Sarah first see each other on the beach they fall in love and get married.
- Love at First Bite (1950), The Three Stooges reminisce about meeting their fiancees.
- Love at First Bite (1979), the vampire Dracula pursues fashion model Cindy Sondheim, whom he thinks is a reincarnation of his true love.
- The Little Mermaid (1989), when Princess Ariel first lays eyes on Prince Eric she instantly falls in love with him.
- Mean Girls (2004), when Cady first sees Aaron in math class she instantly falls in love with him.
- Mirror, Mirror (2012), when Snow White and Prince Alcott meet for the first time in the forest.
- The Notebook (2004), Noah falls in love with Allie at a carnival upon seeing her for the first time.
- Raise Your Voice (2004), Englebert 'Kiwi' Wilson Falls in love at first sight with Sloane, even though she ignores his advances for most of the film.
- Scarface (1983), when Tony First sees beautiful Elvira on the elevator he instantly falls in love with her.
- Secondhand Lions (2003), after Hub and Jasmine crash into the Mediterranean on their horses, they look into each other's eyes and as Garth said "It was, plain as day, Love... at first sight."
- Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), Scott Pilgrim falls in love with Ramona Flowers in a dream he has.
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), when Anthony First sees Johanna singing at her room window he falls madly in love with her.
- Twilight (2008), when Bella first sets eyes on Edward she instantly falls in love with him.
- WALL-E (2008), WALL-E falls in love with EVE at first sight, as do two members of the Axiom ship John and Mary.
- West Side Story (1961), both Tony and Maria fall in love with each other the moment they set eyes on one another at the dance.
- Wings of Desire (1987), Damiel falls in love with Marion as he watches her on the trapeze, Marion falls in love with Damiel when she first sees him in her dream.
- Somewhere in Time (1980), Richard Collier falls in love with Elise McKenna when he sees a picture of her in the Grand Hotel's museum.
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) Phoebus falls in love with Esmeralda when he sees her dancing.
- Titanic (1997) Jack falls in love with Rose when he first sees her.
- Coronation Street, Ken Barlow falls in love with Valerie Tatlock for the first time when they are introduced by Valerie's father Albert Tatlock in 1961, they get married the following year and it lasts solidly for 9 years, spawning twins, until Valerie's death by electrocution. Ken who is still in the series has married twice since that, but still misses her a great deal more than all the others (especially Deirdre Langton to whom has been married for 31 years).
- The Vampire Diaries, Stefan Salvatore falls in love with Elena Gilbert the instant he sees her. (although some might argue it was because he thought she resembled Katherine Pierce)
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel sees Buffy Summers being called to become the Vampire Slayer and he falls in love with her; it's also widely speculated that Buffy fell in love with Angel the first time she meets him, though they both admit their feelings to one another early in the first season.
- The Forsyte Saga: To Let (2003), like the novel.
- iCarly, Freddie Benson falls in love with Carly at first sight, despite his somewhat young age.
- Avatar: the Last Airbender, Aang falls in love with Katara at first sight in the first episode, The Boy in the Iceberg, and reveals it in, The Guru.
- The Simpsons, Homer Simpson falls in love with Marge Simpson at his first sighting of her, as described in the episode "The Way We Was".
- Glee, Upon seeing each other for the first time, Rachel Berry and Finn Hudson both instantly fell in love with each other as seen in a flashback to the "Yes/No" episode while she, along with the New Directions girls, sings The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.
- "Love at First Byte", 1984 episode of The Facts of Life.
- "Love at First Byte", 1988 episode of Small Wonder.
- "Love at First Byte", 1994 episode of Hurricanes.
- Tallis, Frank (February 2005). "Crazy for You". The Psychologist 18 (2).
- See, for example, the Amores and the Heroides of Ovid which frequently refer to the overwhelming passion caused by Cupid's darts.
- See Ovid's letter from Paris, below.
- John J. Winkler (trans.), Leucippe and Clitophon, in Reardon, B.P. (1989). Collected Ancient Greek Novels. Berkeley: U of California P. p. 179. ISBN 0-520-04306-5.
- Hamilton, Edith; Huntington Cairns (1961). The Collected Dialogues of Plato. Princeton: Princeton UP. p. 545.
- From the introduction by Nathaniel Edward Griffin to Boccaccio, Giovanni (n.d.). The Filostrato. New York: Bilbo and Tannen. p. 76 n.2. ISBN 978-0-8196-0187-2.
- According to Nathaniel Edward Griffin: "In the description of the enamorment of Troilus is a singular blending of the Provençal conception of the eyes as the birthplace of love with the classical idea of the God of Love with his bows and quiver...," in Boccaccio, Giovanni (n.d.). The Filostrato. New York: Bilbo and Tannen. p. 77 n.2. ISBN 978-0-8196-0187-2.
- Boccaccio, Il Filostrato, Canto 1, strophe 29 (translation by Nathaniel Edward Griffin and Arthur Beckwith Myrick).
- Peter Alexander ed., William Shakespeare: The Complete Works (London 1962) p. 273
- Rousset, Jean (1981). "Leurs yeux se rencontrèrent": la scène de première vue dans le roman. Paris: 1981.
- "Health & Science: Love at first sight may not be as implausible as it seems - Marketplace - The Heights - Boston College". Bcheights.com. 2009-12-25. Retrieved 2012-08-20.
- Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary ed. Earl Radmacher - 1999 "29:18, 19 loved Rachel: A rare biblical example of “love at first sight” (for his father's similar response to Rebekah read Gen. 24:67). The long seven years of service provides a stunning demonstration of the value Jacob placed on Rachel."
- David and Bathsheba: Through Nathan's Eyes Joel Cohen, Paulist Press, May 14, 2007, 113 pp.
- The dictionary definition of love at first sight at Wiktionary
- The Start of Warm Attractions: The First Look at Chemistry
- You Can Love at First Sight: Scientists Discover Brain Region Responsible for Instant Attraction – Science/Tech – Medical Daily, November 7, 2012