Love at first sight is a personal experience as well as a common trope or stock convention in literature: a person or character feels an instant, extreme, and ultimately long-lasting romantic attraction for a stranger upon first seeing that stranger. Described by poets and critics since the emergence of ancient Greece, falling in love at first sight has become one of the most common 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 "hunger 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.
Giovanni 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."
William Shakespeare pays a handsome (posthumous) tribute to Christopher Marlowe, who himself wrote "Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?" in his 1598 poem Hero and Leander, by citing him the next year in As You Like It: 'Dead shepherd, now I find thy saw of might: "Who ever lov'd that lov'd not at first sight?"'.
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").
Infatuation, not to be confused with love at first sight, is the state of being carried away by an unreasoned passion or assumed love. Hillman and Phillips describe it as a desire to express the libidinal attraction of addictive love, inspired with an intense but short-lived passion or admiration for someone.
Occurrence in literature and the arts
- Commentaries on the Bible often view the account of Isaac's first view of Rebekah (Genesis 24:67) as love at first sight.
- The same holds for Jacob's first sight of Rachel.
- 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.
- The works of Dante Alighieri, an Italian poet of the Middle Ages who wrote many times about Beatrice Portinari; Alighieri had fallen in love with her early in his childhood, and her death in 1290 had a major effect on his life. Beatrice appears as a guide in Alighieri's Divine Comedy.
- The Elegy of Lady Fiammetta (c.1345) by Giovanni Boccaccio, describes the ravages of love at first sight on a woman.
- Troilus and Criseyde (c.1380s) by Geoffrey Chaucer, depicts the fateful love of Troilus and Criseyde in the final days of the Trojan War.
- Orlando Innamorato (1486) by Boiardo, the first sight of the beautiful princess Angelica.
- Jerusalem Delivered (1581) by Torquato Tasso, the witch Armida enchants the knights that perceive them.
- 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 Little Mermaid (1837) by Hans Christian Andersen, the little mermaid falls in love with a human prince when she first sees him and rescues him from drowning.
- 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 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.
- The Forsyte Saga: To Let (1921), when Jon and Fleur meet at the gallery.
- Master and Margarita (1968), Mikhail Bulgakov. Master and Margarita fall in love whilst walking alongside each other in a Moscovian street.
- The Silmarillion (1977), by Beren, who saw and fell in love with Lúthien.
- The Hunger Games (2008) by Suzanne Collins, Peeta Mellark falls in love with the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, when he first sees her on the first day in school and hears her sing.
- (1949) "Some Enchanted Evening" by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II
- (1967) "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."
- (1969) The first hit instrumental cover of Serge Gainsbourg's song "Je t'aime... moi non plus" (commonly banned due to its sexual lyrical content) used the title "Love at first sight."
- (1978) "Summer Nights" by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John mentions love at first sight in the form of an unanswered question.
- (1991) "Love at First Sight" by Styx.
- (2001) "Love at First Sight" by Kylie Minogue describes the phenomenon.
- (2004) In the music video for Maroon 5's "She Will Be Loved", the young man falls in love with the socialite mother of his girlfriend at first sight.
- (2006) "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.
- (2006) "Good Directions" by Billy Currington describes love at first sight.
- (2010) "As She's Walking Away" by the Zac Brown Band describes a man who fell in love with a woman at first sight.
- (2016) "Deja vu" by J.Cole
Opera plots must be condensed to fit their rendition in music and are thus highly suited to plot lines in which the principals fall in love at first sight. Often, this moment inspires composers to unusually fine music. Abundant examples include:
- (1791) In Mozart's opera The Magic Flute, Prince Tamino is presented with an image of Princess Pamina and instantly falls in love with her. He sings of his feelings as they unfold in the aria "Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön" ("This image is enchantingly lovely").
- (1870) In Richard Wagner's Die Walküre, "Siegmund staggers storm-driven into Hunding's empty hut. Sieglinde enters and finds the stranger – they are unknown to each other, though brother and sister. They love at first sight."
- (1896) In Giacomo Puccini's La bohème, "Rodolfo ... is interrupted by Mimi, a neighbor who is looking for some matches to light her candle. It is cold and Mimi and Rodolfo huddle together. They tell each other about their backgrounds in two touching arias. It is love at first sight."
- (1911) "Di rigori armato il seno", an aria in Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss, describes falling in love at first sight despite the sternest precautions taken. The singer is not himself in love; he is a professional singer sent to entertain the Marschallin. Later on, two main characters, Octavian and Sophie, fall in love at first sight as Octavian fulfills his titular duty, presenting Sophie with a scented rose of silver on behalf of her suitor Baron Ochs.
- The Bowery (1933), Chuck falls in love with Lucy at first sight.
- Come and Get It (1936), Barney falls in love with Lotta at first sight.
- Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (1938), Michael and Nicole fall in love with each other at first sight.
- Gone With the Wind (1939), Scarlett falls in love with Ashley at first sight.
- The Strawberry Blonde (1941), Biff falls in love with Virginia at first sight.
- The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), George falls in love with Lucy at first sight.
- Heaven Can Wait (1943), Henry and Martha fall in love with each other at first sight.
- Cover Girl (1944), Coudair falls in love with Rusty at first sight.
- Cinderella (1950), when the prince first sees Cinderella he falls instantly in love with her.
- Love at First Bite (1950), The Three Stooges reminisce about meeting their fiancees.
- From Here to Eternity (1953), Prewitt falls in love with Lorene the first time he sees her.
- Mister Roberts (1955), Frank falls in love with Ann at first sight.
- West Side Story (1961), a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, Tony and Maria fall in love the moment they see one another at the dance.
- The Godfather (1972), Michael gets "hit by the thunderbolt" when he first sees Apollonia.
- Love at First Bite (1979), the vampire Dracula pursues fashion model Cindy Sondheim, whom he thinks is a reincarnation of his true love.
- 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.
- Blade Runner (1982), when Rick Deckard falls in love at first sight with Rachael, an experimental replicant. The event is a plot element in the 2017 film, Blade Runner 2049.
- Scarface (1983), when Tony first sees beautiful Elvira on the elevator he instantly falls in love with her.
- At Close Range (1986), when Brad Whitewood, Jr. and Terry first see each other they instantly fall for one another.
- Wings of Desire (1987), the angel Damiel falls in love with circus performer Marion as he watches her on the trapeze. Marion falls in love with Damiel when she first sees him in her dream.
- The Little Mermaid (1989), when Princess Ariel first sees Prince Eric she instantly falls in love with him.
- Back to the Future Part III (1990), when Dr. Emmett Brown first meets Clara Clayton after saving her; ironically, Brown earlier claimed that the "idea of falling in love at first sight" was "romantic nonsense".
- Edward Scissorhands (1990), Edward falls in love with Kim when he first sees her in a photograph.
- Aladdin (1992), when Aladdin sees Jasmine for the first time at the marketplace.
- Dumb and Dumber (1994), Lloyd falls in love with Mary after she opens the door to him.
- Forrest Gump (1994), Forrest falls in love with Jenny when he sees her for the first time in a school bus.
- I.Q. (1994), Ed falls in love with Catherine at first sight.
- 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.
- Conspiracy Theory (1997), Jerry tells Alice that he fell in love with her at first sight.
- 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.
- Head Over Heels (2001), when Amanda first sees Jim she falls in love with him.
- Big Fish (2003), Edward Bloom falls in love with Sandra Templeton the first time he sees her.
- Just Married (2003), when Tom and Sarah first see each other on the beach they fall in love.
- Secondhand Lions (2003), after Hub and Jasmine crash into the Mediterranean on their horses they look into each other's eyes and, as Garth says, "It was, plain as day, Love... at first sight."
- A Cinderella Story (2004), Austin falls in love with Sam when he looks into her eyes.
- 50 First Dates (2004 film), Henry Roth falls in love at first sight with Lucy Whitmore, a woman with permanent short-term memory loss, while at a café.
- Mean Girls (2004), when Cady first sees Aaron in math class she instantly falls in love with him.
- 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.
- August Rush (2007), when Louis meets Lyla he falls in love with her instantly.
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), when Anthony first sees Johanna singing at her room window he falls in love with her.
- Twilight (2008), when Bella first sees 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.
- (500) Days of Summer (2009), when Tom sees Summer for the first time at work.
- April Showers (2009), Sean falls in love with April when they first meet.
- Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), Scott Pilgrim falls in love with Ramona Flowers in a dream.
- Hotel Transylvania (2012), Dracula's daughter Mavis and the human Jonathan fall in love when their eyes meet. Mavis' parents, Dracula and Martha, also fell in love at first sight. They refer to it as a "zing".
- Mirror, Mirror (2012), when Snow White and Prince Alcott meet for the first time in the forest.
- Despicable Me 2 (2013), when Margo meets Antonio Pérez and is swept off her feet at the Paradise Mall.
- Magic in the Moonlight (2014), when Stanley meets Sophie he falls in love with her instantly but, not recognizing the feeling, realizes it only when it's almost too late.
- Wonder Wheel (2017), when Mickey falls in love with Carolina at first sight.
- It (2017), Both Billy and Ben fall in love with Beverly just by looking at her.
- Hotel Transylvania 3: A Monster Vacation (2018), Drac sees Ericka Van Hesling, and it was love at first sight.
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- Coronation Street, Ken Barlow falls in love with Valerie Tatlock for the first time when they are introduced by Valerie's uncle Albert Tatlock in 1961.
- I Dream of Jeannie, Genie Jeannie falls in love with astronaut Tony Nelson on first sight in the 1965 series.
- The Vampire Diaries, Stefan Salvatore falls in love with Elena Gilbert the instant he sees her.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel sees Buffy Summers being called to become the Vampire Slayer and he falls in love with her.
- iCarly, Freddie Benson falls in love with Carly at first sight, despite his somewhat young age.
- 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".
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, in the first episode Spike falls in love with Rarity at first sight.
- Billions, Bobby Axelrod's recalling of experiencing the "thunderbolt" when meeting his wife, Lara, is a key plot point in the second season episode "With or Without You" (2017).
- Gokusen (2008), Sawada claims he was so cooperative with Yamaguchi due to the fact he fell in love with her at first sight.
- Sailor Moon, Sailor Moon falls for Tuxedo Mask when she first sees him, despite not realizing who he really is.
- Kanokon, both Chizuru and Nozomu fall in love at first sight with the main character Kouta.
- Fairy Tail, Juvia Lockser falls in love with Gray Fullbuster at first sight and is unable to fight him, eventually becoming one of his allies. Similarly, Lyon Vastia, Gray's rival, falls in love with Juvia at first sight.
- Shaman King, Yoh Asakura falls in love at first sight with Anna Kyoyama at the age of 10. He becomes a father to Hana Asakura at the age of 16.
- The King and the Beggar-maid, a tale of love at first sight used by Shakespeare, in paintings, and in other media.
- http://wordsarewild.com/index.php/2016/10/first-sight-love/[permanent dead link]
- 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 the 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. Archived from the original on 25 November 2009. Retrieved 2012-08-20.
- Hillman and Phillips
- 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.
- Plot description from Henry Lowell Mason (1913) Opera Stories. Available on line at .
- Quotation from .
- For English translation of lyrics see .
- 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