Sep 15, 2011

Why I hate Romeo & Juliet


One of Shakespeare’s most known tragedies, Romeo and Juliet is thrust upon us in our high school composition classes and then mercilessly shoved down our throats.
Romeo and Juliet is not a romantic love story. It’s a story about two insipid children who married young and without their parent’s consent without knowing each other and died because they were too stupid to step back and think for half a second.
Romeo is an inconstant fool. He begins the play lovesick over Rosaline and within an act is mooning over Juliet.
Juliet isn’t much better. She meets a boy at a party and is suddenly head over heels for him and vowing her love on a balcony (yes, you know the one).
So, a fickle 15 year old boy and a cripplingly naïve 13 year old girl agree to get married in secret, having known each other all of six hours. They’re young, I know, but their entire situation could have been handled much better from the get go.
At thirteen I probably wanted to marry Mike Ringor (I had a horrible crush) but I’m pretty sure that, even if we were in a time and place where some friar was willing to marry us, I would have at least waited until I’d known him a week. And no offense, Mike, but that would have just been a plain ol’ bad idea.
And then you have a case of tight britches and hot tempers with the whole Tybalt challenges Romeo, Romeo refuses, Mercutio fights instead and is mortally wounded, Romeo slays Tybalt out of grief and guilt… Bob’s your uncle, Sally’s your aunt EVERYONE JUST DEFIED THE PRINCE!!!
Thusly Romeo is exiled, but spends the night and consummates his marriage with Juliet… and then Capulet goes off the deep end, telling Juliet she WILL marry Paris or else be drowned.  Which, come on… dude started the play saying she was too young to marry and then, when she seems grief stricken he forces her to get married? I’m not sure how you read that… but daddy might have some isues of his own.
So Juliet goes to the Friar for help and like any good man of the faith, he comes up with some grandiose plan that in no way involves being honest and instead gives her a “drug”  that puts her in a coma for 42 hours.  I recognize the fact that daddy Capulet probably would have drown her if she came out and told him – “hey, I can’t marry Paris because... well, you remember that Romeo guy? Yea….” But she went to an adult – this is what children are supposed to do when they are faced with a problem they cannot handle themselves – and somehow the friar manages to be just as childish in his handling of the situation as the kids are.
And of course we all know what happened then… Romeo doesn’t get the message in time, he goes to the crypt with his draught of poison, kills Paris, poisons himself, only to have Juliet wake seconds later to find him dead and kill herself… and THEN the families reconcile. I don’t know about you, but having the secondary characters learn something from the deaths of two completely naïve children is not what I call a satisfying ending. Stories can have morals yes, but I see no real love in this story.
The Prince’s ending words are the only part of this that rings true: For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo. Let’s face it, this story was doomed before the bard ever put his quill to parchment.

Next week, I'll talk about the Shakespeare Tragedy I love.

14 comments:

  1. Haha...I didn't realize you harbored so much resentment for Romeo and Juliet. I also thought the story was always silly (and I don't remember them being so young, yikes. No wonder they were so emo about their love). Good points!

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  2. I have to say that I'm a fan of Romeo and Juliet. I also like other Shakespeare works...Henry V, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Tempest...

    There was a time in my life that I thought Shakespeare was so incredible...so good, that I should bag it as a writer because I could never be that amazing.

    However, in time, I found my own voice, and I found that I didn't have to live up to him. I just needed to be comfortable with myself.

    Romeo and Juliet for me is an INCREDIBLE love story. It starts with the disobeying of their parents wishes and progresses to the balcony scene in act 2, scene 2 where the famous quote, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" comes from and it makes my heart melt.

    Another thing which adds to the love story is the marriage of Romeo and Juliet. Marriage is a big commitment, ('till death do us part, believe it or not they meant it in those days, not like us today ['till divorce do us part]) and to love someone so much that you would want to marry them is surely part of a love story.

    Lastly, to take your own life for your husband or wife is definitely a sign of true love. To love each other enough that you would commit suicide just to be with them after death to me is the ultimate commitment.

    No story I've ever read even comes close to this. So yeah...I cannot see how you find no love story in this masterpiece.

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  3. Michael, I respectfully disagree.
    I don’t think that love stories need to start with disobedience of parents. In fact, I think that is one thing that makes their “love” suspect. What 15 year old boy doesn’t want the things his parent’s tell him to stay away from? And honestly, how can a 13 year old girl know enough of the world to know what love is?
    And marriage in that day was “Until death do us part” but that’s because you couldn’t get divorced, just because a couple stays married their entire lives does not mean that they truly love eachother. And I cannot honestly believe that a 15 and 13 year old know the true requirements of marriage.
    And lastly, can you honestly tell me that if the person you loved died, you would take your own life? Furthermore, would you want them to if you died? Self sacrifice is always a part of love, Suicide should not be. (Also, let’s take into account that they’re Catholic and there for, both went to Hell. So there’s no happy “they’re together in heaven” ending, even in that.”
    Love is not about first sight, a quick marriage, a night of (probably rather awkward) consummation and then dual suicide. Love takes time. It takes truly knowing a person and them truly knowing you. There is no love in this story, there is only the idea of love and needless misunderstanding and death.

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  4. I'm so inclined to tweet about your post, because well isn't this just so coincidental? We both post on it, and this could start some debates! Thought your points were valid but I could never out and out hate Romeo and Juliet. I'm curious as to which Shakespearean tragedy is your favorite!

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  5. I dislike it because they made us read it way too many times from middle school onward. Couldn't they pick something else? MacBeth was pretty good.

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  6. I don't think it was a good choice to make teenagers read a story that involved disobeyeing their parents, marrying in secret, and then committing suicide. At the very least, the play teaches that anyone who is capable of living past the loss of their spouse did not love them enough.

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  7. Such a great post! Love visiting your blog!

    Lola x
    http://lola-x.blogspot.com

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  8. I have to say, agree or disagree with your "reasoning," I found your synopsis to be very enlightening and, for the fist time, I think I truly understand the story now! Very good.

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  9. I thought I was the only one who didn't like R&J. But here's the thing, I often wonder what Shakespeare himself thought since the play-within-a-play in Mid-Summer Night's Dream seriously mocks the whole R&J plot.

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  10. totally reasonable, I think R&J a pretty silly story too.I think Shakespeare exaggerated too much-sometimes true love can only be seen in a simple plot. Well, I respect Shakespeare a lot, and I much believe in what he was trying to tell us-the love and stuff, but still
    you're totally right, this tale is silly.:)
    BTW, I'm 16, and at my age, we think that disobeying our parent is a cool thing to do.
    So maybe that's why Romeo did all these?

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  11. I like that the story is ridiculous. It's basically an episode of Three's Company writ large. I teach the play as both a tragedy and a farce. And this year we are beginning by reading your essay. Thank you.

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  12. The emotional flaws are the point of the whole play. I think Shakespeare wrote the play intentionallly for people to basically be stunned and like "What the hell? They both suck! They're both too dramatic! They're dumbass teens! I want to strangle them. They're TOO YOUNG" Juliet should have just ran away when Romeo was banished. Of course, any plot holes an be attributed to the "times". In short, Shakespeare is screwing with everyone. He knows the characters are stupid. He's making fun of teens in the extreme. The fall in love in a few hours, get married in 12, and kill themselves within the week. Whoo.

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  13. I disagree, for one, as Paris did say, girls much younger than Juliet were already MOTHERS. this is the time period, people in those days did not live long. You say they were young children, but really this was almost the middle point in their lives!
    In your argument you conveniently left out a very important aspect that Shakespeare talks about in R&J; this being the "fate". Shakespeare brings up this because people in this time did believe in fate, that everything was already laid out; their whole life had one track.
    The parents reconciling at the end, Shakespeare is introducing that many human beings can not look past their own hate to do something nice or civil.
    now you may say that they could've been civil if R or J did speak to their parents, but they did not talk to them because they knew how much rivalry there was between the two families! Tybalt is a perfect example of this, he hates Romeo just because he is a Montague, has he spoken to him before? No. its the idea of an "ancient grudge" again, bringing that many humans hate without knowing why.

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