Reviewing a Classic St. Valentine’s Day Special Edition: Romeo and Juliet by Will Shakespeare

 St Valentine’s Day is approaching fast- it is such a unique occassion for a sworn anti-romantic reviewer! Let me indulge myself and present a rant about my least favourite Shakespeare play, ‘Romeo and Juliet’.
A bit of backstory first (and if you don’t like backstories a.k.a. nerdspeak please, have a coffee ans skip the next section).
Romeo and Juliet belongs to a tradition of tragic romances stretching back to antiquity. Yes, even back then some people were just stupid and accordingly they wrote stupid books which were devoured by…you know who. The stupid, the curious, the idle.  Anyway its plot is based on an Italian tale, translated into verse as The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke in 1562 and retold in prose in Palace of Pleasure by William Painter in 1567. Romeus LOL!
Allegedly Shakespeare borrowed heavily from both but he wasn’t a total copycat. He added and/or developed plot along with supporting characters, particularly Mercutio and Paris. Believed to have been written between 1591 and 1595, the play was first published in a quarto version in 1597. This text was of poor quality, and later editions corrected it, bringing it more in line with Shakespeare’s original. Shakespeare’s use of dramatic structure, especially effects such as switching between comedy and tragedy to heighten tension, his expansion of minor characters, and his use of sub-plots to embellish the story, has been praised as an early sign of his dramatic skill. The play ascribes different poetic forms to different characters, sometimes changing the form as the character develops. Romeo, for example, grows more adept at the sonnet over the course of the play. In my humble opinion he should have grown more adept at reasoning but it’s just me.
Ok…ready for a blow-by-blow analysis of this hot-air kitsch production?
Charlotte and Susan Cushman (the Cushman siste...
Charlotte and Susan Cushman (the Cushman sisters) in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in 1846 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Let’s start easy, with the simplest question possible.
Is Romeo and Juliet really a romantic love story?
It is a story of two insipid children who have too much free time and too much money but no sensible hobby or interest to occupy their brains with. So they decide to fall in love with the first passable person they see. Romantic? Hardly.

Have you heard this saying: an idle mind is the devil’s playground or workshop? Romeo and Juliet are two perfect showcases.They married young without their parent’s consent and without properly knowing each other and died because they were too stupid to step back and think for half a second.

Two “star-cross’d lovers” indeed.
Well, perhaps back then the lack of brains qualified as “star-cross’d”, who knows…

Let’s face it: they were worth each other, at least that much is true.

Romeo was a young, easily impressionable fool. He began the play lovesick over Rosaline and within an act he was mooning over younger Juliet as if you suddenly pushed a button. His beloved girl wasn’t much better. She glanced at a handsome boy at a party, found out that he is one of her family’s enemies and was suddenly head over heels for him and vowing her love on a balcony at night. Risking a serious pulmonary inflammation (yes, I am sure you remember the balcony scene . Ridiculous.). No sense of responsibility whatsoever, no critical thinking, no ordinary decency, just insta-love.

So, a fickle, immature 15-year-old boy and a startlingly childish 13 year old girl agree to get married in secret, having known each other all of six hours. SIX HOURS people! They’re young, I know, but still plenty of young people prove time and again that they can take reasonable, surprisingly mature decisions so no excuses. Neither Romeo nor Juliet had any sense to talk to anybody older and wiser than themselves because, obviously, they knew everything better and yes, they were in love and the secrecy surrounding their feelings seemed to be the whole point. Teens love secrets, right?

Then you have a suddden case of a bum rash, tight britches and hot tempers with the whole duel and killing. Outraged Tybalt challenges Romeo, Romeo refuses, Mercutio fights instead and is mortally wounded so Romeo slays Tybalt out of grief, guilt and revenge… Bob’s your uncle, Amanda’s your aunt Sally’s your sister and EVERYONE JUST DEFIED THE PRINCE!!!A very stupid thing to do if you plan a secret marriage AND you want to defy your entire family as well!

Romeo is exiled, but of course first he has to spend the night and consummate his marriage with Juliet…does it really need commenting (of course it does) ? It is not romance, it is rutting of a pair of short-sighted teenagers on bubbling hormones! No adult supervision! No responsibility! Where are the chastity belts when you really need them? Will Shakespeare you should be ashamed of yourself!

Then Capulet goes off the deep end, telling Juliet she WILL marry Paris or else be drowned. Come on… the dude started the play saying she was too young to marry and then, when she seems grief stricken, he forces her to get married as a kind of remedy? Perhaps he had actually glimpsed Romeo leaving her room in the morning… Her mom was no wiser, rejecting her just because Juliet wanted to postpone the date. Small wonder poor girl had no brains – it seems she was doomed from the very inception…Still drowning is NOT NICE even if your victim is your own stupid daughter.

So Juliet goes to the Friar for help and like any good man of the faith, he comes up with some inefficiently grandiose plan that at no step involves being honest and talking with those who care the most. Instead he gives her a “drug” that puts her in a deep coma for 42 hours. I recognize the fact that daddy Capulet probably would have drown her for sure had she come out and told him – “hey daddy, I love you to death but I really can’t marry Paris because… well, you remember that dude, Romeo? The one who got exiled because he’d killed my cousin Tyb? Good riddance by the way, Tybald was never exactly an asset if you ask me so Romeo did us practically a favour…actually you know, I and Romeo kind of…yea…sort of…ummm…anyhoo here’s my wedding ring. Pretty, isn’t it?” But at least she went to an adult this time – 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. Or maybe even more childish, all things considered. Since when you can solve a problem, any problem, with drugs ? Whenever I think of it the depression makes me melt…

And of course we all know what happened then…a string of bad luck which Shakespeare loved so much. Romeo doesn’t get the message in time (how could he even dream of getting it in time is beyond me), 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. I see no real love in this story nor much sense or any other value apart from sheer shock value. Let’s face it, it’s obvious Will loved making people shout and cry in shock. Then he counted the proceeds and smiled. Probably like that:

Yes, I DID it again!

Whan can be said? 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. Hear, hear my Prince. Even a good editor wouldn’t be able to improve much; mind you this horrible, senseless play is read by innocent children and teenagers at school with the full approval of the adults.

Now I ask you, dear Readers: is it ok?

Sherlock, what would you say?

Is it ok, dr. Watson?

Gentlemen, I completely agree.
ETA: if you want to know what I really think of St. Valentine’s Day please follow this link to one of my older essays. 😉
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4 Responses to Reviewing a Classic St. Valentine’s Day Special Edition: Romeo and Juliet by Will Shakespeare

  1. Blodeuedd says:

    LOL!Well I can't blame them for being young, him yes, her, well they married young back then. Should they know better? Oh yes, 6 hours, stupid kids

  2. Yes they married young back then. Still it was not a coincidence that most marriages were also pre-arranged by the parents and it was common to wait a bit with bedding, especially if the bride was small, delicate or/and 13…

  3. heidenkind says:

    Tell us how you really feel. 😉 To me the fact that they're so young makes it believable–adults don't fall recklessly in love the way teens do. But honestly I still enjoy it. 🙂

  4. You have a point here – only stupid teens would make so many mistakes. Whenever I read R&J I feel simply angry.

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