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I went into reading Romeo and Juliet expecting something romantic, if sad, and instead wound up reading about two teenagers (barely) who "fall in love" and make a series of really, really bad decisions and selfish choices before they die. It was several months later before I realize that Shakespeare had not even intended to write a romance, despite popular belief, but had actually been TRYING to warn against impulsiveness. -Raspbery Parfait
I reread Romeo and Juliet a few weeks ago for a class and was delighted to find how many of the other characters mock the hero and heroine, particularly the Friar, who wryly comments on Romeo's obsession with Rosaline and his complete meltdown after he's been banished (although that reaction might be warranted).
I've always heard it called a love story, but if it's about love, this play sucks. Then someone told me "It's not a love story, it's a hate story." And it's so much easier to like the story that way—because all the "love" I see appears to be horniness and stupidity, but there's plenty of random, unexplained hate that exists because generations ago someone did...something, we're not sure what, and now it's so out of hand that people who should've gotten off lightly for being stupid youths are dead.—Hapax Legomenon
This troper used to dislike Romeo and Juliet. No, this troper practically despised it. He was convinced that it glorified teenage angst and falling in love at the drop of a pin and then acting like an idiot afterwards. Compared to shows like The Taming of the Shrew and As You Like It, the romance seemed more about hormones than anything deeper. Then, he read it again in college. And realized that, while Romeo still comes off as a lovestruck teen, Juliet comes off much better. She's the one who makes plans and follows through with them. She's the one who sets up the scheme at the end for them to be together. Only at the end, after both the love of her life and the arranged husband that she agreed to "look to like if looking liking lead" are dead does she succumb to despair and turn to the dagger. Of course, this troper also suspects that the high school version may have had all the good bits pulled out of it for space and bowdlerization. — Fuzzy Boots
It's amazing how easily people overlook the fact that Romeo and Juliet is about war and violence as much as it is about love; or more accurately, it's about the way they influence and interact with each other. I didn't realize this until I watched the Zeffirelli production for the first time in college, at the tail end of my History and Political Science majors. I mean, this is not the kid-friendly lovey dovey show people seem to think it is- for god's sake, the opening scene is two of the Capulets talking about raping and/or decapitating the women of their enemy's house. And the famous lines- what's Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot, nor any other part belonging to a man- are actually a profound moment of political awakening for Juliet, the moment she realizes that there's a vast gulf between the labels attached to a person and their fundamental humanity. Vonnegut, consummate cynic though he was, mentions Romeo and Juliet in the prologue to Breakfast of Champions as an example of something sacred, and this troper suspects there's a reason he chose this play, out of all of Shakespeare's: That man understood war. — Laplaces Kyton
More Romeo and Juliet issues abound here; when this troper read it as a teen, she hated it, convinced Romeo was just a fickle teen — evidenced by how quickly he switched his affections from Rosaline to Juliet — and was unable to feel any sympathy at all for the idiot. Coming back to it years later, she now sees that Rosaline was put in so the audience could see the difference between Romeo-with-a-crush and Romeo-experiencing-true-love. She still doesn't feel any sympathy for the idiot, but at least she now finds his love for Juliet convincing. — Weez
I actually saw Rosaline's presence in the play as a way of introducing ambiguity. Romeo's initial infatuation with Rosaline could mean one of two things: Either that he's an unintentional manskank who falls for women easily and is a slave to his infatuations when he does, or that his love for Juliet was the real deal- real enough to pull him out of his funk and make him recognize his crush on Rosaline as the petty infatuation it was. Which makes the burying of the parents' strife all the more powerful- not only does Shakespeare illustrate that love can be a real political force, but that it's a better way than violence even in it's dumbest and most adolescent forms. — Laplaces Kyton
High school teachers regularly screw up teaching Romeo and Juliet because they assume it was written to appeal especially to youth. This causes them to concentrate only on the love story, as if everything else going on was irrelevant, and teenagers end up viewing the play as sappy and maudlin. But Romeo and Juliet is much more than a love story, and it was written primarily to appeal to adults (the people who bought tickets). The Aesops one can take from the play range from "we can't always get what we want, because the fates can act against us and there's nothing we can do about it" to "if you keep your daughters stupid they're likely to fall prey to the local Lothario" to "Italian customs bad, English customs good". Elizabethan audiences would have seen the Capulets as negligent parents, Romeo as a liar and a con artist who took the opportunity to get into the pants of an emotionally distressed thirteen-year-old, and Paris as a sleaze who wanted to marry a barely pubescent girl. (The trope of the time was that marrying a virgin would cure syphilis, so any man who wanted to marry one was assumed to be poxy.) Most playgoers in the 17th and 18th centuries who described the play in their diaries or otherwise (such as Samuel Pepys, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, James Boswell, Samuel Johnson, and David Hume) universally disliked it, seeing it as brutal, heartless, and even coarse. It took the chocolate-box Victorians to play up the love and romance angle and to discard everything else. — Blurgle, who has taught Shakespeare for years and who is constantly unamazed at how badly high school teachers screw up every single play
It's doubtful that Elizabethan audiences would have seen either Romeo or Paris as borderline pedophiles, seeing as girls could and commonly did marry at 12 during this period.
Arranging a marriage is one thing. It's another thing to seek to have a marriage enacted and made official — and consummated — when a girl was still prepubescent. And there's something skeevy about the way that Paris tells Juliet to smile, because her smiles belong to him, now.
You get an entirely different look on the works of William Shakespere, once you realize the man wasn't trying to create Fine Art, but was just writing and directing plays as a job, adapting historical tales (Macbeth, Richard III, the Death of Caesar, etc) and writing "stock" drama, comedy and romances, not for scholars and kings, but for the commoners who routinely attended his shows. This makes William Shakespere the Elizabethan equivalent of a Hollywood director, and his most famous plays are the period's Blockbuster movies. So, whenever you see Hollywood rip off Shakespere's plays to make a movie, keep this in mind: He'd probably have approved. — lonewolf23k
He seems to have regarded his poetry (Lucrece, Sonnets and so on) as his serious work - published in his lifetime with dedications to prominent noblemen - and his plays as being commercial hackwork that he did to provide for his family. (You'll notice that the first official edition of the plays was published after Shakespeare's death by a couple of actors from his old company.)
I first read this play in 10th grade, and it wasn't really until college that I realized it's not about star-crossed romance, as teachers had suggested, but about the futility of keeping feuds going. The moral isn't "Don't be a doofus about falling in love", it's "Look at what you can destroy with your anger if you let it blind you". Half of both the families are dead at the end of the play, and the people who had a chance at happiness die tear-jerking deaths solely because they had to sneak around about their love. — becky
And the Prince hangs a lampshade on it, in the "All are punished" speech: blaming himself for not saving half a dozen lives by stamping out the feud earlier.
He ought to know, since two of those snuffed-out lives were kinsmen of his. — (Maven)
I'd hated Romeo and Juliet since I was first forced to read it in 8th grade, for the usual teen angst. Until this year I realized...Romeo and Juliet can be thought of as the Ur example for the tragicomedy. In terms of Shakespearean theatre, a comedy ended in a wedding and a tragedy in death. In Romeo and Juliet, the first three acts are typical of Shakespeare's comedies, until BAM! People are dropping off left and right, heroes are going into hiding, the fueding takes the place of much of the romance.
I always appreciated Romeo & Juliet as a tragic love story when I was younger. It took re-reading it once past puberty to understand that there's also a satirical edge to it. Romeo and Juliet fall in love with each other in an instant and are married within a few days, following a princely sum of two whole conversations, despite the fact that one was virtually engaged to someone else (and Juliet didn't love Paris, but she didn't have a problem with him before she met Romeo) and the other was crazy about someone else. The whole thing is a wry look at young love, and the inherent drama that goes along with it - they're all supposed to be teenagers, after all, and the play is constantly full of characters either getting into fights or falling in love on a whim, both of which crop up in your life when your hormones start going haywire. Friar Lawrence spends half the play basically staring at them and doing a Flat "What.". It's even explicitly stated that the only reason he goes along with Romeo and his dreamy bullshit is because he's hoping that the pair of them getting together might force their parents to resolve their feud, a feud which is getting people killed - people Friar Lawrence has probably had to be involved in funerals for. It can't be easy seeing young men murdered for no good reason, no wonder he's trying to stop it. That's why he doesn't call shenanigans on the whole thing earlier.
Romeo and Juliet: Upon meeting Romeo, Juliet sends her nurse to inquire after him: "Go ask his name. If he be married/My grave is like to be my wedding bed." In context it simply means that she's afraid Romeo is too good to be true, that he might be a married man who just wants to have a fling with her. But, look at it another way, and it's a prophecy: when Romeo does get married (to Juliet), it starts a chain of events that lead to her death on the night of her planned wedding day.
Whilst everything is open to interpretation, it's meant more on the face of it to mean if he's married, she won't be able to marry him, and therefore she may as well be dead as marry anyone else. Which is another Aesop you can take from this play - Teenagers Are Dramatic.
It could be argued, at least from my perspective, that in "Romeo And Juliet" the real victor of it all was Romeo's cousin Benvolio, when you consider that he (from what we see) is the only heir of the Montague line and that he may also inherit whatever money and land may come from the Capulets as their heir Tybalt is also dead probably as a gift to their new friends the Montagues, making Benvolio one of the richest and most powerful men in Verona.
Is your perspective a sociopathic one? "Oh my God, half of my family is dead... I'm gonna be rich!"
This troper also disagrees. First, there's the fact the Benvolio is possibly the only Nice Guy in the play. That sort of greed would be VERY Out of Character. While Benvolio is the only Montague kinsman really brought up in the play that wasn't part of the main family (Romeo and Lord and Lady Montague), it seems like there would be others. He had to go SOMEWHERE after Mercutio's death when he got Chuck Cunningham Syndrome and was never mentioned again. It seems like he'd be back with other family. Anyway, there had to be other Montagues for that big of a feud, right?
One more thing about Romeo and Juliet is - it is a comedy, as it ticks all the boxes of the genre: dressing up, match-making, authority figures (AKA parents) scorned... but back then there was a very strict rule: nobody could die in a comedy. Therefore, for the viewers of the time, Romeo and Juliet would have been pretty close to a mindfuck.
I actually always liked Romeo and Juliet, but the realization that made the play for me is that they could've told their parents at any time, at least before Tybalt dies. Neither Lord Capulet nor Lord Montague is particularly attached to the feud; Lord Capulet even at one point explicitly allows Romeo to crash his party, over Tybalt's objections. They'd have been OVERJOYED to have such a great excuse to end it as the marriage of Montague's son and Capulet's daughter. — Black Humor
If so, it is perhaps the most literal application of Poor Communication Kills; they might themselves have been unmotivated to continue the feud, but they may not have realized the other felt the same.
Isaac Asimov thought so, too (Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare), and thought the whole "secret marriage" thing is unnecessary and comes from Juliet's romantic delusions. I disagree. Capulet is very, very much attached to his plan to give Juliet to County Paris - he gives an angry and heartless speech about how he's throwing her out into the street if she doesn't marry the man he's promised to give her to. And given that he's portrayed as quite choleric...no, I can't see him swallowing his pride, telling Paris it's all off so he can give her to his enemy's man and try to patch things up. (That's why I think Paris is highly necessary to the plot; and the situation really would be enormously different if he weren't there.) Also, in this play, Shakespeare stereotypes almost all the Italians as proud and hot-blooded...so that it takes a heartrending tragedy, and not just a reasoned speech by somebody, to make them lay down their feud. (I think the Zeffirelli film gets this aspect exactly and brilliantly right.) - Alberich
Asimov is wrong. Why would Shakespeare — who was a master of his craft, of both characterization and Conservation of Detail — have our first impression of Lords Montague and Capulet be of two old men sporting for a fight, egging on their servants instead of calling them off, and dueling in the street, only for his intention to be "they're harmless old geezers, their blood has cooled off, looking for a reason to end the feud"? This is an Establishing Character Moment. The Prince, a Reasonable Authority Figure if ever Shakespeare wrote one, doesn't say that they must discipline their servants, he says that they will be put to death if they continue the feud. The Feud is alive and well, and the pressures against Romeo and Juliet's relationship are very real. - vifetoile
And after writing that, it occurs to me - if Friar Laurence's plan had worked the families might not have patched it up at all. Each would've felt disgraced by the actions of its own child and their wounded pride might've driven them to attack each other even more - after disowning both children, just as Capulet has threatened to do to Juliet, and maybe even having them murdered. And at long last I see why Paris has to die, a point which has confused me for many years. If Paris lives, Capulet is more concerned about family pride and disgrace ("Sorry, I promised her to you, but I'm so weak a patriarch that she managed to get hitched to someone else without my knowing it"). That would have kept him in a fighting mood (wounded pride is best cooled in blood). Paris being dead, that isn't in play, and Capulet is left only with his grief - which is great enough to make him lay down the feud for real. Since all that just occurred to me, I'm opening that fridge too often. - Alberich
This Troper was trying to explain to a friend why she liked R&J, and figured out the actual aesop: extremes of anything, whether extreme love or extreme hate, are stupid, because they cause you to lose sight of reality in favor of zealotry.
One comment from this Thug Notes video nailed it for me, singling out what you mentioned as zealotry in the play:
Nah man, their tragic flaw is obsession. It's not a whole "pure love" thing, it's pure obsession, which we can see right away as Romeo was head over heels before he met Juliet, in which, he was head over heels all over again. Juliet plays right into this as well. Instead of being calm or rational through anything, they both be cray cray. Killing oneself over a lover's death that you met like, three nights before, is not anything romantic or powerful. Straight up obsession, the both of them.
The gang problem with their family is still very much so a problem, but like you mentioned with the whole "opposites", its because everybody is just so extreme, like Romeo and Juliet's obsession with one another.
This is a problem of not meeting half way on anything. Romeo and Juliet eventually did meet half way, as they're from opposing families, but in the end, they still couldn't stop themselves from being Us against Them, only this time it was Romeo and Juliet vs. the world. - KrissLucia
Romeo and Juliet are continually referred to as teenagers on this page, but it should be remembered that the concept of "teenager" or someone in an intermediate age between childhood and adulthood is a rather modern one. In the past there was no long transitional period, and both Romeo and Juliet would have been seen as adults, albeit young ones.
Romeo was doomed either way because Rosaline is a Capulet too.