Because a lot of people have never actually read the thing. Popcultural Osmosis
at its most irritating; All they know is that it's about a couple that fall in love and are prevented from being together.
- But if you'd actually read the play, and study Shakespeare, then you would know that Shakespeare meant for Juliet and Romeo to be truly in love with each other... He makes sure you know that. Repeatedly. The play isn't just about two stupid teenagers who want to bed each other... It's about two young lovers who're kept apart due to senseless violence; and that's the point: violence is senseless. In the end, he makes it quite clear that they truly were in love and that the hatred and anger between the two families was the cause of their death. We all know Shakespeare can be macabre, and he would've made the audience know that the lovers were at fault, had they been in his eyes; in his eyes, THEY got the happiest ending, because they got to be free from the Earth and the heated violence there, in death, where they can be together, untroubled, eternally.
This Page should have its title changed to the full title of the play: "The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet"
Why doesn't Juliet wake up before Romeo killed himself and they run off together?
- Dramatically speaking, the play has to end with a tragedy so awful that it persuades the hot-blooded feuding Italians to lay down their quarrel and make peace. If Juliet runs off with Romeo, and Paris lives, both families are angry and disgraced and full of wounded pride. This is especially true of Lord Capulet, who has to explain to Count Paris (1) that he can't keep his promise to give him his daughter, (2) because he's such a weak patriarch that he can't even control a teenage girl in his own household. There'd be a happy ending for the two kids, but the two families would probably disown them, might put a contract out on them, and in their rage might fight each other twice as hard.
...so at one point in the play Romeo has been banished to Mantua, and Juliet has been as good as kicked out of her house by her father because she doesn't want to marry Paris. Friar Lawrence's solution is for her to go back to her father and beg forgiveness, then fake her own death so that she can then run away with Romeo to Mantua. Now, here's a thought: why didn't she just run away to Mantua then and there?
I mean, there is no reason at all why they should bother with the whole faking-death scheme: all it will do is introduce a gajillion different complications which could make things go horribly wrong (which they do), and the end result (Juliet leaves everything behind and runs away to Mantua to be with Romeo) would be exactly the same either way. So what's the point, other than Because The Plot Demands It?
- Juliet wasn't kicked out of the house, just yelled at and lectured and almost hit like any headstrong teenaged daughter. She had to have her Nurse tell her father she was going to the Friar's under the guise of confessing her disobedience; there's no need to make excuses for leaving when someone has kicked you out. That said, if Juliet ran away while she was engaged, her family and Paris would no doubt search for her, and given their means, money, and connections, would have good chances of finding her. Faking her death would ensure they wouldn't launch a manhunt for her that would end with her being dragged to the altar by her hair. (Given how things turn out, we can see that her and Romeo's chances for survival would have been better under those conditions, but they couldn't have predicted that.)
- If she'd openly accepted her father's offer of leaving the house and went to live with her new husband, what are the odds that someone with the same mindset as Tybalt would call out a hit on Romeo?
- One in one, because the mom sends out a hit on Romeo anyway.
- There's also the fact that Juliet was literally seconds away from killing herself. Friar Laurence was probably just saying the first idea that came to mind to stop her.
- What Friar Lawrence was hoping for was an end to the feud and peace between their families. Juliet running away to Mantua would enrage the Capulets against her, and the Montagues against Romeo. But if Juliet was thought dead amd restored to life, her parents would be overjoyed and welcome Romeo as a son in law, which would end the feud and restore Romeo to Verona.
Why do the Montagues and the Capulets hate each other so much?
- Probably a minor economic dispute that spiraled out of control.
- Doesn't the story say that nobody knows?
- They're rival mafia families.
- Close, they were rival yakuza.
- Okay... that is just plain cool!
- "From ancient grudge break to new mutiny..." It's one of those family feuds that probably started over something stupid, and now the origins have been long forgotten. Neither family is really in the right.
- They don't really hate each other that much. Take a look at Lord Capulet's lines at the party. In fact, take a look at everyone except Tybalt between the beginning and Tybalt's death. It's pretty clear that the only person who really believes in the feud is Tybalt. (Of course, this means that if Romeo and Juliet had been open about their relationship this whole time, nothing would have happened.)
- If only Tybalt believed in it, why were a whole bunch of Montagues and Capulets fighting in the streets at the start?
- Those were servants, not family. I find it helps to use the (flawed but reasonable) analogy of a bunch of freshmen getting into a spat for a school rivalry that the older grades always talked about but never bothered with, beyond the occasional "harmless" prank.
- But the second that both Lord Montague and Lord Capulet arrive, they personally demand swords and try to kill each other.
CAPULET: My sword, I say! Old Montague is come,
And flourishes his blade in spite of me.
MONTAGUE:Thou villain Capulet,—Hold me not, let me go.
- If you want to find rational and cool-headed, both of their wives demand the fight end, but the men? They HATE each other. Lord Capulet says later to Paris that it is not hard for old men like he and Montague to keep the peace, but twenty minutes before, they were going to stab each other to death.
- The men were probably spending most of their free time fighting each other in their youth, before they had to take command and hold the feud to get on with important business. They probably can't wait to have some fun trying to kill each other again. And Tybalt seems borderline Ax-Crazy.
- If I recall correctly, one family was Guelf and the other Ghibelline. They were on opposite sides of a power struggle between the pope and the holy Roman emperor.
- Many people cite the fact that Lord Capulet restrains Tybalt from attacking the masked Montagues during the party as evidence that Lord Capulet doesn't care about the feud. I refute that: Lord Capulet had just been told that very afternoon, in no uncertain terms, that another brawl would result in his execution. He's got every reason to lay low. Besides, it's a party, and the Montagues aren't stirring up trouble yet; there's no need to make a pre-emptive strike and ruin the evening. Even at the end, when they're leaving, his reaction is basically a very unenthusiastic "Oh, you're going? No. Please. Stay. Okay, bye!!", whereas before he had been a marvelously gracious host.
- He doesn't simply restrain Tybalt, he goes out of his way to praise Romeo's reputation and say that he seems to be a good boy:
And, to say truth, Verona brags of him
To be a virtuous and well-govern'd youth:
I would not for the wealth of all the town
Here in my house do him disparagement.
- The (subtle, but present) implication is that the feud is actually taken much more seriously by the hotblooded younger generation than by their elders, and that the elders (while not immune to it) are looking for a way to bring it to a close.
- Alternately, he's looking to his own reputation. Romeo's got a very good reputation in Verona, and Lord Capulet doesn't want to make himself look bad by tossing out the town's golden boy for no good reason.
- Exactly. And Capulet is portrayed as having a strong sense of honor. He is not only showing gallantry and hospitality, even to a man he might kill in other circumstances, and avoiding an unpleasant scene that would spoil the mood for his other guests, but asserting his own authority (as head of the family) over Tybalt, who has just proposed the contrary. ("Who is the master here, me or you?")
- Well, I think it had something to do with an incident involving noodles.
- I had personally assumed the feud's origin was intentionally left unaddressed — that way, the audience wouldn't get caught up in taking sides rather than simply watching the play.
- With no real reason for this feud, it makes Mercutio's death more tragic, which he himself realises, hence why he curses both the Capulets and Montagues. He knows he's died for nothing.
- I don't know about you guys, but looking at it from the outside, I find it kind of hard to buy the orthodoxy of "They've been fighting for so long they've forgotten why." How do we know they don't just have competing economic interests? Maybe they've just been fighting for a long time over the banking and trade industry in the city.
- That sounds like a very good explanation for how the feud started. If you analyze violence deeply enough, you find that every fight is over some sort of resource.
- Also Shakespeare was fine with national stereotypes. In this play, he portrays the Italians as having hot-blooded, Latin temperaments — so that it takes a serious tragedy, and not just the passage of time, a threat from the Duke, or the force of reason to cool them down. (I think that's why it's important for Shakespeare not to have stated the basis of the quarrel...if it's a hereditary Guelph/Ghibelline thing, or a squabble over a piece of land or something, then the tragic deaths in the play can't cure it because they don't end the underlying problem.)
Why on Earth does the Friar randomly run away in the last act after just seeing Juliet waking up and seeing Romeo and Paris's bodies — precisely when she is at her most vulnerable, as he himself had recognized earlier — on such a dumb pretext as him hearing a sound and getting scared by it? I know that having a (up 'til now) sensible Friar around to stop Juliet from using her "happy dagger" would kinda ruin the emotional torque, but still...
Why, after her father told her to marry Paris 'or else', didn't Juliet simply tell him she was already married? What horrible fate would have befallen her for giving a reason she didn't want Paris to "make [her] a joyful bride"?
- It's the middle ages. Considering how you could have gotten hung for extramarital sex, how do you think they would react to you marrying someone behind everyone's back? Plus, even if I don't really know the social stigma around secret marriages, it's clear no one would argue with what the father chooses to do at that time, and he probably wouldn't like her actions...
- Getting married to a guy from the despised rival family who'd recently killed her cousin? Her father would have probably had a heart attack.
- Though that would resolve that problem if he had a heart attack, considering the medicine in the middle ages.
- It was an illegal marriage. In the Renaissance era, a precontract of marriage, what Juliet had with Paris, had all of the binding of a real marriage. People were able to get out of inconvenient marriages if they could prove that the partner had a precontract with someone else that had never been officially terminated, making the marriage void. That's how Henry VIII got out of his marriage with Anne of Cleves. If she had brought it up, it would have escalated the problems of the feuding families to untold heights because Romeo had tricked Juliet into an illegal marriage while she was betrothed to someone else and had deflowered her, making it near impossible for her to get a respectable marriage.
- Actually, there was no precontract, just a proposal. However, the age of consent in Elizabethan England was 21, meaning you can't get married without parental approval until both people are 21, so it was still illegal.
- Except Romeo and Juliet takes place in Verona, Italy...
- All of Shakespeare's plays, no matter where they're set, really take place in England, and are meant for an English audience to understand.
- Yes, even if Shakespeare himself did the research, he knew full well that most of his audience couldn't. Trying to play Shown Their Work straight would only have befuddled the peasants, so Shakespeare didn't bother. (And that's assuming that he actually did the research himself - there's no reason to believe that he did.)
I know it's brilliantly written and whatever, but why does nobody pay attention to the fact that this WHOLE ENTIRE STORY takes place over the course of about a half of a WEEK?
- It's a common failing with Shakespeare plots: look at Othello, where there would seem to be two separate time schemes working at once (we really need an Othello page!) It's odd, since the source material occurred over a few months, but this seems to highlight several points: 1) Our lovers are reckless teenagers, more likely to fall in love overnight; 2) How long (realistically speaking) would they be able to keep their marriage secret? 3) It makes more sense that Romeo would kill Tybalt straight after Mercutio's death, and of course he's banished straight afterwards; 4) It has to be a short space of time for the Friar's drug to work ... OK, other factors like the plague breaking out and Capulet doing a 360 turn to let Paris marry his daughter are less explicable, and fit more within a long range timeline. Let's chalk it up to the fact Will had to write to a deadline. If your company has to produce a certain number of plays per season, things like plot and sense can fly out of the window. He would never have expected the play to last past his lifetime, never mind have tropers picking at it on the Net hundreds of years later.
- Of course Capulet's decision to let Paris marry Juliet could happen realistically in a short while. The movie Romeo + Juliet has him be drunk as a lord out of grief for Tybalt's death, which leads to him impulsively deciding to hand her over. It also explains why he gets so furious at her, since she refuses the marriage while he's still drunk and upset.
- Also, what does it matter that it takes about a week? Some full doorstoppers take place over a few hours, and some short stories take place over years.
- A play is a lot like a movie. It's only a couple of hours long and it needs to keep a fast pacing to get through everything in time. Introducing long time breaks between scenes would require some way of establishing that time has passed (dialogue, narration, etc...), lines used to explain what has happened in the interim, break the feeling of continuous action and plot developments, and so on. So what movies and plays often to do is take some Artistic License and let relationships (both romances and friendships) develop unrealistically fast in order to cram all the important stuff in.
- It's probably worth noting that in Arthur Brooks' Romeus and Juliet, the poem from which Shakespeare took the story, the events took place over the course of several months.
Why do productions often take out Paris's death, but leave in the Prince's comment about losing "a brace of kinsmen"?
Can they not count to two?
- Most likely, they were just trying to save time.
- They probably don't know that "a brace" means "a pair." Even if they do, it's an easy line to overlook, buried among all the Shakespearean style dialogue.
- Huh. That line always sailed over my head — I thought he said "abrasive kinsman," acknowledging that Mercutio was, at least partially, responsible for his own death as well.
Why couldn't Juliet have just asked to wait to marry Paris?
She could have just made an excuse that she needed a few more weeks to marry Paris or something of the sort without yelling at her father (thus making him angry and forcing her to marry him) and in that span of time she could have left for Romeo.
- She doesn't yell at him or anything. Her dad comes in, asks his wife if she already told him about the wedding, and her mother says yes, and that Juliet is thankful but will not get married. Capulet immediately goes bananas, clearly implying with his questions that he thinks Juliet is an ungrateful little brat, and Juliet's attempt to appease him does no good. She probably didn't think he was gonna react that way, and I doubt any excuse she could have come up with would have made a difference.
- She does ask to wait — "Delay this marriage for a month, a week" — but it only makes her dad angrier.
Wait a minute...
I have two issues with the couple's wedding night. First off — nobody hears these two? Nobody even comments on any mysterious sounds coming from Juliet's bedchamber. Oh, and they spent the whole night together and, instead of running off together somewhere to live their lives, just have some sex. Brilliant move, kids.
- In regards to the second part, see "It is not a romance" above. The story is about two horny teenagers who "fall in love" after meeting and throw their lives away over what basically amounts to lust. In other words, Shakespeare wanted them to be this stupid. That was the point.
- The plan was for Romeo to hang out in Mantua until the Montagues and Friar Lawrence could convince the Prince to pardon him, at which point he would have been reunited with Juliet. Juliet running off with him immediately would have ruined that. As to the sex...come on, this was their wedding night. I don't think even the most prudish would object to them wanting to get one night together.
- He was in no danger at Mantua. If they'd gone there together, they could have had all the nights/days/afternoons they pleased with nobody to bother them.
- Yes, but if Juliet had run away with him to Mantua, that would have completely ruined any chance of their marriage ending the feud and instead become yet another reason for Montagues and Capulets to kill each other. Friar Lawrence was still hopeful that once tempers cooled over the latest incident, he would be able to get Romeo a pardon and find a way to get the Capulets to accept the marriage.
- Nobody heard them because the Nurse is on their side - a la Shakespeare in Love. She could come up with something.
Does anyone else feel really sorry for Paris?
Everyone else in some sense caused his/her own death. Romeo and Juliet were suicides. Tybalt went around starting so many fights that he had to have had the life expectancy of a goldfish. Mercutio, while not as hot-headed as Tybalt, still started the fight that killed him. Paris, though, fell in love with a girl and courted her in the way his society found acceptable. Then, after she died, he tried to arrest a known criminal who was breaking into her tomb. Hard to see why he deserved to get skewered.
- I feel sorry for him, though that may be due to the fact that I played him in a production once. But it's also interesting to note that at the end of the play, almost none of the characters even acknowledge his death. Granted, the families are grieving for their kids, but Capulet seemed to have a certain fondness for the man earlier. Ultimately, the girl Paris was hoping to marry cheats on him, then apparently dies; when he goes to her resting place to grieve, he finds the man who killed his friend, who kills him, and all anyone can do is mope about the tragic death of his killer.
- That's the point - Paris was a good guy who just wanted to marry Juliet and in no way deserved his fate. Romeo himself realizes this and grieves over his body. I always saw the death of Paris as symbolic of how crazy and out of control the entire situation had gotten.
- I agree with that, but I think it has an additional, important dramatic purpose. Paris is in the play to explain why they can't get Lord Capulet's permission to marry and end the feud: he's promised her to his friend, and a noble friend at that, and can't lose honor by going back on his promise. If Paris is alive after the children die, then Capulet is at least half worried about the loss of honor, since he couldn't control his daughter and now can't giver her to him the way he said he would. With Paris dead, there is no room for wounded pride (of the kind that leads to "honor killings" even today) but only grief. And that grief is what makes the warring families finally end the feud.
Romeo + Juliet, head vs. heart.
Why did Juliet shoot herself
in the head instead of the heart
? Was it some sort of commentary about... something, or was it just that people usually don't shoot themselves in the heart?
- Well, these days we all know that emotions actually happen in the brain rather than the heart, so... maybe it is still symbolic?
- Thinking about it further, perhaps the symbolism is that their love wasn't from the heart, because they rushed into their relationship (although that probably demands Juliet shooting herself in the vagina, but perhaps that's TOO symbolic.)
- Yes. Suicide by shooting in the heart is sufficiently uncommon for it to have been a plot twist in a Lord Peter Wimsey novel.
- Uh... Juliet stabbed herself. Also, a brain injury means that you're out of your misery immediately. A heart injury means that you get to remain conscious while each and every one of your cells starves. Juliet was already miserable and just wanted the pain to end.
Romeo and Juliet's ages
- In modern productions, both of them will be around 16-19 (or older), but in the play, Juliet is 13-14 and Romeo is only a little older. Why? Is it to stop the Squick factor?
- I would imagine partly for the squick factor, yes, but partly because Shakespeare is pretty tough material; there are probably not many thirteen-year-old actresses capable of handling it, if there are any at all. Plus, there's the general tendency of stage performances to cast child/teen roles with actors several years older than the character is supposed to be.
In the 1996 movie, Romeo + Juliet, why does Juliet just sit there and watch Romeo die?
Romeo is thrashing around for about 5 minutes after Juliet wakes up. She's awake and rational enough to figure out that he's taken poison. So why doesn't she do something about it: induce vomiting, scream for help, run for a phone and call 911, anything? Instead, she just watches him die while planning her own suicide. It makes her creepy.
- It would make it more realistic, but less tragic. Also, she was probably panicking from it and still a bit woozy from the poison she'd taken.
- He's hardly 'thrashing around'. Also, she sees him drinking the poison and probably twigs that there is absolutely nothing she can do about his impending death. Remember 'if you had the strength of twenty men, it would dispatch you straight.' Inducing vomiting would make it worse; screaming for help, running to a phone? She's supposed to be DEAD! Also, 'Romeo. Is. Banished!', so anyone she could get to for help probably wouldn't be too happy to see him.
Why didn't Juliet just ask to deliver the poison to Romeo himself and then run away with him?
- Okay, Juliet, you tell your mother that you're upset over Tybalt's death when you're really crying over Romeo's banishment, and your mother offers to send someone to poison Romeo; you say you say you want to mix the poison yourself, then Mommy Capulet announces your engagement to Paris and you decide to let the cat out of the bag about Romeo. Let me explain this to you slowly; you could have said you wouldn't feel right about being married when your cousin's killer lives, then run off with Romeo and live happily ever after.
- Yes, because people routinely would send 14-year-old posh girls to assassinate people, and would have just let her go on her own. That makes a ton of sense.
- Great plan. Too bad Juliet never even considered it. Lots of mistakes are made because people don't even realize that there's a better way to go about their business, let alone actually come up with a better plan.
- She's a posh 14-year-old girl! She's not supposed to have Machiavellian planning skills in the first place! This is kind of the point of the entire play!
Why did Balthasar tell Romeo of Juliet's death?
Their love was secret. No one knew about their relationship other than themselves and Friar (and the Nurse, if I recall correctly). To anyone who didn't know about their previous encounter, why would they think Romeo would care about a random girl from Verona dying?
- Because Romeo asked for news of Juliet. What does Romeo have to lose by having his servant know?
- It's shown later that Romeo is not above threatening to kill Balthasar, so perhaps he scared him into keeping the secret.
Why is Romeo allowed to love Rosaline but not Juliet?
He tells his friends that he loves Rosaline, but he keeps it a secret when he falls in love with Juliet. However, they're both Capulets.
- a) Mercutio and Benvolio tease Romeo endlessly about being in love with Rosaline; Romeo feels that it's actually serious with Juliet this time (well, more serious than Rosaline, anyways) — "He jests at scars that never felt a wound" — and decides not to bring it up in case they start in on him again. Friar Laurence ends up doing it for them, though.
- b) Rosaline is a Capulet, but Juliet is the head of the family's sole heir. Romeo is screwed if he openly admits anything.
- It's debatable whether he would actually have been screwed. The play goes out of its way to show that Lord Capulet had heard good things about Romeo specifically, and had a good opinion of him — whether this would have extended to marrying his daughter is obviously a different question, but given that the heads of both families had plenty of reason to want to end the feud, it's not totally impossible, either. It's very possible to read the secrecy and cloak-and-dagger planning of everyone in on the secret as another form of folly.
- Ah, yes, because allowing someone to attend your party without attacking them is obviously on the same level with "I would let you marry my daughter." Seriously, this reading that the old family is doing whatever they can to end the feud, I think it's projecting something onto the text that wasn't there.
Why don't they just come out and say they're married?!
- Because the Montagues and Capulets were enemies? Because Juliet was already arranged to be married to Paris? Because they're idiots? Pick one, the play was pretty clear about it.
- They ain't idiots. Either of the first two reasons are good enough to make anyone hesitate before making such an announcement, especially after Juliet sees how her father totally blows his top when she asks him to delay her wedding.
Be some other name than Romeo.
Yeah, I just don't get this. I mean, isn't the 'Montague' part the problem here?
- It's implied in the context. For example, people who mention "Bill" when talking about Hillary Rodham Clinton are usually referring to Bill Clinton and not some other Bill.