I had quoted “To thine own self be true,” which made me think about all the insights on human nature that can be found in Shakespeare’s works.
Centuries have passed and yet his work is still relatable. His characters are familiar. When I read his comedies, I laugh. His tragedies break my heart. I remember sitting in my inner city high school, reading Taming the Shrew. Someone asked what the title meant and I told them. “Keepin yo bitch in check.” After that I’d sit in class every day doing a ghetto-fab retelling of what I’d read the night before. When I say Shakespeare’s work is universal, I mean it.
So as I was reading Romeo and Juliet, I thought to myself how people regard this relationship as an example of pure love. How some even consider it an epic romance. I don’t see it that way at all.
As I’ve stated before, Shakespeare was a man that knew what he was doing. He understood people down to their core. That’s why his stories have thrived for centuries. Notice then how Romeo and Juliet starts with Romeo in love with some other girl. And not just in love, but Bella-staring-out-the-window-for-six-months-because-Edward-left-her in love. He’s establishing the kind of person that Romeo is, even the friar calls him on it when he says:
Young men’s love then lies not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes...And art thou changed? Pronounce this sentence then: Women may fall when there’s no strength in men.
So instead he falls for Juliet, a girl about to be pushed into an arranged marriage. Oh yeah, can’t see a girl wanting to rebel from that one. “Mom, Dad, sorry, I can’t marry your Top Pick, because I’m madly in-love with the first name on your Hellz No list.”
Perfect love? They have all of what? One conversation before they decide to get married? Two nights together before they decide they can’t live without one another? And why do they die? Because of a slow messenger. Their death wasn’t some beautiful act of love. It was preventable and pointless. That’s what makes it such a tragedy, because it was such a waste. Romeo and Juliet were young, passionate and stupid. But fifteen is the time to be passionate and stupid. That’s why kids have parents, so they can be passionate and stupid and not die from it.
But the parents were too busy growling at each other to wonder what their kids were up to. At the beginning of the play the Montagues see their son in distress and what do they do? They send in their nephew to find out what’s wrong with their son. And the Capulets don’t want to hear anything from their daughter but “I do.” If either of those kids had been able to talk to their parents there would have been no play.
So while some people see Romeo and Juliet as one of the greatest romances ever written, I see it as a cautionary tale on parental responsibility.