Saturday, November 28, 2015

Classics Club 21: Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet is surely one of Shakespeare's best-known plays, even if it is arguably not one of his best.

Romeo and Juliet meet at a party that he has gatecrashed and fall instantly in love. However, they soon discover they can never be together because their families are effectively at war with each other. Further complications abound. They decide to marry secretly. Romeo accidentally kills a member of Juliet's extended family and is banished from the city . Meanwhile Juliet's father is forcing her into a marriage with Paris.

It is at this point that one of Romeo's trusted friends and advisors concocts a plan. Juliet will drink a potion that will make her appear dead for 42 hours. Romeo will  find her in her tomb where she will come back to life. Presumably both sets of parents will then consent to the two living happily ever after and somehow Romeo's banishment will be overturned. Let's just say the plan was a little lacking in detail!

This is a tragedy and things go horribly wrong. Romeo doesn't get word of the plan but he does hear that Juliet is dead. He goes to her tomb and in his grief kills himself. She awakens and finding him dead....well, it isn't a tragedy for nothing.

It may sound bad to confess to enjoying a tragedy but I did - even if as the mother of a daughter similar in age to Juliet I found myself wanting to shout "Don't do it"  on more than one occasion! I could comment negatively on the characters. Both Romeo and Juliet were foolish, over- emotional and fuelled by lust. And as for the adults in their lives? What kind of father would force and manipulate his daughter into marriage, what responsible adults would act the way the nurse and Friar Lawrence did?  I could criticise the plot line - over the top and unbelievable, filled with bawdiness and sexual innuendo. I probably should comment on the imagery such as light versus dark and the themes (the young paying for the sins of the old, the different kinds of love and what sins we commit in the names of each of them). I could even draw lessons from the play that would be applicable to day. Teens, don't let lust stop you thinking before you act. Parents, don't push your teens away and deny them a voice. Look what happened when Juliet's father did that.

Instead I'm just going to say that I enjoyed the play as a whole entity and to recommend it to others. Since its plot line is so well-known I think it makes a good first play for those who haven't read Shakespeare previously.

1 comment:

  1. My daughter is rehearsing Romeo and Juliet right now, with our local youth Shakespeare troupe, with performances coming in a couple of months. She plays Friar Lawrence. She is finding it a pretty amazing experience — we've had such good mother-teen talks! (Including her 13yo brother).this past summer she was in A Midsummer Night's Dream, which also has all sorts of questionable actions and innuendo and whatnot. Overall, an excellent experience, tho' not for the faint of heart. I've never acted in the plays, only read them, and as Literature, I do think it is such a good thing to do so ....