“Some shall be pardoned, and some punishèd. / For never was there a story of more woe / Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.” – William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Love and hate, joy and tragedy, the beginning and the end. And on this past Wednesday, our class has met the end of Romeo and Juliet. But what did I think about it?
Well, not only was the play entertaining, but the character’s were shockingly unique with floods of interesting quirks for such an older piece of writing. The simple turn of phrases and minimal actions were able to create complexity in simplicity. In fact, I think that these ideas produced the core message of the play we, as a society, see today.
The first questions that our class came up with relating to Shakespeare and Romeo and Juliet related to love. The definition of true love, whether love is blind, and whether people can even find love at first sight. But one of our most interesting questions, to me, was the topic of danger. What could you sacrifice for love? Though directed to us, and perhaps a bit too in-depth to describe in this post personally, I realized how prominent this idea was in the play after reading the entire story. The play’s characters were all twisted around sacrifice, but all in different ways. Romeo and Juliet had their famous deaths by suicide, sacrificing themselves for love in the most final decision they could have. Mercutio and Tybalt sacrificed themselves for the love of their loyalty, leading to a death by not their own hands but inadvertently by their own minds. Even the Nurse and Friar Lawrence followed suit, not by ending in death, but by sacrificing their good judgement to further the journeys of young love.
Where does that idea go with other character’s, then? The one’s that did not seem to support anything (much less sacrifice themselves) appeared as either a blank slate or too self-centered to ever sacrifice. They became awed creatures in the background, part of the crowd. Maybe that’s the point.
Take for example the Prince. While he was supposedly concerned with keeping the peace, he took a lost role in the play. And while yes, this may relate to the idea of the Prince playing the role of the chorus, his character still emits emotion and a presence. Thus, when confronted on page 241 with the idea that he didn’t intervene enough, he declares, “And I, for winking at your discords too, / Have lost a brace of kinsmen. All are punished.” Last second, the Prince realizes and admits to his mistakes. He has the realization he did not care enough. His worries were not strong enough to sacrifice his uninvolved facade to stop the feuding.
I even think that this lack of theme relates to what I mentioned in my previous post on Romeo and Juliet, wherein I said that I’d be watching for things that aren’t quite there. So, when one says that the world may be at fault for the countless fates of those in Romeo and Juliet they aren’t wrong, per se. In fact, my last post had quite the wide circle of blame. But it wasn’t the world, exactly. It’s far too easy to blame countless citizens without a strong purpose or point behind it.
I’d like to go a bit beyond the blame in my last post. Why is the familial society exactly to blame, anyhow? They did a lot to cause other to fight, sure, but why? I’d say the exact same reason that Romeo and Juliet died. A relation to sacrifice and a refusal to compromise. But instead of sacrificing for love, Capulet and Montague are sacrificing their willingness to compromise for no other reason than hate. Thus, what can be the effect of having no love and yet seeing it bloom bring besides tragedy?
At the same time, Romeo and Juliet can be said to not compromise either. Juliet can’t will herself into marriage so much so that she fakes her own death. But can you really call it teenage rebellion like some have? Helen Fisher, in a report we watched in class, had an entire study dedicated to love. She regarded where love affects the brain, and that one of the areas affected is, “associated with wanting, with motivation, with focus and with craving. In fact, the same region where (she) found brain activity becomes active also when you feel the rush of cocaine.” Her report had no focus on the difference of teenagers or adults. From young to old, Helen Fisher focused on the entirety of what you experience in love.
Hence, when you realize that anyone can act so wild when knee-deep in infatuation, there is no rebellion occurring. Romeo and Juliet are only people who have fallen in love in the wrong situation. They had not meant to, and yet fell into a world with only a path towards disaster. And such, it seems, is the core of Romeo and Juliet. Not only will the world spin in strange ways, demand sacrifice, and do so much more, it’ll make you fall in love.
Thank you! And if you would like to see more, please check out the following links.
- Experience more Romeo and Juliet with this list of movie adaptions of the story, with brief summaries.
- Check out the Helen Fisher talk mentioned in this post!