Monday, April 5, 2010

'For never was a story of more woe...

...than this of Juliet and her Romeo.'

I was led to this article by another blog; it was published a couple months ago, but I just noticed it within the last couple of weeks. I have to wonder if the author, Andrew Trees, and I read the same play.

I think the article is a good example of someone missing the point-but still being spot on. His basic argument is that we have been misled by Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet; that by holding up their romance as the ideal, we've encouraged people to engage in hormone-driven romantic whirlwinds that can't and don't last. I guess no one pointed out to him that Romeo and Juliet is not a romance: it's one of Shakespeare's tragedies. Shakespeare never intended for those idiot children (and they truly are children, only between 13 and 17 years old) to be held up as the pinnacle of romance. It's a story about people making one wrong decision after another, after another, drawn out to it's logical conclusion: death and devastation for everyone concerned.

That being said, I do think people have let this version of love gain too much ground in our culture. Look at Romeo: he's head over heels in love with some girl who he can't be with, he'll never love again, how can he possibly go on, what will he do with himse-wait! Who's that girl over there? Why, it's his real true love! She's opened his eyes to how wrong he was about whats-her-name, this is who he's supposed to be with. And despite the fact that they have no way to support themselves, and absolutely none of their families' authority figures will bless this union, they elope and expect everything to be perfect. I wonder what they were planning to do when Juliet got pregnant?

I can understand why people today have a hard time coming to grips with the story's end. Today, if your family doesn't support your choice in a spouse, you can elope, wait tables or work nights to put yourselves through college, and you generally don't have to worry about being killed by the in-laws. In short, you have options. Not so in Shakespeare's world*.

It still doesn't mean the relationship will last. I once knew a man (somewhere in his 30s) who eloped with his girlfriend of one month in Vegas. Never met the wife, but sure heard a lot about how much they fought, how she didn't respect him, etc, etc.

I also knew a girl who reminded me of Romeo in a certain way. It was like she had a checklist in her head for men: same religion? check; same politics? check; has a plan for the future? check; and there were a few other less important things on the list, but once the major three had been met, it was basically a race to plan the wedding, plan the family, where they would live, careers, and on and on and on, until...something happened. Without fail, it would turn out that the guy was not as serious about the relationship as she was, or not ready to commit, or was a jerk, and she would be back at square one, except now she would be hurt, but that was ok, because there was always another guy around the corner. As far as I can tell she's grown out of this. I think the change mostly came about when she realized she needed to learn how to live independently before she started planning a life with another person.

Hmmmm. I'm not sure I really had a plan for this post, I just started rambling. I guess my point is I basically agree with Mr. Trees, except I think he needs to take some literature classes. Most people do, though (and history). Just about anything you could ever need or want to know about human nature is in the Shakespeare canon.

*But people don't really know much about Shakespeare's world, so they don't understand why it could never work (see: Taylor Swift's 'Love Story').

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