Romeo and Juliet
By: William Shakespeare
The city of Verona, torn apart by the violent feud between the families of Montague and Capulet, is a powder keg waiting to explode; the Prince of Verona, seeking to restore order, has declared any breach of the peace punishable by death. But for the young Montague Romeo, and his lover, the Capulet Juliet, the enmity of their families is immaterial. Meeting in secret, the two lovers gradually spiral towards disaster as their respective families edge closer towards open warfare.
Everyone knows about Romeo and Juliet. I don’t even remember when my first encounter with the story was–it was sometime in elementary. I’m pretty sure I also read it before I studied it in Grade 11 English (I owned the Woodworth Edition of this play and Hamlet (review). Felt pretty boss at the age of 14). Anyway, since I was reading a lot of Shakespeare lately, I figured it was a good time to revisit the play in earnest, lend my thoughts in a review to complete my posts 😛
One of the first impressions that came to mind as I was reading this play was how well-written this play was, perhaps one of the most well-written I’ve read from Shakespeare. Everything just flows in this play, you can feel the emotions and the weight carried through the dialogue. People groan about Romeo and Juliet and the whole love at first sight business and how quickly their relationship moved, but they have some of the most romantic and poetic lines that I’ve read in all of Shakespeare’s works. I suppose as the most well-known romance of his works, it has to be, right?
Moving along, as a story and the structure of the story, it’s pretty solid. All of these characters, the conflict between the two families, the lack of and miscommunication, the personal interests and clash of personalities, it was bound to all speed up to the great tragedy. I was quite struck at how distinct most of the characters are in the play, from the nurse to Mercutio who just loves to talk and talk to crazy Tybalt. Gosh, Tybalt is such a hothead, his temper is practically steaming off the pages. I can never read his lines without imagining John Leguizamo in the role from the 1996 adaptation (sorry, Michael York) but omg did he do the angry/crazy/flair for the dramatic really well in that movie. I suppose much of the humour came from the lower level men (Balthasar, Gregory, etc.), Mercutio, and the Nurse? I’d love to see a production that really taps into the funnier elements of the story; the adaptations for the most part have been fairly serious, haven’t they?
The characters of Romeo and Juliet were especially interesting. I agree with whoever said it on tumblr that Juliet was a very proactive character; you see her taking things into her own hands, making decisions, find her way out of a tight situation (namely her parents wanting her to marry Paris when she already has a husband (albeit a secret one)). Romeo’s more of the dreamer, much like Orlando from As You Like It (review) with his idealised notions of love hand-in-hand with the superficial elements of infatuation. But my thoughts that Juliet was the stronger of the two seemed confirmed later in the play when Romeo’s banishment was announced; he seemed to fall apart then and there, forgetting for a moment what Juliet must be going through (losing her husband and her kinsman in one fell swoop), while Juliet was thinking about Romeo at the same time as grieving for Tybalt. Oh, and to reinforce Romeo’s role a bit further, interesting choice to death: poison over the blade? Sure, it was an act of desperation that Juliet went for the dagger in the end, but it seemed fitting with her personality.
On a random note, like before, I felt rather bad for the Prince, having to deal with the feud between the two families that was upsetting the peace of the city. That and I forget that Mercutio and Paris were his kinsman, so that sucked too.
This play gets quite a bit of rap these days I think for so many reasons–or am I just encountering a lot of cynicism lately?–but Romeo and Juliet as a play and as a story is pretty solid. The references to death are pretty rampant in this play, if you don’t remember that it was mentioned outright at the start how this story was going to turn out. Love and death just seems to go hand-in-hand here (just like the song from The Stills (my favourite song from them, by the way, I recommend giving it a listen)). The only scene that seemed out of place here was the bit with Peter and the musicians towards the end of Act IV, Scene 4; it just went on and on needlessly and added nothing. Overall, I’m glad to have revisited the play.