Who Was To Blame in Romeo and Juliet?

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is often considered to be the ultimate tale of romance – two children of warring families meet, fall hopelessly in love, and commit suicide in a woeful twist of fate. However, fate itself has quite little to do with the actions undertaken by the two lovers throughout the play. Though the tragic events of Act V, Scene III of Romeo and Juliet are often attributed to the two lovers’ distinct lack of luck, the blood shed at the end of the play is truly the fault of one character: Friar Lawrence, the trusted adult who both Romeo and Juliet turn to in their time of need, only to be led astray.

Despite knowing the potential tragedy that could follow, Friar Lawrence nevertheless encourages Romeo and Juliet in their wish to wed, not because he wants to see two young lovers be happy, but because of his own desires. Though the friar appears old and wise, he does not dissuade Romeo from his course, for the friar does not seem to particularly care about Romeo’s happiness – he has an underlying motive. He later tells Romeo that he will consent to wed the two lovers not because he believes in the true love between them, but because he wants to end the feud between their families. 

The marriage between Romeo and Juliet eventually leads to ruin, when Romeo is exiled from the city and Juliet is being forced to marry Count Paris. To avoid this, Juliet visits Friar Lawrence and desperately begs him for a solution to the problem. Friar Lawrence concocts a plan, in which Juliet will fake her death to both avoid marrying Paris and reunite with Romeo in Mantua. This plan is infamously imperfect. For one, the entire plan hinges on Romeo being aware that Juliet had faked her death before Friar Lawrence retrieves her from the Capulet tomb. Unfortunately, the exact opposite occurs, and, in his grief, Romeo commits suicide. Juliet, upon waking to Romeo’s corpse, stabs herself and dies.

The irony of the play is that, in the end, Romeo and Juliet’s deaths, not their marriage, is what ends the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets, which was Friar Lawrence’s intent all along. Friar Lawrence, supposedly the wise and reasonable adult of the play, ends up being the most blameworthy character, both because of his deliberately neglectful and ignorant words and actions in regards to the lovestruck pair, as well as his continual promotion of his own overarching agenda. 

All in all, while it may appear that the tragic events of Romeo and Juliet can be solely credited to the cruel hand of destiny, the true blame for the two lovers’ deaths lies in the hands of Friar Lawrence, the trusted adult who leads Romeo and Juliet into a situation from which the only escape is death.

-Mahak M.

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: For Kids by Thomas C. Foster

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: For Kids is exactly its title.  I, however, found that I had a difficult time enjoying the book.  Because I am what you may call a “Do it Yourselfer” I like to develop my own practices and ways of going about things by experiencing the world for myself. I would rather teach myself how to paint rather than take lessons from a professional in order to develop my own unique style.

In the same sense, when reading, I analyze it my way. Foster may think that he is merely helping young readers learn to see the signs in literature that lead us to understand it for themselves (though had that been his true intention the title of his book might have been something like How to Read Literature For Yourself) but in reality, he is molding young minds to see literature as he does. The way that I see it, the more people who read this book, the closer we are to a dystopian thought process.

Literature is an art form, much like painting, music or drama, and should be treated as such.  Foster subtly suggests that it is, in fact, an equation that can only be solved one way, his way, such as a computer program. Of course, like anybody would, Foster denies this, claiming that he is only showing you that the signs exist. If this were true, he could have written a persuasive essay instead of a book about what these sights mean. Somebody reading this book is obviously struggling in the field of English. Does he really expect them to have the ambition to interpret the sigh an on their own? No, they will simply take his word for it. If Foster says pasta is a protein, they will blindly believe it.  Being an outspoken advocate for individuality, this book struck quite a chord with me.  I think that everyone’s own ideas are beautiful and that symbols don’t always mean one thing, that we should have conversations about what a work of literature means to us, not settle on one theme.  The quarrel over a scene’s outcome, not just accept the way it turned out to be morally correct if you feel that it is not.  We must stay true to ourselves and our view of the world based off of our morals, not let our minds be re-arranged to match others.  On a more positive note, I must amend Foster on the wide range of books, short stories, etc. in which he uses as examples to express his thoughts.  After reading this book, I found numerous new titles to explore.

If you are familiar with the works of Rick Riordan or John Green, you will find that Foster’s writing style and tone reflects there’s.  Perhaps this is for the audience he presumably is addressing, which the book recommends for 8 to 12-year-olds.  Some may be exasperated by my comparing of these authors to one who wrote a book aimed at that age group, so allow me to elaborate:  Foster writes in a laid back, childlike manner in order to appeal to the age group as Riordan and Green write in a laid back manner, because, well, the characters that tell their stories are still (to some extent) children.  I am not trying to poo-poo that style of writing, I am merely making a comparison.  If you are attracted to that style, you may find this book a refreshing alternative to the likes of Call of the Wild or Oliver Twist (not to cast shadows on those either).  

Calling all Hermiones:  You’ll have a field day correcting some of Foster’s mistakes about Greek Mythology.  I would not go as far to say that I know everything about everything when it comes to Greek Mythology, after all, there is probably still more crumbling under the weight of the ruins that lay atop them like a crown.  However, I know enough to know that Foster either got a few points wrong, or one of us took a wrong turn in our time machines back to Ancient Greece.  If you are a free thinker: never read this book, ever.  It is a waste of your time and your beautiful mind.  If you could use a little help in the good old subject of English, you may find this book informative.  Either way, like any book, take it with a grain of salt.  

-Ainsley H. 

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: For Kids by Thomas C. Foster is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Essay: A Tale of Two Cities and the Conditions Before the French Revolution

In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens uses diction to adopt a tone of pity toward the social conditions of France during the period before the French Revolution. At the beginning of the novel a barrel of wine spills, and the people are depicted as having “devoted themselves to the sodden and lee-dyed pieces of the cask, licking, and even champing, the moister wine-rotted fragments with eager relish.” The use of the word “devoted” implies that the poor do not have the freedom to eat when they want, as once the wine cask breaks, everyone quickly drops what they are doing so that they can get a few drops of spilled wine off of the street, and they are so desperate for food that they are not letting go of the fragments of wood. Using the words “champing” and “eager relish,” Dickens demonstrates how, although it was just wood, people still excitedly bit and chewed it with enjoyment and delight, attesting to the fact that the peasants of France are so poor and starved that they have to resort to chewing on rotten wood to get a few drops of wine for nourishment, something that someone who might be even marginally better off would not have even thought of doing.

Later on, Dickens describes how “Hunger was the inscription on the baker’s shelves, written in every small loaf of his scanty stock of bad bread”. The word “scanty” to describe the baker’s stock of “bad” bread emphasizes how there is not enough food for the peasants (which eventually led to the peasant women marching to the palace and taking Louis XVI back to Paris), because although it is the baker’s job to supply the people with food, even he does not have a full larder. The fact that the baker has bad bread demonstrates that bread, which was the staple food of the French diet, is running out or is not being consumed, because the baker does not have enough supplies or resources to make fresh bread as a result of no one being able to buy the bread in the first place. These examples serve to highlight the tone of pity Dickens adopts toward the condition of the peasants in France, as they are reduced to scavenging for food and are not able to sustain themselves, and implies that they had a good reason to rebel. The author’s words serve to highlight the reality of the peasants before the French Revolution, which helped me understand to a greater degree how bad the situation had been, as opposed to just reading the facts in a textbook or article.

-Aliya A.

Essay: Odysseus’s Dangerous Ego and Pride

odyssey_homerIn “The Odyssey,” a epic poem, translated by Robert Fagles, Odysseus represents an archetype that resonates in our culture today. I believe that Odysseus represents an archetype of a hero. Odysseus was well-known for being the King of Ithaca, his wife Penelope, occupied the suitors for many years while Odysseus went to fight at Troy. I believe that Odysseus is a hero but not an ideal one and that we should not accept his heroic conventions because many of his actions throughout the story make me believe the fact that he is too harsh at many times.

Odysseus’s actions in Book 22 represent show his cruelness to others. For example, when Odysseus trapped and killed the suitors, which is completely understandable, he also forced the maids to clean the blood and then he killed them. The maids were completely innocent, even though they sided with the suitors, they didn’t have a choice and at that moment there was no other choice then to listen to the suitors. I believe that the way Odysseus treated the maids, even after they betrayed him, was cruel and harsh and that this represent the merciless attitude of Odysseus.

Another good example of Odysseus’s non-heroic conventions is in Book 9, is when Odysseus stays to see the Cyclops, Odysseus just wants to brag about having a gift from the Cyclops. If he either stole some food, as his men persuaded him to, or just leave without food, lives would have been saved. Many men were murdered by the Cyclops because of Odysseus’s pride.

Throughout the story, Odysseus is on a journey, and his wife, Penelope, is at home keeping the suitors “occupied.” In many oppurtunities, Odysseus cheats on Penelope, which doesn’t represent and heroic attributes because honesty is one of them. Odysseus cheats on his wife many times with Circe and Calypso. Even though Odysseus was “unhappy” with Calypso, he was forced to sleep with her at night, but I’m sure he didn’t complain too much about being forced into it. To add on to Odysseus’s dishonesty, “Odysseus stayed with Calypso for seven years.” In modern times cheating is much more serious, the act of it, even back then, is nothing to be proud of and does definitely not represent honesty.

1280px-Odysseus_und_Penelope_(Tischbein)

Odysseus and Penelope by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein

Another notable example of Odysseus’s non-heroic actions is when after he stabs Polyphemus, the cyclops, in the eye, he ends up escaping but Odysseus shouts back to the cyclops giving away his position and almost causing the ship to wreck. A hero, puts others in front of him, Odysseus put his ego and pride over his men on the ship, almost causing the death of his men to occur. His cockiness and selfishness is proven throughout the poem to be dangerous to others affiliated with him.

A trait that all heroes should have is humility. Odysseus doesn’t have any of humility. When Odysseus and his men are reflecting upon their escape from the Cyclops, Odysseus shows his true-self. “Did I not keep my nerve, use my wits, to find a way out for us.” (p.776-777) This shows how Odysseus is unappreciative of his men and that he thinks is the sole reason of success. Thinking that you are the best and everyone else is nothing compared to you isn’t the way the hero should act or think in front of his men.

Throughout the story, Odysseus proves that he is a ruthless and lying person. First, when Odysseus makes the maids at his house clean the blood and then kill them, that shows his ruthless trait. Second, when Odysseus wants to brag about a gift from the Cyclops, thats shows his big ego. Next, when Odysseus cheats on his wife, Penelope, with Circe and Calypso that represents his dishonesty and disloyalty, especially when he is “forced” to stay with Calypso, for seven long years, while Penelope is busy occupying the suitors to help Odysseus. Lastly, Odysseus shows that he has no humility when he tells his men that he is the sole reason why they escaped from the Cyclops. These traits do not represent a hero in any way, that is why it make my opinion to be in assurance that Odysseus is not a hero and that we should not accept his “heroic conventions,” because they are quite far from being heroic in many ways.

Works Cited

Homer, The Odyssey, Trans, Robert Fagles, New York: Penguin, 2002, Kindle.

“Odysseus | Greek Mythology.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.

-Satej B.