You’ve all heard about this book/play before, and if you haven’t read it yet, sooner or later your teacher will make you read this word-famous play. But don’t dread reading this wonderful work of art. Despite the fact that it’s written in an archaic language and set in a rather alien world, it still remains very relevant today, which is why people are still reading and discussing it to this very day.
Romeo and Juliet, as you probably know, is the story of two star-crossed lovers who come from two noble families of Verona, Italy that have had a vendetta for so long that nobody remembers why anymore— and since this is 13th century Italy, and the Renaissance only just started, it’s quite a medieval world, where people often died before 40 and marriage for girls at around 13 was quite common in that part of the world. Romeo is a Montague, which means that his parents are nobles but not as rich as the Capulets, Juliet’s family. What they do have, however, is genuine love, while the Capulets have more than enough family drama to go around. Romeo is passionate and a very eligible bachelor, but also rather impulsive and melodramatic. Juliet is quite smart and beautiful, but has been taught to be passive and agree with her parents her entire life, not thinking for herself. Romeo is “recovering” from being rejected by Rosaline, who was “the love of his life” and “brighter than the sun”, before he spies Juliet at a Capulet masquerade and forgets all about Rosaline. Later that night, Juliet and Romeo confess their love for each other and vow to get married. As you can see, it really is divine love at first sight.
Unfortunately for these two, they have to keep their affair a secret from everybody but the ones they know they can trust. Romeo and Juliet get married not even a day after they first met. But an unfortunate twist of fate leads to Romeo exiled and Juliet’s father forcing her to marry the noble but extremely uninteresting Count Paris, not knowing that she is already the wife of Romeo. Juliet takes great risks to avoid having to marry Count Paris, fooling her parents into thinking that she is dead by drinking a potion, and the plan almost works out, but due to a misunderstanding and an undelivered message, Romeo believes that she is dead, and ends up killing himself. Juliet awakens from her comatose state and sees Romeo’s corpse, and then kills herself too, before the two families arrive at the scene and finally end their feud.
While this story would be more disturbing than sweet if it took place today (a 13-year old and 17-year old getting married hardly a day after they first met, then killing themselves?), it is still very much a very well-written romantic story, and not for nothing is it known to practically all of the literate world. Definitely read The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, and watch one of the many movie adaptations also to see it played out.
The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.