Romeo and Juliet: A tragedy of lasting popularity

ROMEO AND JULIET deals with two teenaged lovers in Verona, Italy, who are caught in a bitter feud between their families, the Montagues and the Capulets. Though beautiful and a sad story, it has left many wondering about the extent of the power of love.

ROMEO AND JULIET deals with two teenaged lovers in Verona, Italy, who are caught in a bitter feud between their families, the Montagues and the Capulets. Though beautiful and a sad story, it has left many wondering about the extent of the power of love.

William Shakespeare was born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, a market town about one hundred miles from London. Shakespeare probably wrote Romeo and Juliet in 1595 based Romeus and Juliet by the English author Arthur Brooke.

Romeo, a Montague, and his friends are uninvited guests at a masked ball given by the Capulets. At the ball Romeo meets Juliet, a Capulet, and they fall in love at first sight. The couple is secretly married by Friar Lawrence. After the wedding, Romeo meets Juliet‘s cousin Tybalt, who tries to pick a fight with him. But Romeo refuses to fight his new relative. To defend the Montague honour, Romeo’s friend Mercutio accepts Tybalt’s challenge. As Romeo attempts to part the young men, Tybalt stabs Mercutio to death. In revenge, Romeo then fights and kills Tybalt. As a result of the death of Tybalt, Romeo is exiled from Verona and he has to go to Mantua.

During one night before he leaves for Mantua Romeo watches Juliet on the balcony outside her bed room he sighs:

“See how she leans her cheek up on her hand!

“Oh, that I were a glove upon that hand, That I might touch that cheek!”      Juliet’s father tries to force her to marry her cousin Paris, unaware that she is already married.  To allow Juliet to escape from her father’s demands, Friar Lawrence, who is a priest, gives Juliet a drug that puts her into a death like sleep for 42 hours. This man of God honestly and sincerely does this in order to help poor Juliet after being rebuked by her parents. On the eve of Juliet’s supposed second wedding to Paris, the friar sends a messenger to the exiled Romeo to tell him of the drug, but the messenger is delayed. Romeo hears that Juliet is dead and hurries to the tomb where she has been placed. There, he takes poison and dies by Juliet’s side. Juliet awakens to find her husband dead and stabs herself. The discovery of the dead lovers convinced the two families that they must end their feud.

Romeo and Juliet are described as a pair of star-crossed lovers. This description suggests that their tragic down fall was influenced by the position of the stars and planets at their birth. Their situation is also ordinary: young lovers coming into conflict with parental authority.

Despite its sad ending, Romeo and Juliet is an entertaining play, full of bawdy humour, sword-play, vivid characters and passionate love scenes; they feel a lot of passion for each other. It is love that is reciprocated.  Juliet once stood on the balcony, calling out to her forbidden love lingering in the shadows:

“O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?”

The love of Romeo and Juliet is strong enough to overcome hatred, transform prejudice, and shatter the will to live. They both lived and died for love.

The play offers a sophisticated view of passionate love- both sympathetic and critical.

Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy of lasting popularity in which Shakespeare seems to blame the tragedy of the young lovers on the blind self interest of adults. Few authors have proven as timeless as William Shakespeare. Nearly four centuries after his death, Shakespeare’s plays are still performed around the world and he continues to inspire writers, film makers and other artists. Shakespeare’s fame, many have suggested, will live with us forever.

The writer is an educationist  and publisher

 

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