Going into reading Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare, I was fairly narrow-minded. I was well aware of the story portraying two young star-crossed lovers, forced to hide their love for one another due to their warring families. I was also familiar with the seemingly unrealistic concept of love-at-first-sight, which appears to only occur in movies, television, or literature. I thought of Romeo and Juliet as a played-out love story (although, to be fair, it likely wasn’t played-out at the time), that uses *instantaneous love* as a cover for two teenagers who were physically attracted to one another. Additionally, I felt ill-at-ease knowing that schools were teaching millions of easily influenced youth a story that romanticizes suicide, due to the era we are living in. Although I still don’t agree with the ending, or the message it portrays, many of my opinions have changed regarding the characters, and the connections with our world.
Although I see their rapidly escalating relationship, early marriage, and premature suicide as a reflection of the characters’ immaturity, I no longer believe it’s based on lust. Romeo and Juliet both made quite large, incautious and conclusive errors. However, I believe they were in fact in love. It’s difficult to grasp that idea, because I find the story to be so unrealistic. However, their connection is demonstrated through several passages, interactions, and their overall characters.
Juliet’s kindness, innocence, and desire to please others is quite stereotypical, but is so for a reason. These qualities lead me to believe that she not only loves easily, but is loved easily. Romeo’s character is almost mirrored in that sense, which we can see through his love for Rosaline, directly prior to his sudden love for Juliet. Combined, these two characters form a couple of hopeless romantics, which could be a cause for their powerful and instantaneous connection. Nevertheless, this doesn’t minimize how the characters feel about one another. Romeo and Juliet are both strong minded, determined people who would do anything for love, which did not end in the best way for them. Regardless, I like their characters individually, and even more as a couple. Through reading and watching Romeo and Juliet, I could feel their connection. I wouldn’t say that it’s something that I aspire to, but it feels genuine, which is admirable. I also sympathized with their characters very strongly, because all they wanted was to be together, but that was taken away due to miscommunication. They were willing to run away from their high socioeconomic standings and family names for each other. This sincerity alone, along with everything else, justifies my anger regarding the ending.
Learning about Romeo and Juliet has allowed me to realize how far our world has come, and how different it was in the 16th century. Women were completely controlled by the men in their life, whether that be their fathers, or their husbands. Not only that, but they were expected to marry so young, usually to someone much older. Juliet was only 13 years old when she was expected to be married. Our world has different issues facing women today. However, I’m thankful that gender equality has become a priority, and that we’re moving away from the mistreatment of women. This play is quite different to my world, which is a relief. Although I often say that I would love to have lived in a different time, I’m beginning to realize that I wouldn’t be overly satisfied with the past after-all…