After having a long argument with my teacher about how terrible Romeo and Juliet is… and how it isn’t true love… she decided to make it an essay assignment… I just wish she had made the word count higher… and even though she said it was “Bosh, balderdash, stuff and nonsense” I still got an A… so I figured it was worth sharing… hopefully I’ll help convert a few more to my cynical ways…
Romeo and Juliet: A Dark Obsession
Romeo and Juliet is perhaps the most well known play by William Shakespeare. Most readers consider it a beautiful yet tragic love story. There are even countless romance novels that refer back to Romeo and Juliet as an example of true love. Nevertheless, when one gives it a close inspection the idea of this being about actual real lasting love seems rather preposterous. There appears to be nothing to actually back up the idea that this is the kind of relationship that if given a chance would’ve made it past the honeymoon stage. It is instead merely two teenagers filled with lust and a bit of unhealthy obsession that leads to a disturbing and regretful end that honestly should never be synonymous with love in any way.
From the very beginning, Romeo’s feelings are called into doubt. He begins the play being in love with another woman, Rosaline. He is in complete and utter despair because she won’t love him back. He seems practically suicidal then with the words, “Griefs of mine own lie heavy in my breast… I have lost myself; I am not here;/ This is not Romeo, he’s some other where.” (Shakespeare 1013). He’s crying over Rosaline, so sure that no one but her can make him happy, and that her refusal to return his affections will be the end of him. From those passages alone, one can see him taking to a bottle of poison without ever having met Juliet. Then he goes to the Capulet party and sees Juliet for the first time and suddenly he is in love again. The only difference is that Juliet is naïve enough to fall for him, where obviously Rosaline had sense enough to stay away from this obsessive stalker.
Juliet is certainly a naïve young girl, who is hoping to run away with a handsome guy rather than be forced to marry Paris. She isn’t even fourteen yet, and though the customs of that day are different, even her father sees she’s not old enough to make a commitment. This helps paint the picture of her emotional state as being nothing more than a bit of puppy love for Romeo. All either of them see is a pretty face, feel a flash of lust, and the chance to perhaps make a choice for themselves instead of following their parents’ wishes. A splash of rebellion and they want to call it love. After all, they meet briefly at a party, and then he comes hunting her down at her window at night. This isn’t a healthy relationship. Especially considering that when he kills her cousin Tybalt she just forgives him, and even thinks poorly of herself for even thinking bad of him for the brief moment when she hears the news. “O, what a beast was I to chide at him!” (Shakespeare 1029) and with those words she changes her tune and will only speak well of Romeo. And if he truly cared for Juliet wouldn’t he have thought how the death of her cousin might affect their relationship.
Romeo is an obsessive, impulsive youth, who appears to be hunting for a girl willing to be dragged down with him. It is no surprise that this play ends in his suicide, when it opens with him already bemoaning his life; the true tragedy is that he took Juliet with him. Juliet was merely looking for an escape from her life, and as Mark Twain said, “There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.” However, that desire is in no way love. This is the sad tale of sick fascination and gullibility, and should never be considered a great romantic play.
Shakespeare, William. “Romeo and Juliet.” The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. New York: Avenel Books, 1975. Print.