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Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespear
My Evolution With Romeo & Juliet
When I first heard of the story of Romeo & Juliet, I expected some princess fairytale with an ending like Titanic’s. I expected what was always expected, a beautiful, rich young girl who wasn’t satisfied with her life to fall in love with a man her parents didn’t approve of, a peasant or the like. I thought that the whole fuss about Shakespeare was the well-known ending of the story, and I would say to myself that I’d understand why the ending is such a big deal if I ever read it.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I first picked up the script.
I immediately fell in love with all of the characters. I fell in love with how decent Benvolio was, how old-fashioned the Nurse was, and how stressed the servants always were. The old language was a bit of a struggle at first, as it was for everyone. In one of my early journal entries, I wrote that ‘just as I began to understand Romeo & Juliet, I was hit by a scene that made me scratch my head at every line.’ But after practice, I understood it most fluently and looked forward to its comprehension challenge. I feel like the use of Old English in this story is what added most of its charm.
A lot of the time, the question that was discussed in class was whether Romeo and Juliet were truly in love or not. My English teacher boldly said that it didn’t matter. That stuck with me for a while. I remember worrying in one of my journal about whether or not ‘the love the characters share is real is enough to make the events believable.’ But I now see that everyone thinks they’re in love at one point, especially teenagers. Every time you fall for someone, it feels like love, even when it isn’t. But, then again, what is love? Does love have to be real for it to be felt? What about that special moment when you feel like sparks are flying? Isn’t that love? It doesn’t have to be real, or serious, or relevant, and it can be over the second you look away, but for that moment, you’re in love.
In that case, I’ve been in what I thought was love quite a few time. As I watched Juliet fall for Romeo, I couldn’t help but relate it to things I’ve been through, like those flawless weeks at the beginning of a relationship before the fighting starts, or those few glances you throw at a breathtaking stranger and for a split second, he catches your smile. You just feel something warm and bubbly in you, and that’s a feeling of love.
Romeo and Juliet are the perfect example. They fell so deep so fast without even knowing each other all that well. The last time Romeo and Juliet saw each other alive, Juliet was a child and Romeo a romantic gadabout. Juliet never heard Romeo’s wise thanatopsis and Romeo never saw Juliet mature into the valiant woman she became. Romeo was infatuated and Juliet was dependent. That’s how they knew each other. I guess that they, like all humans, have a tendency to fall in love with pretty strangers.
Romeo recites my favorite of his lines when he has only met Juliet, showing how he was already head over heels for her after their first meeting:
‘What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief
That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she.’ (2, 2, 2-6)
I feel particularly close to Juliet. Maybe it’s the whole teenage-girl thing. Maybe it’s the whole first-time-in-love thing. Maybe there is no real reason. But what I adore most about her is her transition from girl to woman. It all began when Juliet had what seemed to be her first (and only) serious fight with her father. All girls want to stay daddy’s little girl and be perfect in their eyes. He is the only man a girl can trust. I can’t imagine how hurt Juliet must have felt by her father’s disapproval of her.
People should to be more specific when the say ‘Juliet’. There is no ‘Juliet’. There is a Juliet, an innocent, clueless child, and Juliet, who was independent and mature. This first Juliet gave me the impression that she had awoken in sheets of silk every morning and had spent her evening’s beautifying herself for her daddy’s dinner parties. This other Juliet was mutinous, and after falling into a rebellious love, she seemed to have become her own person. Juliet exclaims:
‘Tell me not, Friar, that thou hearest of this,
Unless thou tell me how I may prevent it.
If in thy wisdom thou canst give no help,
Do thou but call my resolution wise…’ (4, 1, 50-53)
I love Juliet here. This, as a reaction to her fight with her father, is what seemed to unfold her. I felt her lose her patience. She didn’t want to be married to Paris, she didn’t want her father to insult her, she didn’t want her Nurse to betray her, and she definitely didn’t want the Friar to convince her that he knew what she was going through when he didn’t. I feel like this is when Juliet sees that she’s been living in a cage, that she had been given everything so that she would never know anything else, but was finally seeing what it truly important.
But I sometimes felt drained in the story because of how slowly we were moving through it, and at one point in a journal entry, I wrote that ‘I am not feeling as anxious as I thought I would about the scenes’, but that was long forgotten after I began reading the next and final act where all loose ends were tied. It’s amazing to think that even though we knew about the tragic ending, Shakespeare was still able to brainwash us and turn the couple’s death into a heartbreaking surprise.
This book is going to join the books that I keep on the lowest of my shelves, the ones that are picked up much too often for them to be forgotten somewhere on the top. I don’t want to conclude by saying that it was the most creative thing I’ve read, or my new favorite, because that’s what I say after finishing every book I read, so I’m going to say that Romeo and Juliet is a beautiful story that I really enjoyed, and that no one but Shakespeare was ever able to create such empathy in me.