Listen Jena, you might’ve seen this thing posted around Facebook, and I want you to rest assured; the lady on this e-card is wrong about Romeo and Juliet. Don’t be tricked by her sassy glasses or smart suit. Maybe she’s still frustrated about the D she got in high school English and is now taking it out on Shakespeare. So let’s look at this pink nonsense one step at a time.
First of all, Romeo’s and Juliet’s relationship did not cause six deaths. You might attribute three of the play’s deaths (Paris, Romeo, and Juliet) to their love, but the other three (Tybalt, Mercutio, and Lady Montague) are simply casualties of the old family feud.
Tybalt and Mercutio are killed in duels unrelated to Romeo’s love affair with Juliet. Neither Mercutio nor Tybalt even know about it. Then, when Romeo is exiled for killing Tybalt, Lady Montague dies of grief (she possibly commits suicide).
In fact, Romeo first refuses to fight Tybalt, saying instead that he now loves Tybalt better than Tybalt can understand (since Tybalt is Juliet’s cousin and Juliet is now secretly Romeo’s wife, Romeo considers Tybalt family). Romeo is so full of love for Juliet that he refuses to fight. Until Tybalt kills Mercutio, that is.
Hatred and violence between the two families was the norm. Just because those deaths occur the day after Romeo’s and Juliet’s secret wedding does not mean the events are causally linked. Surely no one would blame Jack and Rose for the Titanic’s 1,517 deaths just because they steamed up that car.
Romeo and Juliet ends in tragedy, yes, but so do lots of love stories. And if collateral damage cancels a romance, we’ve lost most of the good ones.
So what’s left of the pink argument? The complaint that Romeo and Juliet were so young (the play never states Romeo’s age, so seventeen is at best a guess), and they only knew each other for a few days.
Would E-card Lady consider it a love story if Romeo and Juliet were both over twenty-one, and had been paying their own rent for a while? What if they were just thirteen, but had known each other for years? Would that do it? In her opinion, must love harm no one, involve people of a certain age and take place over a leisurely amount of time, bereft of urgency? E-card Lady must love Leap Year, and she can have it.
Arthur Brooke’s original play, The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet, (that’s right; Shakespeare’s play is a remake) takes place over nine months. Not only did Shakespeare shorten the action for his version, he also made time a key theme of the play.
If I had sassy glasses, I’d take them off right now to punctuate this point.
The youth of Romeo and Juliet and the desperately short life of their romance are exactly what make this one of the great love stories. In its best moments, the play is not concerned with peace between the houses so much as it is outraged at the unkind ebb and flow of time.
Not once do Romeo and Juliet end an encounter on their own terms. They are always rushed, always interrupted, and then when they’re apart, they feel time drag its heavy feet. Romeo says that “sad hours seem long,” and Juliet: “in a minute there are many days.”
Later, when Juliet is in the crypt, just beginning to mourn her dead husband, she hears people coming, says “then I’ll be brief,” and kills herself. There is not even time for a proper Shakespearean “I am dying” speech.
E-card Lady implies that Romeo and Juliet did not have enough time together to merit a love story. But in the fifteenth-century, the average lifespan was about thirty years. Romeo’s and Juliet’s haste to marry is surely understandable, considering their lives were statistically half over, and actually already coming to a lonely end. What dying man wishes he’d found his beloved later in life?
I know you’ve heard that before, Jena, particularly just before we got engaged. Still, it seems E-card Lady should put those sassy glasses back on and read the play again.