Title: Romeo and Juliet
Author: William Shakespeare
Published: 2016 (originally 1595)
In my last review of one of Shakespeare’s plays, Macbeth, I said: ‘I think I’ll have to say that I enjoy Shakespeare’s tragedies more than the comedies.’ Although I had a premonition about Romeo and Juliet, I still hoped it would turn out to be a favorite as well. Unfortunately I was a little disappointed in the play that is perhaps the bard’s most well-known tragedy.
For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo!
I don’t think I say too much when I summarise the story as: Juliet and Romeo fall in love, marry and eventually die, thereby solving their families’ feud. The story is so universal that an acquaintance of mine even mistook it for a story from the Bible. Yep – not a lie. Although the story of the forbidden love wouldn’t feel anywhere out of place next to the Song of Solomon, the tragedy isn’t that old. The 16th century play is one of Shakespeare’s very first and is one of the few that has a love story at the centre of it.
Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear –
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear.
It might be exactly this reason that leaves me relatively unmoved by the story. Although I do not necessarily dislike books with romantic elements or romance stories, I do need a solid foundation to appreciate it. That is perhaps why I enjoy Shakespeare’s tragedies more than his comedies (generally speaking, then). I have enjoyed A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night, but mainly because those stories didn’t rely on their romantic thread too heavily. Don’t get me wrong: love is a very important theme in these plays, but they are good because they’re witty and fun and playful – not because the romantic story line is very well worked out. Romeo and Juliet on the other hand, relies almost solely on its romantic plot. It does touch on the subject of family and revenge, but that only functions as a backdrop for the tragic love story.
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet
Romeo and Juliet fall in love instantly and marry the next day. I understand that it being a play requires a quick character and story development, but this is just too quickly for my taste. There is absolutely no foundation for Romeo and Juliet’s love whatsoever. Then again, some people do ‘fall in love’ instantly, but this is not ‘love’ but ‘infatuation’, something that can eventually grow into love. So if a story deals with two characters who fall in love instantly and with that the author means the one true love, then I’m out. You’ve lost me. It’s just not believable. Too bad that the reader’s ability to believe Romeo and Juliet’s love story makes or breaks the play.
Needless to say that I wasn’t very much impressed with the story itself. I did enjoy reading it, but only because of Shakespeare’s language. Three stars it is! Fingers crossed that Othello or King Lear will be better …