I’m sure all of us have been subjected to this play in high school, so naturally it was going to appear on the list. However, after reading several other plays, and seeing the evolution of Shakespeare’s style, I can appreciate the play so much more than before.
Now, the idea of love at first sight and getting married within a day or two of meeting is a bit much, especially since Romeo was head over heels for another woman, moping and whining about her until he saw Juliet. Made me wonder how long the marriage would’ve lasted in fidelity if they’d lived if his eye’s turned that quickly.
That aside, few out there won’t know the story of Romeo and Juliet, but they’re the children of two families that’ve been feuding and hating on each other (the reasons why aren’t clear, probably not even to the patriarchs anymore). Romeo is a Montague and Juliet is a Capulet.
I’m not going to bother summarizing; because I’d rather focus on a few interesting tidbits.
If there is anybody out there who hasn’t read the play, seen the play, or watched any of the dozens of film/ tv/ theater adaptations regarding the “star-crossed lovers” and what the strife between families led to, then I’m hoping like hell you get mail delivery to that rock you’ve been living under. And close your little virgin ears because there’ll be some major spoilers.
The version I’ve been reading has a few extra tidbits I don’t remember from when I was in high school. I’m sure some of the bawdier stuff was taken out or fudged a bit (though it’s still tame by today’s standards). The banter between the Nurse and Mercutio, and her question to Romeo are pretty fun to mull over.
NURSE: I pray you, sir, what saucy merchant was this that was so full of his ropery?
ROMEO: A gentleman, Nurse, that loves to hear himself talk, and will speak more in a minute than he will stand to in a month.
–Act 2, Scene 3
Maybe I was trying too hard to get through it the first time to realize what all was implied in some of the banter in places. The comedic moments are worth the hasty romance story.
A few things struck me about this play, namely how complex the relationships were between family members and people around them. Several people duel and are killed, and each death brings about new complications to the plot. One fight leads to duels between the houses punishable by death. Another leads to Mercutio’s death by Tybalt, then Romeo getting revenge against Tybalt (and banishment), then Tybalt’s death leads to hastening Juliet’s marriage to her longtime suitor, Paris, etc. The actions are well thought out in this play, and when things don’t go according to plan, the results are…well, you know.
Some things struck out at me as far as the enmity between the houses. The first act has Montague servants basically egging on Capulets to fight, and then the old men are anxious to get in on the action. But then, there’s the party the Capulets organized, and Romeo is spotted by Tybalt, who wants to fight him. But Capulet says not to worry about Romeo, that apparently he’s well thought of and isn’t starting anything, so don’t bother him.
I thought as bad as things were between the houses, how Romeo was allowed to stay. Of course, I bet it wouldn’t have lasted had he known Romeo was falling head over heels for Juliet!
You know, part of me wanted to know more about two particular people in the Capulet side. I wanted to know more about Tybalt, and what his deal was with every Montague and why he was so dangerous. They refer to him as the “prince of cats” or “king of cats” several times, and I still don’t quite get what that all means…though another re-reading today and some googling might help.
And though he’s dull as hell from what I can see, part of me wants to know more about Paris. I mean, he seems to be clueless that Juliet’s not really interested in him, or maybe is indifferent to him. I know he thought she was dead in the last Act, but it made me wonder: if he hadn’t died fighting Romeo in the vault, and Juliet had awakened before that death, what would’ve been going through his mind?
I have a feeling Paris’ ego would’ve been badly bruised, knowing the woman he counted on to be his wife would rather feign death than be married to him!
I forgot how quickly the events go in the play, really rapid fire once you get past Act 1. Worth a re-read for a short foray into the world of Shakespeare that’s not quite so difficult to get through.
Happy reading/reminiscing with your favorite version.
**I snicker every time I read the full title of this play. I can’t help it. I keep hearing Bill and Ted say “most excellent” the way only they could…
Now I dare you to try to unhear that while reading the full title. Ha!
One thought on ““The Most Excellent** and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet,” from The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works, by W. Shakespeare.”
This is great, maybe you should teach these questions to 14 year olds? They’re great things to think about. Secondly, I remember kind of understanding it but then a few years later I went back to it and thought, aw Jeez this is actually so real life. Reading Shakespeare was like “reading a different interpretation of it” again (if that makes sense)? Haha. I think after reading this I will have to go back to it.
I was surprised how holey the plot was in retrospect. But at the same time that’s what made reading it again far more enjoyable because I was finding myself imagining the possibilities. I definitely was more engaged the second time round and asked similar questions. Well that’ll go on the reading list now and I will have a think of the same things you have! Thanks 🙂
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