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Romeo and Juliet isn't stupid, I guess

By J.A. HaglJanuary 17, 2017

Sir Joseph Noel Paton Romeo & Juliet
Sir Joseph Noel Paton Romeo & Juliet Sofi/Flickr

I’ve always hated Romeo & Juliet. Hate is a strong word, but so were my feelings. Romeo started getting on my nerves in Act I when he is wallowing over Rosaline. His poetic description of her beauty is juvenile and his love is simply a projection of puppy love he read in some love poem. My eight-grade-self most definitely rolled my eyes five scenes later when Romeo instantaneously falls in love with Juliet and forgets about Rosaline. My annoyance increases when he kills Tybalt and then peaks when he drinks the poison. If Romeo would just chill out for a minute, his entire life would be very different.

 

If Romeo would just chill out for a minute, his entire story would be very different.

Maybe it was the harrowing 80’s rap of Romeo and Juliet we listen to in 8th grade AP English that intensified my hatred. It was nothing like Hamilton. It felt like listening to your very uncool dad try to rap his original lines— emotionally traumatizing and uncomfortable.

More likely, it had to do with my perception of their love. An appreciation for Romeo and Juliet hinges solely on a reader’s perspective on the authenticity of their love. It's quite possible that they are two very fortunate characters that managed to find true love in four days. On the other hand, it's equally possible that the star-crossed lovers were simply two hormonal teenagers without sufficient adult supervision or common sense.

But I concede to the Bard. Not because he’s managed to terrorize high school students for at least since 1774, which in itself is an achievement. Shakespeare, in either a sincerely beautiful or nonsensical love story, manages to highlight the exceptional irrationality of humans. 

 

Shakespeare, in either a sincerely beautiful or nonsensical love story, manages to highlight the exceptional irrationality of humans. 

You know how Romeo sneaks into a party he doesn’t belong? Then follows it by sneaking back into private property to gaze at some chick he just met? Then kills his now wife’s cousin for revenge? And then drinks poison over his not-so-dead wife? Imagine the story of if Romeo is level headed. What if he stopped to think things through?

It took more than a decade to realize that Romeo’s impetuous actions were driven by a depth of feeling that humans are incapable of rationally dealing with. At some point, the sweet pitter-patter of a new love— or any new feeling— develops into an uncontrollable fire. It’s a motif in Romeo and Juliet and it’s a motif in life.

Even if love is the best emotion where irrationally breeds, large doses of anger, pride, and fear can spin a person into absurdity. Quick to the draw and quicker to their death, most of the characters succumb to pride and anger over a feud no one really gets. Bodies pile up because overpowering pride and anger fuels the Capulets/Montagues’s resentment. The general animosity displayed by the characters exemplifies human interactions from high school cafeterias to world politics. Very rare is the intensity of the action or reaction justifiable.

That’s why the stars fated doom for a love or infatuation so strong that leads to a passionate double suicide and murder. Reality is created from our reactions and the consequences that occur. From the absurdity of Romeo and Juliet’s love story, produces the importance of finding the rationality when swimming in irrationality. If occasionally, people whould stop for a second and think, life would be very different.