Romeo and Juliet
Shakespeare wrote it and for about 9 years I had to teach it to freshman in a public high school, so if you want to know the basic story or how best to explain it to your 9th grade class let me spell it out for you in a language they can understand.
First of all, although this is known as a romance, this play is a tragedy. The prolog will tell you that it is a sad story with an unhappy ending, except for the fact that perhaps this most tragic occurrence will bring peace to the two feuding families of the Montague and the Capulet.
So here we go, as the play opens we find Romeo Montague who is a typical teenager searching for something he has never, as of yet, experienced and that is love. He has experienced rejection, which usually comes first. Rosaline has let him know she doesn’t want him and so he is moping around as if his world is going to end. His friends, especially his best friend Mercutio, tell him to forget about her and find a girl who is easier to approach or even just plane easy. His friends, wanting to help their buddy, take him to crash a party. The party is dangerous for them as they are going to the house of his enemy the Capulet. This party is supposed to be fun and get his mind off his troubles, but of course it will create an all new set of problems.
At the party he of course meets Juliet Capulet and, because they are star crossed lovers, he falls head-over-heals in love with her. She also has fallen for him, but because neither of them have any experience in the field of love they love with the reckless abandon of children, which technically they are as Romeo is only 14 and Juliet 13. With this kind of naive love they are ready to take on the world, but with their over all immaturity they will be unable to come out successfully or even alive for that matter.
After the party Romeo climbs the walls and breaks into Juliet’s backyard where he finds Juliet sitting on her balcony talking to herself about him. They chat a while and decide that, since this love is so serious, it’s time for them to get married. Approximate dating time of proposal 5 hours. The following morning, Juliet sends her nurse to Romeo to arrange their matrimonial meeting. With everything set up the two will meet at the Friar’s place and he will marry them, hoping secretly that perhaps the union could put an end to the fighting of the two families, but actually it’s going to lead to lots of bloodshed.
What the happy couple doesn’t know is that Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt is searching for Romeo his enemy. When they find each other Romeo is in a spirit of wedded bliss and not ready for a fight. Tybalt insists on one with Romeo’s best mate decides to give him. When Romeo steps in-between them Tybalt stabs Mercutio under his arm. He must avenge his best friend, so Romeo takes up a sword and kills Tybalt. Now the government is sick of all the fighting so the Prince of the land has declared that Romeo is banished from Verona. He can not imagine being away from his Juliet, but convinced by the Friar, he chooses to run, but not before he consummates his wedding vows with a visit to Juliet’s room (you know they have sex). Now he is off and escapes.
While he is gone Juliet proves to be incapable of dealing with all the drama and goes to the Friar for counseling. He has good intention, but never seems to know what to do, so he cooks up a potion for her to help her slip into a death like sleep. He will then hide her in her family’s tomb so that Romeo can come back and nab her and they can escape all the troubles of Verona.
It ends with a lot of bad timing. Romeo doesn’t get the plan, but instead hears of Juliet’s death. Being hot blooded and a child, he rushes back to kill himself and in death find a way to be with his Juliet. He drinks poison while looking at his fallen bride. She awakes just a few moments too late and he is dead. Not wanting him to die in vane, she grabs his kniffe and kills herself as well. Gee, isn’t it romantic? No folks, it is a tragedy and its theme was never love, but rather the absence of mature reason leading to calamity.
Now when people talk about the classics and elevate these stories with piousness, it’s really a little bit funny because doesn’t this sound like a soap opera?