Monday, May 31, 2010

Romeo and Juliet: Romance or Satire?

Now, I think we all have read or watched some version of Romeo and Juliet at some point in our lives. I was never a fan of the play or the movies. The whole story seemed absurd to me and I began to believe that perhaps I was a soulless cynic. All the other girls thought it was romantic, was I missing something?

I've given this a lot of thought and come up with some answers.

1) I am, indeed, a soulless cynic.

2) I don't believe this makes me wrong.

My argument, let me show you it:

Shakespeare was a witty, ironic and sarcastic bastard (hence my love of him). I don't know that he really intended Romeo and Juliet to become the icon of true and fated love. To me it's more of a satire on bad parenting and young love (and in this case I think he portrayed it more as young lust and overactive hormones). Apparently, there were angsty emo teens even in Shakespearean times. Take note angsty emo teens that think you are so shiny and new: it has been done before and done better.

If you've read the play you'll find that Romeo and Juliet's parents are self absorb rich people that feud over the stupidest crap and mishandle their young and angsties consistently. They don't listen to what their kids are telling them and they don't pay attention to what their kids are doing. They just expect that because they said, "No. You will not see that boy/girl or go to that party/place and do that thing" that their kids are totally going to obey them and not question them. In short, they are poor parents that are asking for their kids to do something rebellious and stupid.

Then we have the making fun of the young love/lust. Romeo, you will find if you read the play, is a bit of a teenage player. He falls in love with a new set of female attributes every other day. And each time it's the end of life as we know it. He shall surely die if he cannot have his ONE TRUE LOVE (de jour). SURELY DIE. He gets all angsty, emo, suicidal, and mentally unbalanced when talking about his ONE TRUE LURVE at the beginning of the story and guess what, it aint Juliet. It's not until later that he abandons (trades up) his TRUEST OF LURVES when he spots Juliet. Juliet herself is a girl that is overly controlled by immature and selfish parental units that have decreed she shall marry some older dude that she doesn't want to marry, so when some young hotness (who is wise to the wooing of the ladies) comes knocking at her balcony, she throws herself off the proverbial cliff of love and avows her eternal devotion to said hotness.

Now, we have the satire of the church. A Father, who is supposed to give the young and foolish lusters lovers, sound advice and guidance, instead aids and abets them in their plan to lie to and dishonor their parents and run off together to be poor and miserable but have lots of virgin sex happy ever after. The plan itself is not sound. I mean, what could go wrong with poison?

The end of the story saw the bad sad parents realizing the errors of their ways and getting over their feud. They kissed and made up and grew up at the cost of their children's lives. That was the moral of the story. Not the young love conquers all, didn't. It got pwned.

If Romeo and Juliet hadn't died, here's what I think would have happened. In a week (max) Romeo would be bored with Juliet cause she wouldn't put out (that's why he dumped his last lurve) and would be on to freer greener pastures with the discovery of chambermaids and serving wenches and women who love you as long as your coin is good (probably the most honest relationship of his life). Juliet would be all heart broken but learn that men are pigs that want only one thing and Romeo never gave her anything except trouble with her parents. She would marry the rich guy she was supposed to and realize that having the protection of money and position is truly the only way to fly. The Father would realize that he's a hopeless romantic and should never have taken a vow of chastity.  The End.

In my opinion, a far more honestly romantic tale of Sir Bill's was Much Ado About Nothing (omg y'all, you must see the movie! Denzel Washington rocks and emo Shakespearean Keanu Reeves plays his brother. It's a total WIN). In this story, there's a couple that have been involved before but broke up and both are bitter with each other because they still have feelings for each other but they're both too old and too smart to go down that road again. So they have a war of wits at every available chance until they are tricked (in true Shakespearean fashion) into admitting their feelings for each other. Later, when much needless drama ensues (created again by the young and clueless lovers, I'm sensing a theme) they realize to what lengths they are willing to go in the name of their love and devotion. It is funny, romantic and dramatic. It's of the awesome. Truly, watch the movie. It's too fab for words.

Probably it's on Netflix or something, but you can also get it here  Much Ado About Nothing

Well, now that I've ranted on Shakespeare and how it gives me a twitch whenever anyone goes on about how Romeo and Juliet is so romantic.... *shudders* I think I shall go watch my copy of Much Ado About Nothing and stop myself before I start comparing Shakespeare and Jane Austen for who started the archetype romance with the hero/heroine that don't like each other and then fall in love. Really, my mind is a scary and random place.


Gini Koch said...

May I say how much I love your commentary and how very accurate I think you are with this? Both with the "it's not really romantic so much as STUPID and cautionary" with Romeo and Juliet, but also that Much Ado is far more romantic? AND it's funny, which R&J rarely is. (And the Hubs LURVES Much Ado About Nothing, possibly more than he loves me...)

Other random Shakespeare stuff: Midsummer Night's Dream is merely bleh until the last act, and then it's pee your pants hilarious.

And fave quote of mine from the Hubs after his first viewing of Othello (the excellent Lawrence Fishburne version), "I can't believe everyone dies!" My response, "Um, that's why it's called a TRAGEDY."

Shakespeare's created some interesting convos at our house...

Excellent commentary! Totally agree! Rock on! (Now, where's my Robot Chicken?!?)

The Queen B said...

LOL, I loved Midsummer Night's Dream, but when I'd watch it I'd always think "Why do I love this again?" Then the last act would happen and I'd be like, "Oh, yeah." *snigger*
I loved the modern take on Othello with Julia Stiles and Mekhi Phifer called "O"
Also loved 10 Things I Hate About You which is The Taming of the Shrew. For some reason, modern takes on Romeo and Juliet always fall flat.
Again, I say that your hubs is a smart man of good taste ;)
And, LMAO, you're the second person in the last two days that's been like, "Where's my Robot Chicken?!"
To which I say, I'M ON IT, I'M ON IT! SHEESH!

D Swizzle said...

Um, yes.

The Queen B said...


Anonymous said...

I got to agree - I was a cynical bitch reading this in high school - and I found myself rolling my eyes so hard I was sure I would go blind. My snorting and eye rolling was enough to envoke my eviction from my 10th grade Fine Lit class. Needless to say I read Hamlet as an alternative then pissed the teacher off when I did my project and told her it was The Lion King. It's the same thing right down to the freaking daddy in the wind/ghost bit.

The Queen B said...

See, I knew I loved you for a reason. ;)
Yeah, everyone rips off Shakespeare. Disney is the biggest rip offer ever :P

Jacqueline C. said...

I agree with you. I've never seen Romeo & Juliet as romantic either, just tragic. I've long preferred the romances in his comedies anyway, especially "Twelfth Night", because they didn't take themselves too seriously.

The Queen B said...

Even his comedies had a hint of drama, but that didn't overtake the story.

Anonymous said...

Hey, you're not alone; I agree completely with everything you said. We're studying Romeo and Juliet for our GCSE text and all the girls in my class (and even the teacher) are all completely enamoured with the idea that romeo and juliet is the 'greatest love story of all time'. I just think it's a load of bull and teenage lust. I mean, if Romeo got over Rosaline SO quickly (note that before he met juliet he was completely in love with her..and the moment he saw a prettier girl he immediately fell out of love) I seriously doubt he even loves Juliet. I mean, Juliet is THIRTEEN. I had crazy crushes when I was thirteen and yeah, I may have believed I was in love...Romeo and Juliet are just starting to go through puberty and experience all the hormones there is no way they even know what love IS it's just physical attraction!

Scarlett Parrish said...

I disagree that Juliet wouldn't put out - after all, she talks about him 'dying' and...I can never remember the exact phrase...something like the stars spelling his name? Pick his name out in stars, something like that? And we all know what 'a little death' means.

That said, I've never see R&J as romantic. A couple of idiots, more like. And Romeo was fickle and obsessive.

The Queen B said...

@Scarlett Parish- Ahhh, yes, Le Petite Mort...LOL. Either way it was purple rubbish by a girl not old enough to know where all the plumbing was let alone use it.
Don't get me wrong, I believe some young people know their minds and bodies well and things were different then and young love shouldn't be dismissed, yada yada yada, but I still think this was just death by hormones and terminal stupidity. Just my opinion, though... ;)
Oh, and I'm ok with the obsessive part (I'm sick, I know) but the fickle just does nothing for me.

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