I prefer to think of Romeo and Juliet as a love story with a tragic ending rather than a classic tragedy, because the love Romeo and Juliet find and share is beautiful and inspiring: there is nothing tragic about it.
Juliet My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep. The more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.
[Act 2, Scene 2, 133-35]
Their heart-rending deaths are of course tragic, resulting as they do from an unforeseeable flaw in Friar Laurence's well-intentioned but unlikely plan. Their lives, however, serve to prove that young love is viable, that young people know what they want and will go to extreme lengths to find it. The fair (ie beautiful) city of Verona is a city of promise, one where young love can flourish; it is also a city where swords are drawn in an instant and where life can perish on a sword-point. In such a situation, we cannot be surprised at the existence of a smouldering feud between two prominent families (the Capulets and the Montagues) nor should we be surprised if the young people do not always follow their parents' wishes.
That Romeo, a Montague, and Juliet, a Capulet, should meet at all is a delightful stroke of luck or possibly fate. In a time of arranged marriages, a time when a disobedient daughter might be disowned by her angry father, the fact that Juliet falls in love with Romeo under her father's roof creates an exciting atmosphere of romance and danger. Ironically, it is Juliet's father who speaks well, and with some knowledge, of Romeo.
Capulet He bears him like a portly gentleman.
And, to say truth, Verona brags of him
To be a virtuous and well-governed youth.
[Act 1, Sce...
... middle of paper ...
...the odds are slim.
We cannot lay the blame for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet exclusively at the doors of their parents, real or surrogate. It is as the Prince gravely states - all are punished. The feuding families have to bear the guilt equally for their lingering enmity. A tale of young love, with all its promise, has become a catalogue of death. In the end the city has lost five young citizens, cut down before their time. Society is the poorer for the losses. Those who survive share the blame for what has happened, since the whole city has had a hand, directly or indirectly, in the deaths. All are indeed punished.
Gill, Roma, ed. Romeo and Juliet. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.
Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. ed. John E. Hankins. New York: Penguin Books, 1960. "Verona." Baedeker. 3rd ed. 1996.
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