Romeo and Juliet ruined Romeo and Juliet for me. Ever since I read the play in high school, that phrase has always been how I’ve introduced my opinion of this story. It’s kind of funny when you sit down and think about it because while I know there are a lot of intricate and deeper meanings to the story and everything that happens within it, our world’s general interpretation of it all is so bad. I’m not talking about critical interpretations, of course, but rather more for the general populace.
Romeo and Juliet by (ish?) William Shakespeare is not the greatest tragic love story ever told. I’m sorry to all the fans out there, but honestly…to call this play the best love story ever after you’ve read it is just plain ridiculous.
And the funny thing is that the inspiration for the play, I believe, came from a cautionary tale that someone else wrote. That, I have to admit, I find hilarious. After all, Romeo and Juliet could definitely be one of the better cautionary tales. But somehow people read it and are genuinely rooting for these two lovers. It makes me want to scream.
The truth is, this review isn’t really going to be a full review. For one thing, it’s been years since I read the play. For another, I’m well aware of the fact that the pieces of the story that I actually enjoy and respect it for aren’t really my main focus here. There have already been a million and one reviews and essays discussing all of that. My big gripe is with the fact Romeo and Juliet is genuinely thought to be one of the greatest love stories of all time.
Cause it’s just…not.
Let’s begin with Romeo. Romeo is…trash as a love interest. I’m just gonna say it. He’s awful. He’s such a mopey loser. Of course, Juliet wouldn’t know any better but damn. The readers definitely know better. I mean, how do you respect a love interest who begins the book whinging about a girl because she’s joining a convent? Honestly. He’s so upset that he can’t sleep with this woman. And what’s worse? She’s Juliette’s cousin! I can’t, I just can’t.
So, then Romeo’s cousin pops up to tell him that it’s not the end of the world that he can’t be with that one girl because there are tons more girls in the world. Lo’ and behold the best way for Benvolio to show this to his cousin is to drag him along to a party being thrown by their family’s number one enemies–really not sure how Romeo thought that Rosaline thing was gonna work out when she was also part of the family that hated his–where he manages to fall in love with his past love of literally three-ish hours ago’s cousin. Cause that’s what makes a great love story.
Yeah, I used to love your cousin but she’s going to become a nun so I guess you’re good too…
Anyway, my major hatred for the whole thing comes down to two things. The first is the age of the two main characters. Romeo…is sixteen. Juliet? Yeah, she’s fourteen. And yes, I can definitely see two immature teenagers acting precisely the same way Romeo and Juliet act. But why, why the hell do people call this one of the best love stories of all time? Do we really want to idolize a teenage relationship characterized by massively idiotic choices unquestionably influenced by their own immaturity as an amazing love story?
No. Just no. Just no.
The second reason can be referenced in two ways; time or insta-love. I mean, they’re basically the same thing. But let me just put this in perspective for you all. Everything…literally everything in Romeo and Juliet happens in the time span of one week. I believe it was officially eight days? I mean, damn. Come on. Eight days? They fall in love, get married, sleep together, he kills her cousin, he runs, her parents want to make her marry this old guy, she gets a sleeping potion from the priest who married her, she fakes her death, they hold a funeral, Romeo finds out, gets a poison, comes back, kills the guy Juliet’s parents almost married her off to, and kills himself all in that time? And this is one of the greatest love stories ever told?
You’ve got to be kidding me.
Nevermind the fact that this entire little escapade resulted in the deaths of six perfectly healthy people. I can’t. I just can’t. Why is this story not marketed as a cautionary tale? Just like…don’t be stupid? Really. And yes, I get that it was written in a different time period–kay–but can we really just recognize the fact that a week-long love affair between teenagers is ridiculous? How did this story stand the test of time? Even if it managed to fool everyone in the past into thinking it was an epic love tragedy, you’d think by now we’d all have gotten to the point where we can recognize how dumb it all is.
I’ll give people from forever ago a bit of leeway since I know it was super common to marry at such young ages way back when…but now? Does everyone just ignore how old they are? Does everyone just miss the fact that it all happened in a week? Really, if Romeo and Juliet was a book that never existed before and was published today, I would hate it so much. And I’d hope that others would too.
See, and here’s the thing. At the beginning of this review, I said that Romeo and Juliet ruined Romeo and Juliet for me. When I was younger, before I was in high school and got assigned this play to read for class, I’d always heard all the nonsense that everyone touts about this story. Romeo and Juliet were the ultimate couple. Any time there was a great love in a book or a movie, they were compared to Romeo and Juliet. Any man who was successful with women and just great as a love interest was called Romeo. This shit still happens. And it’s nonsense.
Cause when you actually read the play, Romeo is utterly useless. He’s not suave or interesting. He’s a whiny little brat who got upset that one girl didn’t love him so insta-loved her cousin. There’s nothing great or epic about their romance. They’re just two kids who don’t listen to their parents and cause a bunch of problems and deaths in the span of a week. Why, I repeat, why is this play considered an epic love story?
I felt so lied to. I still do.