Wherefore Art Thou: A Search For The Romance In Romeo And Juliet

.tags When people are trying to describe an incredible love story, a beautiful romance, a couple so right for each other they seem to have been predestined by fate, two names are almost always on the tips of their tongues: Romeo and Juliet.

William Shakespeare’s tragic tale of two “star-crossed lovers” is virtually synonymous with romance. Which is odd, because anyone who has read Romeo and Juliet (or even just the prologue) knows that these two young lovers will take their own lives by the play’s end. What’s romantic about that? There’s no marriage, no babies, no “happily ever after.” In fact, their entire romance doesn’t last as long as a nice vacation.

For anyone who’s been living under a rock and hasn’t read the play or seen one of the many stage or screen adaptations, a quick Romeo and Juliet summary: the titular characters are from warring families. The audience never finds out why the Montagues (Romeo’s family) and the Capulets (Juliet’s family) don’t get along, and it really doesn’t matter. The reason is probably stupid. Despite the families’ ongoing feud, Romeo crashes the Capulet’s big swanky party and he and fair Juliet fall instantly in love. They know a relationship between the two of them can never work in their home city of Verona, so they decide to run away together.

Thanks to some interesting conniving on the part of a member of the clergy and some serious misunderstandings on the part of Romeo, who has been banished from Verona because he killed Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt (one of the more memorable minor Romeo and Juliet characters, and the minor characters in this play are very distinct), Juliet takes a potion that makes her appear dead, but Romeo thinks she actually is dead and decides to take his own life at her grave so that they can be together forever in the afterlife. Shortly after he commits suicide, Juliet comes to and sees her beloved dead at her side and this time kills herself for real.

That’s really romantic, right? What couple wouldn’t want to be likened to those two? If there is any bright side to be found in the tragic deaths of Romeo and Juliet (who, incidentally, are both not old enough to drive), it’s that their joint suicide brings about a long-needed reconciliation between their two families. Lord Capulet helps to close out of the play with one of the most famous Romeo and Juliet quotes, “As rich shall Romeo’s by his lady’s lie; Poor sacrifices of our enmity!” He laments this to Lord Montague, who is, in turn, falling over himself to praise Juliet. After all, what is a petty feud in comparison to the tragic suicide of two lovelorn teenagers?

The sad thing is, of course, is that these two grown men couldn’t find a way to look past their differences until they realized that their stupid fight resulted in the tragic and untimely deaths of their children. Juliet called Romeo her “only love sprung from [her] only hate”, and, by the end of the play it appears that the parents have learned to love their “sworn enemies” as well. They just learned a little too late.