How Romeo and Juliet Became Shakespeare's Most Popular Play

Dear Paul, Why is Romeo and Juliet so Popular?

by Paul Kiernan July 29, 2019
Inside the Lab

 

Dear Paul,

Why is the play Romeo & Juliet so popular?

Signed,

Play Lover

 

Dear Play Lover,

I have no idea, to be honest with you. I think it’s because high school English teachers feel they have to introduce their students to Shakespeare and the language in Romeo & Juliet is pretty simple as compared to other plays in the canon. But, when you read the play and look at it with an eye of depth, it’s not a very good play and sadly, young people just look at it through gooey romantic eyes.

So the thing to remember is that by the end of the play there are five dead young people: Romeo, Juliet, Tybalt, Mercutio, and Paris. All of them dead. Why? Because neither the Nurse nor the Friar has the balls to say no. If the Nurse said to Juliet, no I’m not going to help you hump Romeo, do what your mother and father say, she lives, Romeo lives, Tybalt lives and Paris lives. If the Friar says; No I’m not going to help you with this Juliet girl because not more than a day ago you were roaming the fields mooning over Rosalind, you’re a pubescent boy in heat, you’ll get over her and move on with your life; Romeo lives, Juliet lives, Tybalt lives, Mercutio lives and Paris lives.

The problem is the adults act like kids and the kids act like kids and then, everyone dies. Just because the kids speak in iambic pentameter doesn’t mean they know squat about life and they should be listened to. They are children for the love of all that’s holy. CHILDREN.

People “like” this play because there are so many quotable lines from it. “But soft what light through yonder window breaks”…hehehehe … butt soft. And the whole balcony scene, which, by the way, when you read the play as written, there is no mention of a balcony. Romeo climbs a wall and ends up in a garden. That balcony was imposed upon the play. Just like we imposed some level of romance on the play. Just like too many High Schools use Every Breath You Take as a prom theme because they think it’s romantic when in reality, it’s a stalker singing to his victim. Don’t believe me, ask Sting. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

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So, people, usually people who have not read the full play, think it’s romantic and sweet and oh my goodness they die for each other. They don’t, Juliet’s “death” is a drug-induced coma and Romeo is a suicide. Then she is suicide. They don’t die for the other one they die for their stupid selfish selves. All of which could have been avoided if either the Nurse or the Friar said no, you child, no.

Its popularity is based on ignorance or willful turning away from reality. There are some great characters and there is some lovely poetry, remember when Romeo and Juliet first meet, their exchanged dialogue is a perfect sonnet. Awwww …isn't that romantic? No, it’s a device to make you think they were ordained to be together by the universe. Suckers.

It’s a good play, certainly not his best, that would be King Lear. It really doesn't even rise to the level of 12th Night or Othello, but, it has its moments. Anyway, that’s what I think. Hope that helps.

 

 

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