I used to think Romeo and Juliet was the greatest love story ever written. But now that I’m middle-aged, I know better. Oh, Romeo certainly thinks he loves his Juliet. Driven by hormones, he unquestionably lusts for her. But if he loves her, it’s a shallow love.
You want proof? Soon after meeting her for the first time, he realizes he forgot to ask her for her name. Can true love be founded upon such shallow acquaintance? I don’t think so.
And at the end, when he thinks she’s dead, he finds no comfort in living out the remainder of his life within the paradigm of his love, at least keeping alive the memory of what they had briefly shared, even if it was no more than illusion, or more accurately, hormonal.
Yes, those of us watching events unfold from the darkness know she merely lies in slumber. But does he seek the reason for her life-like appearance? No. Instead he accuses Death of amorousness, convinced that the ‘lean abhorred monster’ endeavors to keep Juliet in her present state, cheeks flushed, so that she might cater to his own dissolute desires.
But does Romeo hold her in his arms one last time and feel the warmth of her blood still coursing through her veins? Does he pinch her to see if she might awaken? Does he hold a mirror to her nose to see if her breath fogs it? Once, twice, three times a ‘no.’
His alleged love is so superficial and so selfish that he seeks to escape the pain of loss by taking his own life. That’s not love, but infatuation. Had they wed ― Juliet bearing many children, bonding, growing together, the masks of the star-struck teens they once were long ago cast away, basking in the love born of a lifetime together ― and she died of natural causes, would Romeo have been so moved to take his own life, or would he have grieved properly for her loss and not just his own. J. Conrad Guest
Clearly I remember at sixteen going with my friend David to see Franco Zeffirelli’s movie “Romeo and Juliet”. My young heart swooned at what I then thought was a magnificent love to be admired. Heartbreak, grief, contentment and joy have conspired together to teach me how foolish Shakespeare’s characters would have been in real life.
Love should be a bit foolish, irrational and even unwise, but not simplistically childish like I now perceive Romeo and Juliet in the story told of them. Beautiful tale, but a horrible example of love in real life. I still believe in the magic more than ever but not how portrayed in the Shakespearean story. In coming to my present point of view, I am grateful for every heartache and beautiful moment loving ever brought me. Such feelings have been my tutors of the truths of love.
It is having once believed in fairy tales, then seeing beyond them while retaining their essence that has given my heart its ability to love best in the real world.
The fairy tale is not the conclusion,
but the doorway to a more brilliant reality.
Pushed onto a pedestal as the final answer
their worth is misshapen and distorted.