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Romeo and Juliet (Folger Shakespeare Library)

Romeo and Juliet - William Shakespeare Shakespeare according to "RedBook"A magazine at the dentist's office said romantic relationships can be broken into three categories, based on progressive levels of emotional maturity:The least mature are founded on mutual physical attraction ...basically high school "puppy love". If that's all the relationship has going for it, it is fated to fail. The next step up are relations based on shared interests. These are a little better, because your appearance isn't "you" the way your interests are. Shared interests represent an intellectual connection, and some degree of understanding one another. Still... one's intellect isn't quite at the heart of one's essance. The most mature relationships are based on mutually-held values. A relationship on this level has the best odds of enduring, since the partners' bond comprises not only mutual understanding and respect, but common goals and purpose. I think that may help explain why arranged marriages seem to have such a low divorce rate, even though some of them may lack physical attraction and shared interests. Of course none of these categories are mutally exclusive, so the strongest relationship of all would have all three components.This scheme of classification isn' scientific by any means, but it sounds reasonable, and is supported by some personal experience, so I'm going to use it here.Applying the above to Romeo and Juliet: By the end of Act 1, Romeo and Juliet are firmly in the eye of a Category 1 Love Affair (feel free to use that for your garage band's next song title). The Veronese duo are about to become sacrifices to the cruel god of Physical Attraction. If they have any common interests, we don't know about them. They do have one shared value: family loyalty... but to opposed families, so it works against them. EXTRANEOUS TANGENT (skip this too): What are Romeo's hobbies? A silly question, but can you answer it? He hangs out with his friends- no help there. He does some fencing, but doesn't come across as a fencing buff. An upper-crust kid of those days may well have had fencing imposed on him as part of his eduation. He's just not a three-dimensional character. Same for Juliet, our 16th century Paris Hilton. That's not a knock against Shakespeare; it's partly a limitation of the vehicle: this is a play, not a 1000 page novel. Still... there are plays out there that do wonders with character exploration (Death of a Salesman). The Bard certainly could have fleshed out these characters, if he had wanted to, but it wasn't useful to the story.What we are looking at here is a relationship doomed to fail from within, and a score of outsiders determined to expedite the process. Young lovers, blinded by youth and its attendant hormones, lack the foresight to see their passions will come at too high a cost. Families, blinded by lingering animosity for unnamed past events, cannot restrain themselves to let the relationship run its natural course. In fact, parental interference probably enshrines the affair in a mystique of "forbidden fruit", and unites the paramours in their defiance -a common purpose which alone can not sustain their attachment. Friends on the periphery, like the Friar Lawrence and Mercutio, lack the wisdom to see that aiding and abetting the couple will only hurt them in the long run. You should've known when you saw Shakespeare's name on the cover this was going to be a story about human folly- and those never end well. The romance part was just to suck you in; this is a disaster flick. Everybody in this play suffers some degree of debilitated judgment and is running loose, looking for trouble. To paraphrase my mother "It's all fun-and-games until somebody gets killed." ...which they always do. By Act II, we all know how it will end; the only variable in question is the body count. When Friar Lawrence starts explaining he's got this fabulous new drug that gives the appearance of death, that's the equivalent of the first rivet popping off a wing in mid-flight. When you see that in a movie, it is unthinkable that the disaster it implies will not come to pass.I'm not saying that predictabiity ruins this play. It's a great work, not a Michael Bay film. It's got a solid story, well-told, with characters you'll like, endlessly interesting language, with memorable lines ("All these woes shall serve. For sweet discourses in our time to come."), a bit of comic relief, and even some valuable lessons (kids: don't fuck up your lives; parents: don't fuck up your kids). I just don't want to overstate the scope and nature of Romeo and Juliet's greatness. To put it in perspective: it's a tragedy, but it doesn't explore human suffering the way Of Human Bondage does; it doesn't have the "cringe factor" of Oedipus Rex; and it doesn't intrigue you with uncertainties as only complex characters can (The Brothers Karamazov). Romeo and Juliet is a ride. It's all about the spectacle of catastrophic misjudgment - and that's good enough for five stars.