Romeo and Juliet
Let me tell you two secrets about Romeo and Juliet.
1. It’s not a classic love story; it’s a when-can-we-have-sex story. This is the most disappointing realization for my freshmen girls who were looking forward to a romantically fulfilling tete-a-tete. Romeo and Juliet get married within 24 hours of meeting one another because they are in juvenile lust, and because good 14th century Catholic kids get married before sex which is their very short-term goal. The Friar who (arguably irresponsibly) agrees to marry them is fully aware of this when he says:
“Come, come with me, and we will make short work;
For, by your leaves, you shall not stay alone
Till holy church incorporate two in one.” (II, vi, 35-37)
This might also explain why this is the only relationship in human history where the guy talks more than the girl: Romeo has about 617 lines, whereas Juliet only has 542.
2. Juliet’s birthday is July 31. Do you know who else has a birthday on July 31? That’s right: Harry Potter. (Oh, and J.K. Rowling.) Cosmic irony much?
Take-Away: If you haven’t read any Shakespeare since high school, reading Romeo and Juliet is an easy way to get reacquainted with the Bard. The plot is easy to follow, the characters are typically adolescently flawed, and the lessons – like don’t kill yourself over love – are predictable. Read this one as a jumping off point into some much more juicy and complex Shakespearean wonderfulness that you can appreciate as an adult who’s seen and understands more of the world than our tragic teens.