Book Reviews

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet balcony scene on Oil Canvas
Romeo and Juliet balcony scene on Oil Canvas

Romeo and Juliet is one of the most popular love stories in the world. It is not a story though in the true sense, it is a play, by a playwright whose reputation has always been of mythical proportions, namely, William Shakespeare. It is set in medieval Europe, in the land of noblemen, and aristocrats from rich families and rulers who were merely subject to the whims and dispositions of such men, and acted as judges in a courtroom. The play tells a tragic tale of love and war.

It starts with a quarrel between two families, the Montagues and the Capulets, who have had a long standing feud for ages, and they always need the slightest reason to start fighting. Montague has a son, named Romeo, who is said to be the most eligible bachelor in the town of Verona, remains always gloomy and depressed as he just lost his lady love. And Capulet have a daughter, said to be as beautiful as a woman in all the land and further beyond, is to be married soon to a suitor of her father’s choice.

Fate leads them to meet one day and they fall in love, aware of the dangers of their affair, but having faith in their feelings, they decide to marry secretly. Friar Laurence, a parson, grants them their heaven, which soon turned to hell, as Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, had a qaurrel with Romeo and was killed. Romeo was banished from the land, Juliet struck with grief, and her father intent to marry her off soon to a nobleman named Paris, approached the Friar and pleaded for death, hearing which he gave her a potion that would make her feign death for three days, till which he could call Romeo to come and take her away.

The plan was put in place, Juliet died, but the Friar could not get his message to Romeo, who was in exile. On learning of Juliet’s death, he went mad with grief and rage, and reached Juliet’s grave with a deadly poison which he intended to take. Paris, the one who was to married to Juliet, was already at her grave, morning her death, and on finding Romeo, he challenged him to a duel, which he lost and fell to his death. Romeo was in grief, and seeing dead Juliet, he drank the vile of deadly poison and died. And as irony would have its way, Juliet awoke and found Romeo dead beside her. She could not bear this, and killed herself with Romeo’s dagger.

The Prince of Verona arrived, he called in the Montagues and the Capulets, he learned of the tragic fate of these lovers, and accused the two families with their deaths, as the hate between them let Romeo and Juliet to their death. And I quote the Prince, in the last few lines of the play,

There was never,
a story told of more woe,
than that of Juliet,
and her Romeo.

I would to comment on Shakespeare’s portrayal of the characters of this play. Starting with Juliet, who was as pure and graceful as any lady could be. One for whom every man would fall, and their would be only one that she would choose. She showed her love when Romeo used to woo her beneath her window in the dark of the night, and she showed devotion when her father wanted to forcibly marry her to a person she did not love, she opted for death instead. The same devotion and love was in Romeo as well, and were set at equal levels in these criteria. Romeo however, being a man, was also portrayed as a skilled swordsman, who managed to kill two noblemen, and also as a loyal friend, for he killed Tybalt on the count of vengeance for his friend’s death.

The other important character was that of Friar Laurence, who acted as a place of refuge and hope for the lovers, but as fate would have it, he held himself responsible for their deaths in the end, The Capulet’s nurse, who used to send messages from Juleit to Romeo, turned out to be weak, and left Juliet alone when she needed her.

Shakespeare portrayed the power of love, which he did by showing the fearlessness of the two, who chose to get married even though they were of rival families, and a rival as bitter as theirs was no less than treacherous. He also portrayed the blindness of love, when Romeo used to come to visit Juliet at her window, even though he was being searched for execution, and Romeo killing Paris, in a fit of rage, rather than anything else. As one of Romeo’s friends said,

If love is blind, it cannot hit the mark

He showed what society did to individuals, how it was more of a restraint than a supposed liberation of human qualities and emotions, This fact still holds as of this day, and stories similar to that of Romeo and Juliet as still heard of even today. This is the universality of human emotions, and the domination of love as an emotion over all others. This is an immortal story, the dialogues were pure poetry, the imagery by usage of words, some new for that time, just another reminder of the greatness of William Shakespeare.

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