Up until now, my monthly book reviews have been pretty positive. So this month, I thought I’d change it up a little bit.
She is only fourteen, he is only a few years older. Their families are bitter enemies, sworn to hatred. Yet Romeo and Juliet meet and fall passionately in love. Defying their parents’ wishes, they are secretly married, but their brief happiness is shattered by fate.
This famous pair of star-crossed lovers lives forever in Shakespeare’s haunting play.
Okay, here’s the thing: I’m not a fan of Romeo and Juliet.
I like Shakespeare, and I think he’s a superbly talented playwright. When I read HAMLET and MACBETH in high school, I was probably one of the few people in the room who actually enjoyed it. But even though I have a huge respect for his works in general, I don’t like ROMEO AND JULIET.
I have a lot of qualms with the story. My main one, and the first reason why I could never truly sink into the book, is Romeo himself. To me, he’s an empty shell: easy to influence, easy to predict, and quick to change emotions. He meets Rosaline and is immediately in love with her to the point of infatuation; then he meets Juliet and almost literally says “Rosaline who?”. After knowing Juliet for barely a couple hours, he is willing to leave his family and marry her. He seems less of a character and more of a puppet, able to be jerked around and manipulated by everyone else.
My second qualm is how quickly characters change and break the previous canon. Juliet’s father, for instance, tells Paris himself that Juliet is too young, and that in the end it is her choice. Then, after Tybalt’s death, he tells her that if she doesn’t marry Paris within the next few days, he will disown her. Juliet follows a similar pattern, too, though hers is subtler and more understandable: previously cautious and realistic about her relationship with Romeo, she ends up forgetting her worries and becoming as recklessly passionate as him.
I have to say, though, that even though I didn’t enjoy the book, it was still masterfully written. Romeo’s recklessness angered me, but that also meant it evoked a response in me, and it made me keep reading. All the character changes just added to the whirlwind effect of the novel. And if nothing else, it definitely helped birth a lot of miscommunication comedies.
ROMEO AND JULIET may not be my cup of tea, but it could be yours.
What did you think of ROMEO AND JULIET?