If I say love story what is the first story that comes to your mind? For a substantial number of people, it’s Romeo and Juliet. It’s probably one of the most oft quoted literary works ever. From children’s movies like “Gnomeo and Juliet” to pop songs like Taylor Swift’s “Love Story”, the play has been referenced everywhere. And it is has been misconstrued so often by so many people.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love the play. It is an amazing story. But part of loving the play is understanding that, since the play leaves a trail of corpses behind, it as far away from an ideal love story as is possible, and is therefore not the best subject for a pop song.
In my mind 90% of the problem arises from the fact that our two heroes are very dumb and very melodramatic. As a result the play has one of the most frustrating endings ever. The mess that was made could have been so easily avoided if any of the characters had even the slightest bit of sense. There was such a simple solution to the problems, which were essentially only parental disapproval, one that is, and has been used a million times over and should have been their very first thought. They could have simply run away.
When Romeo was banished, and Juliet was told that she had to marry Paris, she could easily have asked the friar to get her out of Verona, to Mantua. She could have met up with Romeo there and they could have skipped town together. It has to have been less complicated than fiddling around with potions. There was really no need for tricks and subterfuge. And it could not possibly have been more complicated to get her out of Verona than the fake death plan. And there was no chance anyone would ever suspect her having gone to be with Romeo. Other than the friar and Juliet’s nurse no one even knew about their marriage. Her disappearance would simply have been chalked down to her not wanting to be forced into marriage. In fact the whole idea behind the death potion was that when Juliet woke up, Romeo would be there to take her away. So why didn’t they just start with that?
But instead of the logical, and frankly much simpler option, Juliet chose to be dramatic. And the Friar pandered to her drama, thus leading to a ridiculously convoluted plot that was bound to fail.
But let’s go further back. Why didn’t they elope properly in the first place? They did get married in secret. Why not just do the job properly and leave entirely. Looking at it objectively, even if Romeo hadn’t been banished, staying in Verona could not possibly have been an option for them. Their families wouldn’t magically have been okay with the wedding just because it already happened. The two would still have gotten disowned or whatever. I mean Tybalt was ready to kill Romeo just for coming to a party at the Capulet house. That kind of antagonism wouldn’t just vanish after the two got married. So what was the plan? That they’d pretend to hate each other by day and every night Romeo would climb up to Juliet’s balcony?
There was still also Paris and his proposal to contend with. If they stayed in Verona, Juliet would have had to either confess or become a bigamist at thirteen. There really wasn’t any way in which they could remain in Verona and not have their families’ know.
The whole thing is so incredibly frustrating because from beginning to end the solution to their problem is right in front of their eyes. Eloping was both the most viable and the most obvious option right from the start. And that’s still a play that people would watch. The story of two people from families that hated each other running away to be together. It could even still be a tragedy if they got caught. But then it would be more logical and a far less frustrating tragedy. All in all I think Romeo and Juliet is not so much about two lovers doomed by the mutual antagonism between their families as it is about two lovers who are just very dumb and therefore doom themselves with their own idiocy.