Romeo & Juliet: Act 1

60558772884e326e49ab3dac0a3f23d1Act 1 of Romeo and Juliet was unexpectedly interesting.  I started the first act wondering how on Earth I would understand what these people were saying.  Once you get through the
first scene, however, it’s easier to get into the flow of Shakespeare’s writing.  From what I had heard, 
Romeo and Juliet was about some guy and some girl who fall love and decide to kill themselves.  I thought I’d have to drudgingly read through this book, anticipating the last page I’d read.  The story is surprisingly interesting, with more characters than just Romeo and Juliet.  The different characters add a lot to the story, including humor, something I never expected from a book written hundreds of years ago.

The script does add a bit of a challenge, though.  You have to rely on the characters and the notes in the script to describe the settings of the various scenes throughout the play.  I would much rather read a real book than a play.  The characters are also hard to picture, considering most of the descriptions are from other characters who vagueparisly describe how beautiful the other person is.  The other weird thing I’ve yet to get used to is the customs of either Shakespeare’s time and/or Romeo’s time.  The fact that Paris, a grown man, is asking the father of a fourteen year old, Juliet, if he can marry her just freaks me out.  Paris even goes as far to say, “Younger than she are happy mothers made.”  Ew.  I mean, I know that’s how it was back then, but Paris is still creepy.

Shakespeare’s writing of Romeo shows a contrast in maturity between him and Paris, which I am glad for.  We see in how Romeo speaks that he’s around the same age of emotional maturity as Juliet, something Paris doesn’t have.  In his scene, Paris doesn’t come across as a young person.  He’s composed and acts as an equal to Lord Capulet, Juliet’s father.  In Romeo’s first scene, he’s the 1600s equivalent of an angsty teenager, complaining that his love interest doesn’t love him back.  He and Juliet both exaggerate romeo-and-juliet-romeo-and-juliet-1968-9339049-852-480and talk about dying a lot.  For example on page 25, line 231, Romeo says, “She hath forsworn to love, and in that vow do I live dead,” when speaking of Rosaline’s
indifference to him.  Juliet also cites death as a consequence if her love for Romeo isn’t accepted by him, “If he be married, my grave is like to be my wedding bed” (Page 61, Line 148).  The use of exaggeration in both of these characters is juvenile, and Shakespeare’s tool to communicate why Juliet feels more drawn to Romeo than to Paris.

Romeo shows his youth through his frequent change in mood as well.  In his first appearance, he is brooding over Rosaline’s disinterest in him and has to be cheered up by his cousin, Benvolio.  He continues being moody while they crash the Capulet’s party and is instantly cured when he sees Juliet.  Mood swings are basically a given in teenagers and Romeo exhibits them perfectly.  Romeo walks right up to Juliet and starts palmsflirting with her, completely forgetting about Rosaline.

This brings up the arguments around love at first sight.  Is it real?  I believe that Romeo and Juliet believe they’re in love.  One of the criticisms I’ve seen about Romeo and Juliet is that “they aren’t really in love”.  But both characters say they’re in love.  I don’t believe that love at first sight is real, but I recognize that Romeo and Juliet do.  There is an obvious attraction between them, which could be perceived as love.  But love is more involved than liking the way someone looks, which is what catches Romeo’s attention in the first place.  You have to get to know someone in order to be in love with them, otherwise, it’s simply infatuation.  Maybe their relationship will progress past liking each other because of purely physical characteristics, but for now, I don’t think their “love” is remarkable enough to write a book about.  I was going to leave my post at that but I don’t want to end on a bad note. Romeo and Juliet was MUCH better than expected and is going to be a pleasure to keep reading, even if their love doesn’t have much substance yet.

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