Friday, February 12, 2010

"It started out just like Romeo and Juliet..."

"...but it ended in tragedy."

One of my favorite Simpsons quotes. Poor Milhouse. Bemoaning the crash and burn of his grade-school love affair. And yet... and yet... the little bespectacled dork has a point.

Romeo and Juliet is considered by some to be the most romantic, most tragic, most passionate and beauteous love story of all time.

Poppycock, sez I.

It's no tragedy. That play is a comedy!

"What?" you say. "Have you lost your Shakespeare-addled mind?" you say.

I have not.

That play is, in fact, a farce that hinges entirley on catastrophically bad timing, one wacky friar's "cunning plan", and the gross inadequacies of the Italian postal system back in the day.

Did you know that it's entirely likely that most of Shakespeare's audience would have considered Romeo and Juliet to have been justly served by their fate? That's right. Elizabethan society looked poorly on the kind of impetuous disregard for social convention and hotheaded recklessness shown by the two lovers. They would have thought the end unfortunate but... enh - what are you gonna do? They got what was coming to them.

How's that for romantic?

You want romance from Shakespeare? Real romance? I give you Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing. Often considered to be nothing more than a frothy romp, nothing too deep and meaningful, I put it to you that - in fact - the love story in this play is far more profound than that which springs up over the junior Montagues and Capulets.

Here we have a couple of stubborn, set-in-their-ways adults - determined not to give in to the painfully obvious attraction that has been building between them over years - rather than overnight - and, when forced to confront the truth of their mutual attraction, they act like a couple of giddy schoolkids, profess their love, demand oaths of bloody revenge for wronged relatives (Beatrice), promise - after some fiery convincing - to exact said revenge (Benedick), take the time to solve a mystery Scooby-gang style, and through a bit of clever deception make absolutely certain that everything will turn out all right for everyone (not just themselves) in the end.

That's what I call romantic.

Don't believe me? Rent the Brannagh/Thompson movie and watch as these two go from adversarial, to goofy-smitten, to deadly serious, to giddy joy all in the name of love and honor.

And, I have to say, the scene where Beatrice is on the garden swing and Benedick is diving through the fountain is one of the all-time cinematic greatest visual representations of true love ever committed to celluloid, in my opinion!

Now... don't get me wrong. I still have to wring my hanky out after a good production of Romeo and Juliet - a good one mind you - I just think that, maybe it's reputation as Shakespeare's most romantic play might be a teensy bit misleading.

All that aside, and speaking of love... I LOVE Jillian Cantor. I LOVED her first book The September Sisters and I cannot wait to dive into The Life of Glass. Congratulations, Jillian, on the release of your second book. And for everyone reading this post - what are you waiting for!?!! Go leave a comment for a chance to win TLOG!

Have a Happy Valentine's Day kids! And - remember - don't listen to the crazy friar!
That whole "faking your own death" thing might sound like a good idea at the time but.....


miss-mandy25 said...

I have to agree you bring up a good point. Juliet and Romeo are pretty unrealistic while Much Ado About Nothing take awhile to fall in love/

~*Jessica Rabbit*~ said...

Lesley you never fail to teach me something new every time you post. I may be the only person who has never seen Romeo & Juliet, though I do know the story. But yeah I thought that the Elizabethan's would've viewed it the same as most of todays society.

angel28140 said...

I never thought of Romeo and Juliet as a comedy before. Very interesting idea.

Jillian Cantor said...

Great post, Lesley! And thanks for all your kind words!!

buddyt said...

A very original take on the well known story.

I must say that if it was intended as a comedy, it certainly didn't turn out to be a very good one!

I suppose one tends to see things based on the times you are in,as you say, but to me Romeo and Juliet was really just about hot-headed youngsters and I think we have all read real life stories of very similar happenings which end in tragedy.


GirlGoingGlobal said...

Lesley, this post is one of the reasons I love you. Oh, and can we solve a mystery together Scooby-gang style? :)

John said...

One only needs to look at the scene where Juliet is found "dead" in her bed for proof that it's a comedy:


O woe! O woful, woful, woful day!
Most lamentable day, most woful day,
That ever, ever, I did yet behold!
O day! O day! O day! O hateful day!
Never was seen so black a day as this:
O woful day, O woful day!


Beguiled, divorced, wronged, spited, slain!
Most detestable death, by thee beguil'd,
By cruel cruel thee quite overthrown!
O love! O life! not life, but love in death!


Despised, distressed, hated, martyr'd, kill'd!
Uncomfortable time, why camest thou now
To murder, murder our solemnity?
O child! O child! my soul, and not my child!
Dead art thou! Alack! my child is dead;
And with my child my joys are buried.

And it goes ON!!