An age-old vendetta between two powerful families erupts into bloodshed. A group of masked Montagues risk further conflict by gatecrashing a Capulet party. A young lovesick Romeo Montague falls instantly in love with Juliet Capulet, who is due to marry her father’s choice, the County Paris.
Why I Read It
I’ve had a complicated relationship with J&R since, like, middle school to be honest. It’s one of those plays that I’ve always been familiar with. In middle school I believe we read a few excerpts of it, enough to know what the play was about (which, honestly, could just be the first few lines…), and then I asked my parents for the play for Christmas one year. Which I never read. Because, shockingly, I did not understand how to read Shakespeare at thirteen.
So the play sat on a shelf, where it still sits right this very moment. Then we read a little more of the play in high school, enough to think I’d read all of it in its entirety, and we watched the film. You know the one. With Leo? All of this let me feel like I had a solid grasp on it and could pass as much judgment as I pleased.
I WAS WRONG. THIS ASSUMPTION WAS WRONG, OKAY?
Because, finally, I was exposed to this wrongfully-titled (for you, in the title of this blog post, but for me, in the actual title on the actual play) work in college. This is why I read it. And this, admittedly, is why I am writing this review right now. I have thoughts, both my own and from the mouths of my professor and classmates, and I’d like to share them. Here, in a non-spoiler-y way, but if you already know what happens (I’m assuming most do) OR just want to read the probably more in-depth review, due to not jumping around spoilers, you can check out the other review. Or you can read both. No one here is judging. In fact, we’re encouraging. Please read both.
Here we go.
My *spoiler-free* Thoughts
Where to even begin?
First of all, I’ll say this: I’m never going to let my high school experiences sway my opinions on anything in life ever again. Which are words to live by, and I kind of already knew this, but for some reason was not applying it to my English classes and book reading experiences? I was allowing my crappy Shakespeare teachings to prevent me from appreciating anything that is Shakespeare.
If this is you, please stop. Please go take a Shakespeare class, or do some Shakespeare research, or just read the plays again. They’re DIFFERENT FROM WHAT WE WERE TAUGHT.
Yeah, you read that right. DIFFERENT. As in, Juliet has whole ass entire lines and lines and lines (and lines and lines and lines…) that were REMOVED from the Leo film and the versions we read, or at least the one I was forced to read. And dude. These are lines that make her into more than just a dumb young girl who falls for a stupid boy.
I mean, yeah, ultimately that is kind of what happens. But she wants to do him, people. And she’s more powerful than we are led to believe in high school. For example, I dog-eared the beginning of Act three Scene two because I absolutely NEVER have seen this part of the play before. For me, it always started with Juliet just sitting in her bedroom, and her Nurse comes in to give her news about Romeo being exiled.
You guys, she has an entire soliloquy before that. Which was not in my textbook. Which we did not read out loud in class in high school. Which means we did not line-read it and analyze it and understand what any of it meant.
In doing this, we skip a bunch of lines about her being independent and telling Romeo to just into HER arms, not the other way around, and instead just jump right to a couple of lines saying that the Nurse speaks lovely words as long as they’re only about Romeo. Like, come ON. There’s so much more here.
I must admit, this is one of the two tiny reasons I have this play a 4.5 instead of a 5. I was going to cave in and just give it full marks, because I really have learned to love and appreciate it. But I figure not many things are perfect, and this is one of those things, because there are a few footnotes that just simply were not helpful in the way they should have been, or there were no footnotes for parts that I was confused by and could have used them.
Some may be thinking, well the footnotes are not the play, are they? Why is that swaying your rating? Okay, so no, the footnotes are NOT the play itself. But I need those footnotes in order to understand a bunch of the lines. I need the footnotes to read the play and get the full understanding from it. And the lack of footnotes for certain parts prevented me from understanding what those certain parts meant in their fullest, which took away from my reading of the play. If the footnotes were not needed, they would not be there and I would not be reading this edition.
Anyway, this play is amazing. As usual, I decided to use this spoiler-free review to discuss some of my surface feelings that people can relate to without reading the material themselves. If you would like to read my review in closer regards to the plot, check out my SPOILER review! I mean, let’s be honest: it’s J&R. You already know what happens.
And as my final note: Yes, I’m calling the play Juliet and Romeo, not the other way around. Romeo is a fool of a boy and Juliet is young, but she’s already strong and independent. This play should feature her name first, at the very least, and if you ever have a good Shakespeare professor who knows his shit he will tell you the same thing. Come at me about this, I will NOT budge.