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Essay: Romeo and Juliet and Its Relevance Today
William Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon, produced 37 plays. He is known as the world’s greatest dramatist that had created timeless plays. Much of his stories survived the test of time and are still being recreated and adapted up until this day. One of his greatest works, Romeo and Juliet, has been an inspiration for many modern songs, movies ballet, paintings, and many more. This literature review will discuss Romeo and Juliet, a play written by William Shakespeare, and see the difference between society as Shakespeare knows it and Romeo and Juliet’s relevance for today’s modern society.
William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, as most people are not aware, is based on a narrative poem that has been translated into French entitled The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet. This poem has been written by Arthur Brooke in 1562 and translated into French by Matteo Bandello. Shakespeare, while writing his own version, changes a few things in his play such as Juliet’s age and the time span spent in the poem. Juliet’s age was originally 16, Shakespeare changed it to 13. And the time span of the two young people falling in love and dying, as can be noticed in the play, took only 4 to 6 days but in the basis poem, the story’s time span took about 90 days. Romeo and Juliet is the most famous star-crossed lovers in the history of literature.
Romeo and Juliet Plot Summary
The play opened with the servants of the Houses Capulet and Montague engaged in a brawl in the name of their masters. The two noble families of Verona had a long-standing feud that sees no end. Because Verona’s citizens are feeling outraged due to the constant commotion that is due to the two great Houses, Prince Escalus comes into the fighting scene and orders them to stop fighting. The prince even decreed that those who will attempt to disturb the peace in Verona shall face death.
Meanwhile, a heartsick Romeo is telling his cousin Benvolio about his love for Rosaline Capulet who refuses to return his affection for her. He is devastated by this and so Benvolio encourages him to go look for other women who are more beautiful than Rosaline. At the same time, Count Paris approached Capulet to ask for Juliet’s hand to which Juliet’s father responds that Count Paris should wait a couple more years. Capulet also advises Count Paris to attend the masquerade ball to be held by the House of Capulet in an effort to win Juliet’s heart. Juliet, being a young girl, is disinterested in love and marriage. She talks to her mother and her nurse and Lady Capulet advises her to take a look at the Count and see if she has it in her to fall in love with him.
At the masquerade ball and feast, the Montague cousins Benvolio and Romeo along with their friend Mercutio attended. Romeo only came because he knows Rosaline is going to be there, too. However, he spots Juliet and falls in love with her. Romeo is so entranced by Juliet that he completely forgets about his feelings for Rosaline. Juliet’s cousin Tybalt sees the unwanted party of Montagues and approaches them as he is enraged that the group had the guts to sneak into a Capulet feast. As he is preparing to attach, Juliet’s father held him back.
Romeo, having experienced a profound attraction to Juliet, approaches her, and the two start a conversation. They kiss, even though they don't know each other’s names. Romeo and Juliet felt distraught when they learned that the other came from their family’s mortal enemy. But since Romeo could not bear to leave Juliet, he sneaks back into the Capulet’s orchard where he hears Juliet call out his name and ask the wind why did he have to belong to the House of Montague. Romeo makes his presence known and he and Juliet proceed to make vows of love.
Juliet initiates the act of marriage to Romeo and so Romeo approaches Friar Lawrence, his friend and confessor, and explained the situation to him. Friar Lawrence sees the union of the two teenagers as a way to mend the relationship between the House Montague and House Capulet. He agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet the following day and even connived with Juliet’s nurse so that she may prepare a ladder in which Romeo could climb to meet his beloved in her room on their wedding night.
The following morning, Tybalt is still enraged at Romeo and his company for they had snuck in the Capulet’s feast the previous night. He then challenges Romeo to a duel, to which Romeo refuses because Tybalt is now his kinsman through his and Juliet’s marriage. Mercutio is disgusted by Romeo’s refusal to accept the duel and fights Tybalt himself in the name of Romeo. Romeo still attempts to stop the two from fighting and puts himself between the men but Tybalt still succeeds in stabbing Mercutio. Mercutio dies from the wound and this sparked Romeo’s anger and he kills Tybalt.
Because of this act and the Decree of Prince Escalus, Romeo is banished from Verona. In anguish, Romeo’s mother kills herself. Juliet finds out that Romeo killed Tybalt. She is distraught but realizes that her duty lies to the man she married. That night, before Romeo leaves for Mantua, he proceeds to go to Juliet’s room, according to plan, and they consummate their marriage. Due to Tybalt’s death, Capulet decided to move Juliet’s wedding to Count Paris the next day. Juliet refuses and her parents are enraged. Juliet then approaches her nurse for advice and the nurse tells her to proceed with the marriage for Count Paris is far more suitable for her than Romeo Montague.
Juliet is not satisfied with the nurse’ answer and her lack of support for her love for Romeo and so she approaches Friar Lawrence. Friar Lawrence then thinks of a clever plan to reunite Romeo and Juliet in Mantua. He plans to do this by making Juliet drink a coma-inducing potion the night before her wedding so that her family will believe her to be dead and Romeo shall fetch her so that they may be able to escape the Montague and Capulet’s eternal feud.
However, Friar Lawrence’ plans go awry when his letter that contains his alert to Romeo does not reach Romeo in time. Instead, Romeo hears the news that Juliet has passed away from one of his servants. This pushes him to purchase poison and return to Verona. In Juliet’s tomb, she finds a mourning Paris and kills him. He kissed Juliet one last time before he drinks the poison. Juliet then awakens and Friar Lawrence arrives at the tomb. Seeing the scene, he implores Juliet to come with him and escape. Juliet refuses and Friar Lawrence escapes alone.
Juliet, in anguish, kisses Romeo’s lips in hopes to have a taste of the poison that killed her beloved. When this does not work, she takes Romeo’s dagger and kills herself with that instead. Afterwards, Prince Escalus, the Capulets, and Montague arrive. Upon seeing their children’s bodies, they have decided to end their feud and make peace and erect a statue in memory of Romeo and Juliet.
Romeo and Juliet Characters
- Juliet Capulet – Juliet Capulet is the female protagonist of the story and is part of the House of Capulet who has an ongoing feud with the House of Montague. She is a 13-year-old girl who, prior to meeting Romeo, is disinterested in the subject of love and marriage. At first, Juliet is quite disconnected with the outside world and is content with letting her parents make her decisions for her, as most women of that era do. She, however, changes her perspective after falling in love at first sight and kissing a member of the family their clan was at war with. Afterwards, she made the foolish decision of eloping with a man she only knew for less than a week and who has killed her cousin. In the end, she kills herself out of love for she cannot fathom living without her beloved Romeo.
- Romeo Montague – Romeo Montague is the male protagonist of Romeo and Juliet who abandons his initially mentioned love interest Rosaline after laying eyes on Juliet. He concedes on getting married to Juliet after she suggests it. He is a hopeless romantic who is known to be immature and reckless. After he got married to Juliet, her cousin kills Romeo’s friend and as an act of revenge and out of fury, Romeo kills Juliet’s cousin too. He was banished but he came back after he found out that Elizabeth has died. He proceeds to drink poison for he cannot possibly live without Juliet. In the world.
- Friar Lawrence - Friar Lawrence is a helpful man who only hopes to regain peace in the House of Capulet and Montague. Because of this, he sees Romeo and Juliet’s marriage as a way to achieve that and that is why he agrees to Romeo’s request. His compassionate heart also pushed him to help Juliet plan on how she and Romeo can be reunited. Sadly, his plan failed and Romeo and Juliet ended up dying. Although, he did get what he initially wished for – that the Capulets and Montagues be reunited and peaceful.
- Tybalt Capulet – Being a member of the House of Capulet, Tybalt is a hotheaded person who tends to instigates fights between the two families.
- Prince Escalus – Prince Escalus acts as the peacekeeper and the law in Romeo and Juliet. He is the one overseeing the matters of the land, as he is the ruler, with particular interest to the rivalry of the House of Capulet and Montague. To keep the peace, he threatens killing the one to ignore his decree. However, when Romeo kills Tybalt, it is like Prince Escalus showed mercy as he merely banished Romeo instead of continuing with the death sentence.
Romeo and Juliet Themes
- Love and Marriage – Love, as portrayed in Romeo and Juliet, causes lovers to act rashly and forget the world around them. The two lovers are consumed by the other and thus rendered blind to the repercussions of their actions. Love is described in this play as a short-term burst of youthful passion. As with stories published in the same era, being betrothed to a loved one is a luxury for marriage is usually arranged to be suitable for both parties. Marriage is a political act of expanding or keeping wealth and rarely prioritizes if the match truly loves each other.
- Revenge and Death – Romeo and Juliet is rife with death ensuing from acts of revenge or violence. Major characters have faced a bloody end in this play due to various reasons such as love, unreasonable aggression, and revenge. Because Romeo and Juliet’s families are intent with keeping up the feud, with the Capulets being almost always the ones starting a fight, many characters have met their ends.
- Identity – Romeo and Juliet is imprisoned by the war their families have waged on each other. The play did not give a definite reason as to why the two families are not in peace but it is obvious that they have intended not to end the feud. They possibly would not have ended it if they had not seen their children lying lifeless. The identity of each of the family members of the Capulets and the Montagues is to be filled with hate for the other. This identity, as seen from the beginning of the play, spread to their servants too.
- Age – The way the characters in Romeo and Juliet behave and think can be classified according to age. The young ones tend to be impulsive, reckless, and does not seem to have a care. The adults, on the contrary, are critical, calm, and base their decisions on political means. As seen in Juliet’s parents and nurse, they all decided that Count Paris is a better match for her than Romeo because marriage to Count Paris would lead to a much more stable life – aside from Romeo being a member of the Montague family.
Romeo and Juliet: Now and Then
The differences – excluding appearances, clothing, and language – between the time Romeo and Juliet existed in and the modern age is quite easy to distinguish. For one, ladies as young as Juliet are not encouraged to wed. Nowadays, it is the norm for one to be of legal age before getting married. One is encouraged to take the time to get to know the person better and not marry one in a jiffy.
Another difference is the way girls are treated. In Juliet’s era, girls have little to no choice as to how to live their lives. Girls back then rarely fight for what they actually wanted to do and instead just accept their parents’ wishes. They also understand that a prosperous marriage is much more suitable than being in a love match if the man has no riches. Parents back then questioned the necessity of education for ladies and rarely allowed them to touch a book. Therefore, they have little to no means of fending for themselves if they do not marry a rich man.
However, there are also similarities between their era and today. Like all lovesick teenagers, Romeo and Juliet disobeyed their parents’ wishes and deliberately went against their will to go to the one they love. Their rebellious characteristics still resonate with young people who are longing to be with the one they love, despite hindrances. Apart from disobeying their parents, they have kept secrets from them.
Romeo and Juliet displays qualities of classic literature that prove to be timeless as its characters still resonate with the teenagers today. The way they think is obviously similar. Although, it must be kept in mind that even if Shakespeare did indeed manage to write a story about star-crossed lovers, teenagers nowadays should not attempt to imitate it. Blatantly going against your parents or keeping huge secrets from them, along with constant threats and acts of violence is not something to be encouraged. Teenagers must be pushed to think and act wiser in this modern era.
This literary essay explored William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and how it is still relevant to today’s society. If your teacher asked you to write something like this and you’re having trouble with it, then why not try ordering a custom essay from us here at CustomEssayMeister? Professional writers at CustomEssayMeister are dedicated to providing our clients with the best possible custom essay. We assure you that you will not receive a plagiarized essay. Message us now.
Bevington, David. "Romeo and Juliet". Encyclopedia Britannica, 2 Oct. 2020, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Romeo-and-Juliet.
Jamieson, Lee. "The House of Capulet in Romeo and Juliet." ThoughtCo, August 26, 2020, https://www.thoughtco.com/house-of-capulet-2985035.
Jamieson, Lee. "The House of Montague in 'Romeo and Juliet'." ThoughtCo , August 28, 2020, https://www.thoughtco.com/house-of-montague-2985036.
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. “Romeo and Juliet.” Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, https://www.shakespeare.org.uk/explore-shakespeare/shakespedia/shakespeares-plays/romeo-and-juliet.
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