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Revisiting Romeo and Juliet

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Romeo is the epitome of a lustful, immature teenager that has never experienced real love to differentiate it from infatuation. The manner in which Romeo tosses girls away after he has met a more charming one, and the idea that a girl can be treated as an equal to an object in his mind, proves that he is not set for something deeper than a relationship that is not solely about the physical aspects or pleasure. The childish, and naive remarks made by his friends fabricate the thoughts that flood through Romeo’s brain. Ultimately, this world-class play written by Shakespeare has the hidden truth about teenage boys wedged in between the lines of the play. Through almost every interaction that Romeo has with Juliet, Romeo is speeding through every minute while Juliet is the only one trying to slam the brakes.

Rosaline is the first girl that Romeo tries to attain, nevertheless, she shows no attraction to him. Despite this, Romeo continues to mope around, at this point it becomes clear that Romeo is completely infatuated with Rosaline which leaves the audience wondering what exactly it is that he is falling in love with: Rosaline, or the concept of love? In act 1 scene 1 lines 155-160 is when it first becomes clear to the audience that Romeo is extremely infatuated with Rosaline through his conversation with his cousin Benvolio, “What sadness lengthens Romeo’s hours? Not having that which having makes them short. In love? Out. Of love? Out of her favour where I am in love.” In the first act of the play, the only two things that Romeo does is either daydream about Rosaline or he mopes around in a copse of “sycamore” trees where the lovelorn tend to go. This quote portrays the classic feeling of false love that teenagers feel frequently. Romeo and Benvolio throw the word “love” around carelessly as though there is no deep meaning behind it. The fact that Romeo is able to say that he is already in love Rosaline is ridiculous and a clear portrayal of teenage relationships and “love.” Then the question about what Romeo is in love with is answered in act 1 scene 1 lines 203-209 and 212 through Romeo’s interaction with Benvolio, “Well in that hit you miss. She’ll not be hit with cupid’s arrow. She hath Dian’s wit, and, in strong proof of chastity well armed, from love’s weak childish bow she lives uncharmed. She will not stay the siege of loving terms, nor bide the encounter of assailing eyes nor ope her lap to saint-seducing gold. … Then she hath sworn that she will still live chaste?” Romeo and Benvolio deliberate on Rosaline decision to swear off boys and sex. Romeo is upset with Rosaline’s decision, and through this we are able to tell that he is still a teenage boy as pleasure is clearly an imperative thing to him and that he wants to use Rosaline for this purpose. After Rosaline has dedicated herself to god, Romeo forgets about Rosaline and he almost immediately falls in love with another girl, Juliet. This ability that Romeo has to move from girl to girl with ease discloses his immaturity and his inability to love someone truly.

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As soon as Romeo’s eyes lay on Juliet, he falls head over heels for her. His “love” for Rosaline is long forgotten. Although they have just met, Romeo is already thinking sexually about Juliet. Romeo has been seen as a romantic character since the end of time, however, if we further analyze his character and his actions, we see that Romeo does many things that goes against this picture that the audience have painted of Romeo. “O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright. It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night like a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear — beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear. So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows as younger lady over her fellows shows. The measure done, I’ll watch her place of stand and, touching hers, make blessed my rude hand. Did my heart love till now? Forswear it sight. For I never saw true beauty till this night” (Shakespeare 1.5, 43-52). Romeo’s description of Juliet posterior to their first meeting shows that he is already infatuated with her. This means that Rosaline is no longer someone that spends a lot of time in Romeo’s head, instead Juliet has replaced her. If Romeo has already forgotten about Rosaline, the girl that swore off boys and coitus, what is the underlying meaning of Romeo’s desire for Juliet? Is he trying to get what he couldn’t from Rosaline through Juliet? This world acclaimed quote by Shakespeare characterizes perfectly the relationship between Romeo and Juliet through their interplay in act 1 scene 5 from lines 95-114, “Romeo: If I profane with my unworthiest hand this holy shrine, the gentle sin is this: my lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand to smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss. Juliet: Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much, which mannerly devotion shows in this. For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch, and palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss. Romeo: Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too? Juliet: Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer. Romeo: O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do. They pray grant thou, lest faith turn to despair. Juliet: Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake. Romeo: Then move not while my prayer’s effect I take. Thus from my lips, by thine, my sin is purged. Juliet: Then have my lips the sin that they took. Romeo: Sin from my lips? O trespass sweetly urged. Give me my sin again. Juliet: You kiss by the book.” The fashion in which Romeo uses a pickup line to receive a kiss from Juliet exhibits the typical predictable teenage personality that most boys possess. Through this, Shakespeare is trying to tell the audience to attempt to look past Romeo’s romantic demeanor and see what Romeo’s true purpose is. The underlying message that Shakespeare is trying to get across to the audience through this play is that teenage boys all wear a mask, and that this mask is crafted by their friends and those who they spend most of their time with. So, we must look past this mask in order to see their true colours. Romeo’s amorous mien is simply the mask hiding his young, concupiscent personality. Romeo and Juliet speed through their relationship without giving it much thought. However, during a consultation between Romeo and Juliet, Juliet tries to tell Romeo that their relationship should move slower by saying, “Well, do not swear. Although I joy in thee, I have no joy of this contract tonight. It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden, too like the lightning, which doth cease to be ere one can say “It lightens.” Sweet, good night. This bud of love, by summer’s ripening breath, may prove a beauteous flower when next we meet. Good night, good night. As sweet repose and rest come to thy heart as that within my breast” (Shakespeare 2.2, 123-130). Juliet is certain that she is in love with Romeo, however, what she isn’t so sure about is if she is comfortable with how fast their relationship is moving. Juliet, being the only mature and responsible one in their relationship understands that they are moving at a pace far too fast and will continue to move at an even faster pace if she doesn’t do anything about it. The audience is exposed to the fact that Juliet is the only one that realises that a fast-paced relationship is dangerous and will fuel the fire of disaster.

They say that you are, or will become, just like the people you associate with most. Benvolio and Mercutio’s sophomoric charisma has an imprint on Romeo’s resulting disposition as they are constantly spending time together. In act 2 scene 1 in lines 35-40 Shakespeare has Mercutio talk sensually about a girl, “If love be blind, love cannot hit the mark. Now will he sit under a medlar tree and wish his mistress were that kind of fruit as maids call medlars when they laugh alone. O, Romeo, that she were, O that she were an open et cetera, thou a poperin pear!” Mercutio uses disturbing and vivid imagery to explain to Benvolio how much he wishes Romeo’s mistress would be accessible to him. The manner in which he describes a woman’s body using analogies such as “medlar” to talk about a woman’s body part and “poperin pear” to hint on the fact that he wants to use Romeo’s mistress imperiously. Mercutio’s word choice displays clearly that he is very much still a teenager with shallow feelings. Although Benvolio is slightly more mature mentally than Mercutio is, he still talks about Romeo’s “love” for Rosaline is a cliché and predictable way. “Why, Romeo, are thou mad? Not mad, but bound more than a madman is. Shut up in prison, kept without my food, whipped and tormented and – good-even, good fellow” (Shakespeare 1.2, 55-58). Teenage boys talk in a very distinct manner when it comes to relationships and girls. The style in which Romeo talks to Benvolio, it shows very distinctly the teenage way that young boys talk about a girl that they are unable to attain or get. Even a simple line like this one just supports my thesis statement about Romeo being a cliche shallow teenage boy. Mercutio is visibly the more immature one of the three boys. He jokes about girls in ways that are disturbing and inappropriate and he likes to joke around and tease Romeo just as a typical schoolboy would tease their best friend. “Nay, I’ll conjure too. Romeo! Humours! Madman! Passion! Lover! Appear thou in the likeness of a sigh, speak but one rhyme, and I am satisfied. Cry but “Ay me!” pronounce but “love” and “dove,” […] I must conjure him. I conjure thee by Rosaline’s bright eyes. By her high forehead and her scarlet lip, by her fine foot, straight leg, and quivering thigh, and the demesnes that there adjacent lie, that in they likeness thou appear to us” (Shakespeare 2.1, 8-12 & 18-23). Mercutio is outgoing and likes to speak his mind. But it isn’t the first time that Shakespeare has had Mercutio compare women’s bodies to fruit or something found in nature. Romeo and Juliet is not a tragic love story. Their love story is built upon the basis that teenage boys aren’t how they seem. They have strings attached to all their actions for the sole purpose of obtaining pleasure. Shakespeare disguises the ugly truth about boys with a what seems like a love story. The audience is blinded by the overlying storyline to uncover the truth.

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