I’m sure everybody knows this story. Not only is it one of the most popular Shakespeare plays, but also one of the best known love stories from throughout all of history. Romeo and Juliet themselves are thought of as the archetypes of lovers and countless films, books and songs make reference to them. Which baffles me a bit, because I think their story is a bit rubbish.
At the start of the story, we’re introduced to two families (the Capulets and Montagues) between whom there has been a blood feud for years immemorial. We soon meet a man named Romeo who is deeply in love with a woman he can never be with, yes, a Capulet woman! Of course, I’m talking about… Rosaline. Yes, at the start of the story, Romeo is interested in another woman, but since it doesn’t seem like anything will happen with that, he forgets about her quite quickly when he meets Juliet.
On the subject of Juliet; her age isn’t mentioned in the novel, but based on the historical setting, she is probably very young (age thirteen to fifteen or something), certainly at least ten years younger than Romeo. Now, of course, I have no trouble with people having relationships when they’re of different ages but here’s what I don’t like: Romeo is telling her he’s in love with her almost right away, when he almost certainly is not, but she believes it (probably because she’s so young) and all the unhappy circumstances which follow from their interactions stem from Romeo’s irresponsible behaviour with somebody who is much more naive and vulnerable.
There is one reasonable character who I quite liked: Mercutio. Sadly, Mercutio doesn’t take much focus. Everyone else is just either rather delusional, insane, arrogant, hugely violent or largely unlikeable in some other way. None of them seem capable of rational decisions, so the huge tragedy seems so unavoidable. You think, if only there had been somebody to guide this rabble. As it is, it’s a group of disagreeable people who lead to a distressing end. Rating: 5.5/10
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