We are finally finished with Romeo and Juliet up until Act Three. Or, as I’m calling it, The Act Where Everything Goes Wrong. In Act 2 and 3, R & J finally begin to realize that love is not a save-all, heal-all force, and maybe, just maybe, love can actually pull others apart. But, our favorite star-crossed lovers clearly don’t see this, because they’re too infatuated with each other’s beauty that they don’t realize actions have consequences.
RIP: Mercutio and Tybalt
To be honest, I was a bit upset that Mercutio and Tybalt died. Romeo and Juliet were starting to annoy me with all this “love at first sight” crap, but the side characters (not you, Paris…), especially Mercutio, were a breath of fresh air. However, I think this is exactly why Shakespeare decided to kill them off. I read that Shakespeare said “if I don’t kill Mercutio, Mercutio is going to kill me!” (maybe not his exact words, but still). Romeo and Juliet is not a love story- it’s a tragedy. Shakespeare didn’t write love stories. So, he had to progress the play somehow, because we all know how it ends. And I think getting rid of the two “main” side characters, especially Mercutio, the funnyman, launched the play into a much darker alley.
In the scene, Tybalt challenges Romeo to a fight, but Romeo decides that he does not want to fight. Tybalt provokes Mercutio by saying “you consortest with Romeo,” (you… hangout with Romeo?), so they fight and both end up dying. Classic.
“A plague on both your houses!”
Now, don’t get me wrong. Mercutio would be willing to die for Romeo if the need be. They’re best friends, and their bond goes far back… definitely further than the night before. But, the thing about Mercutio’s death is that there was no need. This event that triggers the death of 6 more characters was wholly preventable, if it wasn’t for loverboy Romeo. Romeo was supposed to be there for Mercutio but all he said was “oh no my love for Juliet has made me effeminate and suddenly I won’t hurt a fly!” Really, man? Even though Tybalt might have physically killed Mercutio, Romeo is to blame for his friend’s death. One of the cardinal rules of friendship is to never let other romantic relationships to get in the way. Mercutio was there for Romeo when he needed him, but Romeo was too busy looking at the whole situation through his post-marriage rose-colored glasses to mind. He was ignorant. Mercutio even said: “Why the devil came you between us? I was hurt under your arm” (pg. 121). Clearly, love didn’t solve anything in this situation. Could it have? Maybe, maybe not. If Romeo explained why he said he loved Tybalt, he would definitely die a lot sooner than he had! Perhaps love is the peaceful solution in Romeo’s mind, but not everything has a peaceful solution.
The Blame Game
R & J clearly believe that they have an unbreakable bond. But if this is the case, then how do they fall to their demise so quickly? Who is to blame (other than Shakespeare 😉 )?
There are a few people to point fingers at.
Friar Lawrence is the easy one to blame for Romeo and Juliet. If Romeo and Juliet were tried in court for murder, their lawyers would probably argue that they were delusional, or perhaps intoxicated, and didn’t know what they were doing. However, Friar Lawrence was supposed to be the trusted adult, but he was just blinded by his ignorance. He thought that a decades long family feud could just be solved by marrying a Capulet and a Montague- but you could argue that he’s just stupid and blinded by love like half the people in this play.
Capulet is the strange dad that sounds like he’s having a stroke every time he talks, but there’s no doubt that he’s the most mean-spirited character of the play. Because he pressured Juliet into marrying Paris, Juliet felt that sense of teenage rebellion when she fell in love with and married Romeo. Not to mention, he threatened to disown her unless she immediately married Paris. And according to neurologists, when you love something you can’t have, the love is much more intense. So, that worked out.
Romeo, Thou Art A Villain!
These two characters are often blamed for the way Romeo and Juliet ends, and it’s true in one part. However, there is one character that is more to blame than anyone else: Romeo.
In class, we talked a lot about how Romeo instantly falling in love with Juliet at the party was basically his rebound from getting rejected by Rosaline. He was still so intensely in love with Rosaline, but since he couldn’t have her, he acted that much more reckless. He saw Juliet, a pretty looking girl, and married her the next day. Convenient, isn’t it Romeo?
There’s also the fact that Juliet is 13. Of course, society 500 years ago was much different, but if Juliet sees a hot 17-23 year old lusting after her, she’s bound to be happy about it- Romeo is her first love! So, was Romeo taking advantage of Juliet? Did he really love her? Or was it just a spur of the moment fling?
Now the character deaths. As I mentioned above, Romeo is really the one to blame for Mercutio’s death. His friend needed him and he wasn’t there- even worse, he used his love for Juliet as an excuse to not fight Tybalt. And when Mercutio dies, he gets mad at Tybalt and kills him… when it’s really his own ignorance that killed Mercutio.
Back to Juliet: her “love” that she’s known for a few days killed her cousin! She takes some time to weep, but then focuses her energy and anger to being mad that Romeo is “banishéd.” If she wasn’t so blinded by love, she would have seen Romeo’s ulterior motive. So… maybe love is not blind, but love is blinding. The girl’s thirteen and got threatened to get disowned by her parents, of course she’s going to do everything to rebel!
The blame on Romeo goes on into the play, but since we are only on act 3, I won’t get too into it. In conclusion: Romeo is a hotheaded mess.
Keeping Up With The Capulets
If love was a hole, Juliet fell down it and then started digging. In Act 2, she handed her heart over to Romeo on the balcony after a whole 2 hours (hey, at least it’s something). She was ready to give up her soul, her life, even her identity as a Capulet just to be with Romeo. On page 73, she says: “…a rose/ by any other word would smell as sweet/ so Romeo would/ were he not Romeo called.” Juliet does not care that her only love is from her rival house: the only thing that matters is that they are in love. Cute, right?
No. She’s going to die. But, of course, she doesn’t know that- so she gets married. And then things get interesting.
She spends a stanza or two crying about how her cousin is dead, but worry not- it doesn’t last for long! Because when she finds out that Romeo is banishéd, it’s suddenly the end of the world. On page 137, she says: “Romeo is banishéd./ To speak that word is father, mother, Tybalt, Romeo, Juliet, all slain, all dead.” You don’t possibly think you’re being a bit dramatic, right? Just a little? In front of her mother, she convinces her mother that she hates Romeo- not that her mother was suspicious of her in the first place, anyways. “I shall never be satisfied/ with Romeo till I behold him -dead-”
Which is interesting, because, you know, I guess that makes her satisfied at the end of the play? Hm.
In Act 3, Lady Capulet confronts Juliet about marrying Paris. She defiantly says no, playing into a little bit of dramatic irony when she says: “When I do marry,/ it shall be Romeo; who you know I hate,/ rather than Paris.” Right, Juliet. You hate him so much. But when she says no to her father, he practically loses it. He threatens that if she does not marry Paris by the upcoming Thursday, he’ll disown her. She begs for her father’s understanding, but it’s apparent that he doesn’t really care much about how she feels. And to make things worse, the Nurse, who was supposed to be on her side, also wants her to marry Paris. Ouch! Tough times.
I am honestly not sure whether or not I am looking forward to the rest of the play. While I’ll miss it’s lightheartedness, I’m also looking forward to the darker parts. But, overall, it’s much better than I thought it’d be so far!