Romeo and Juliet

(opinions on the play "Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare)

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;
Whose misadventur’d piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife.

Reading this play, instead of watching the 1968 movie starring Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, is what made me feel kilig – the same feeling that I have when I watch AlDub (Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza) on Eat Bulaga. The way they conversed with each other was very delightful. They make me remember those early times when I first experienced puppy love and I was as mad as Juliet. I will not go into details, but the guy and I were also pinaglayo by the elders around us but it was because we were too young back then. Way too young. (We had the right love at the wrong time…) When I got my heart broken I resorted to sad love songs and lots of chocolates and I eventually became fat and unsightly. I was also disgusted with myself. I also cannot agree more with what Friar Lawrence said:

These violent delights have violent ends,
And in their triumph die; like fire and powder,
Which, as they kiss, consume: the sweetest honey
Is loathsome in his own deliciousness,
And in the taste confounds the appetite:
Therefore love moderately: long love doth so;
Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow.

Young and impulsive love is surely foolish, but we all know that it is also the most memorable. It is when we love the most and give our all. I, for instance, when I experienced love for the first time, was very idealistic and I was like a dog in my love and loyalty to the boy. All I knew about love was what the 90’s love songs say. Romeo and Juliet were very young too, and I guess that’s just the nature of young love. If not properly supervised, it may result to teenage pregnancy and regrets – but Juliet’s age is already the age of motherhood during her time so I guess it would not be a big problem as it is now.

As I was reading the whole play, I have noticed that men, especially Romeo, talk of beauty as if it is the only thing that gives value to a girl. I have also wondered that if Juliet was not beautiful, would she still be as prized as she was portrayed in the play? Would the people around her still treat her like a very precious thing? These are some passages in the play (all of which are Romeo’s) that idealize beauty in women:

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 yonder lady o’er her fellow 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 ne’er saw true beauty till this night.

The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That bird would sing and think it were not night. –
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!

O sweet Juliet,
Thy beauty hath made me effeminate
And in my temper soften’d valour’s steel.
O my love! My wife!
Death, that hath suck’d the honey of thy breath,
Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty:
Thou art not conquer’d; beauty’s ensign yet
Is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks,
And death’s pale flag is not advanced there.

Even fairytale princesses were portrayed as very beautiful. I grew up thinking that women had to be beautiful in order to be treated like princesses. But (physical) beauty is not present in everyone! Perhaps one reason why women hate beautiful women (whether they admit it or not) is because beauties have somehow won in the genetic lottery and it’s not that hard for them to attract romance in their lives. Men, on the other hand, can just work hard and be wealthy and they can already assure themselves that they’ll have wives. The sad reality in life is that physical appearances really do matter. Especially for women – and that’s where they get their power, since they lack the strength and aggressive nature of men.

Aside from beauty, I also cannot help but see some instances of gender oppression. Despite Juliet being beautiful, called as a “sweet flower” several times, and treated as a precious jewel, she may have secretly detested being born as a woman. She was forced to be married to a man she didn’t love for social and economic reasons because she was already ripe for marriage, as if she was cattle that’s ready to be sold and butchered:

But saying o’er what I have said before:
My child is yet a stranger in the world,
She hath not seen the change of fourteen years;
Let two more summers wither in their pride
Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride. (Capulet)

Well, think of marriage now: younger than you,
Here in Verona, ladies of esteem,
Are already made mothers: by my count
I was your mother much upon these years
That you are not a maid. Thus, then, in brief –
The valiant Paris seeks you for his love. (Lady Capulet)

When she refused to get married to Paris, words like wretch and harlotry came out – even if she wasn’t really behaving like a whore. This is an insult to women, since one act of disobedience could already gain them these labels during Shakespeare’s time. They were not treated like human beings, but as flowers – pretty but useless:

Hang thee, young baggage! Disobedient wretch!
I tell thee what, - get thee to church o’ Thursday,
Or never after look me in the face:
Speak not, reply not, do not answer me;
My fingers itch. – Wife, we scarce thought us bles’d
That God had lent us but this only child;
But now I see this one is one too much,
And that we have a curse in having her:
Out on her, hilding!

Well, be may chance to do some good on her:
A peevish self-will’d harlotry it is.

Thus, women’s fate during Romeo and Juliet’s time can be summarized in what Friar Lawrence said:

The earth, that’s nature’s mother, is her tomb;
What is her burying grave, that is her womb.

Now I think what made the play really tragic is that Romeo and Juliet did not really experience being happy together. The ending was just so disappointing, annoying, irritating, because those two young lovers killed themselves. I was really frustrated when Romeo drank the potion. He could have waited and bawled for a few more days before committing suicide. Personally, I think that the ending has some kind of a connotation regarding our “first loves.” After losing the first person whom we thought was the one, somehow some part of us dies and we become not so innocent and idealistic anymore. However, that lost part of us can also be the reason why we do not feel as happy and as in love compared to when we still had our first loves. 

Literature 183


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