I’ve been through the whole spectrum of emotions when it comes to Romeo and Juliet. Utterly enthralled with the lyricism of the words, gloom at the tragic ending and then scorn at the two young lovers, before coming around full circle and realising what a complete masterpiece Romeo and Juliet really is.
In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare captures the tumultuousness of first love and the desire and the ache that comes with it, combining it with the naivety and recklessness that eventually leads to the two teenagers to their deaths. To discredit Romeo and Juliet because it isn’t realistic is a disservice. To discredit it because the main criticism is that Romeo and Juliet are lustful teenagers who couldn’t possibly know what love is, is also a disservice. If we were to discredit every unrealistic Shakespeare play, scene or act, we would have to sweep away half of Shakespeare’s works.
Romeo and Juliet are important because they’re the victims of the backdrop of the play that is the family feud. The real message of the play is the futility of the rigid societal structure and archaic traditions that are caging these two innocents who are not responsible for this family grudge and yet are the ones who pay the price most heavily. At the end, both the protagonists lie dead, entombed eternally in the Capulet monument and what’s left is a bittersweet peace as a feud, which lasted for decades, finally ends. It might not be incredibly realistic, but I believe that Shakespeare wanted his audience to believe, even for one evening, that these two young kids were desperately in love with each other with their whole hearts. And then Shakespeare wanted to show what pride, greed and anger can do to even the most hopeful and innocent.
Romeo and Juliet are passionate as much as they are tragic. Verona doesn’t realise that while it’s preoccupied with blood and victory, there’s a lyrical whirlpool occurring right in the middle of it.