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Day #15: The first play you read - Romeo and Juliet



I'd read a number of the Charles and Mary Lamb Tales from Shakespeare versions of other plays when I was younger, but Romeo and Juliet was the first of Shakespeare's actual plays that I read. I was...nine or ten, I think, and read the play before seeing the Zeffirelli film version for the first time. I knew the story beforehand and, to be honest, I don't remember how much of the play I understood at the time. I do remember that the film made me cry.

Fast-forward a few years. My eighth-grade English class did a unit on Romeo and Juliet, and I was so incredibly excited because I already knew and loved the play. And then my English teacher proceeded to almost ruin it for me by boiling it all down to syllables and insisting that her interpretation was the only interpretation. Also, dammit, there are two balcony scenes. Yes, one of them is famous. But there are two of them (I'm referring to the farewell scene, Act III, Scene V). I remember losing points on a midterm exam for insisting on that.

I still love this play. I understand why there are people who hate it and it wouldn't surprise me if most of them had to read it in school, because there is no way to teach Romeo and Juliet to kids that age without bringing all the cultural baggage with it. I'd love to try, but I'd probably fail miserably because I have no patience.

I never thought it was a grand love story. What made me cry at the end of the film wasn't the romance or Dying For One's True Love or anything like that. It was that a wonderful, vibrant girl like Juliet had just stabbed herself in a crypt because she honestly believed she had no other choice. This play isn't just about two kids who fall in love. It's about a dangerous, violent society built on feuds that nobody can explain (although based on Guelphs and Ghibellines in medieval Italy, whose rivalries had a lot to do with one side supporting the Pope and the other side supporting the Holy Roman Emperor), and unwilling to move forward despite threats from the Prince.

[livejournal.com profile] munditia brought up the fascinating point that Juliet has more in common with the heroine of a comedy than one of a tragedy (see also, Desdemona). She knows exactly what she wants, she defies her parents and her city and everything she's been taught to believe -- but instead of the happy ending a comedy heroine arguably gets, she's abandoned by her family, loses her lover, and kills herself from despair.



Also, even though [livejournal.com profile] angevin2 noted this in her post about romantic scenes, I had to add it here because every single time I read these lines, I get chills:

My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.

Those are among my favourite lines in Shakespeare, but they are neither a couplet, nor a speech, nor a single line, so I am going to list them here anyway.


Day #1: Your favourite play - Othello and Richard III
Day #2: Your favourite character - Lady Elizabeth Grey in 3 Henry VI and Richard III
Day #3: Your favourite hero - Othello
Day #4: Your favourite heroine - Juliet from Romeo and Juliet and Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing
Day #5: Your favorite villain - Richard of Gloucester
Day #6: Your favourite villainess female villain - Joan la Pucelle
Day #7: Your favourite clown - Feste from Twelfth Night
Day #8: Your favourite comedy - Much Ado About Nothing
Day #9: Your favourite tragedy - King Lear
Day #10: Your favourite history - The Henry VI trilogy
Day #11: Your least favourite play - The Taming of the Shrew
Day #12: Your favourite scene - selections from Richard III, Othello, Much Ado, and 3 Henry VI
Day #13: Your favourite romantic scene - As You Like It, Act IV, Scene I
Day #14: Your favourite fight scene - 1 Henry IV and 3 Henry VI
Day #15: The first play you read - Romeo and Juliet
Day #16: Your first play you saw
Day #17: Your favourite speech
Day #18: Your favourite dialogue
Day #19: Your favourite movie version of a play
Day #20: Your favourite movie adaptation of a play
Day #21: An overrated play
Day #22: An underrated play
Day #23: A role you've never played but would love to play
Day #24: An actor or actress you would love to see in a particular role
Day #25: Sooner or later, everyone has to choose: Hal or Falstaff?
Day #26: Your favourite couple
Day #27: Your favourite couplet
Day #28: Your favourite joke
Day #29: Your favourite sonnet
Day #30: Your favourite single line

Date: 2010-08-03 03:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] charliesmum.livejournal.com
but Romeo and Juliet was the first of Shakespeare's actual plays that I read. Me too! I was, oh, somewhere between 10 and 12 when I read it. Fortunately I had the copy that had all the definitions on one side, and whoever owned the book before me put notes in the margin, so it was like a course in Shakespeare for little ol' me.

I remember my professor in college pointing out that technically it is not one of his better plays - early work, and the characters weren't as rich as later ones. With the exception of Juliet, who really was the most 'realised' character. Romeo is really a whiny little sot, isn't he?

I still love the play for sentimental reasons, though I can see it's flaws now that I am old an pretentious.

My favourite bit is the flirty scene at the part - palm to palm is holy palmer's kiss and all. Love that scene.

It really isn't about the romance so much as it is about the feud and lives being ruined because of a hate that doesn't even have a reason any more.

Date: 2010-08-03 08:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] munditia.livejournal.com
For me, it was actually the first play I read in the original Klingon English -- or, at least, in a "more original" English Penguin paperback edition than my 19th-century German translation without footnotes. I too probably didn't understand all that much of the play's language (I was fourteen at the time, but with four years of high-school English under the belt, Shakespeare is a wee bit hard), but what I did understand I loved.

Date: 2010-08-03 11:44 pm (UTC)
ext_14638: (Default)
From: [identity profile] 17catherines.livejournal.com
Romeo and Juliet was the first of Shakespeare's actual plays that I encountered, too - I played incidental music for it in a school production in year nine, when I was 14.

I completely fell for Mercutio (the actress playing him was very talented). Completely and utterly. All those words! And all those puns! How could I not fall in love? I had the whole play memorised for about a year afterward; I still have most of Mercutio's lines memorised.

I wonder, now, if the other reason I fixated so much on Mercutio is that I always had to go home at the end of Act III because it was past my bedtime? I think a lot of Juliet's best lines are later in the play, and while I have grown to love Juliet, I've never really taken to Romeo...

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