Ahhh well, I have written much on Romeo and Juliet before, because it's one of my favorite works of Shakespeare and of literature itself. It is criminally underrated and scorned because of sexist anti-romance sentiment. So uh, yeah, I'm more of your opinion.
To start with, I wrote this here, and highly recommend this old post by someone else as well. It's quite comprehensive.
But, because I love Romeo and Juliet and the more I learn about it, the more impressed I am with the absolute art of the story Shakespeare told, I have more to say. Essentially:
Juliet is one of the most astounding female characters in all of literature, and most of her brilliance has been lost with the loss of Shakespearean context. You see, Juliet was a deliberate deconstruction of the idealized, virginal, holy creature of Woman. Yes, that's how the medieval poets like Petrarch (the inventor of the sonnet, which Shakespeare adapted and wrote his own versions of in Romeo and Juliet and hundreds more on their own) and even Dante Alighieri (yes, that Dante, the Inferno guy) wrote their women. For Petrarch, Laura (whom he like, never talked to) was the object of all his love poetry. For Dante, Beatrice was written as his spiritual guide into Paradise in Paradiso.
Not to simplify their love for these women, but Shakespeare was essentially like "RIP but I'm different." He wrote Juliet as a human character with flaws (hardly a spiritual guide) who was not this virginal, holy creature. She starts off the play extremely obedient to her family and polite, almost like that ideal, but as the play goes on she begins to let her fire grow.
Romeo's poems for Rosaline are deliberately trite and parody Petrarch's sonnets, as well as other sonnets from the day (for example, Rosaline is literally sworn to chastity forever, which wasn’t even the case for Laura or Beatrice). While the fact that Romeo can switch loves from Rosaline to Juliet so quickly does indeed emphasize his flaw (impulsivity and deep passion), it also thereby emphasizes his humanity, because the unique imagery Romeo uses with Juliet show that he is really in love with her as she is--not as an idea like with Rosaline, but as a human being. As with many of Shakespeare's other renowned plays' characters, Romeo's flaws are also his strengths. He's complex--human.
So what am I going on about? Why did Shakespeare write Romeo and Juliet this way?
To emphasize their humanity. Which is interesting, because Romeo and Juliet's first meeting, the one where they both create a sonnet together, is all about idolatry:
If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this.
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.
Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou lest faith turn to despair.
Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.
Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.
[He kisses her]
He describes her as a holy shrine and a saint, but the more their romance goes on, the more human she becomes. He kisses her right away. When they meet in the balcony scene, Juliet herself tells Romeo that the only thing she wants him to swear by--no gods or moons--is himself. In other words, Romeo and Juliet can be seen as a deeply humanistic play.
Also, the more their romance continues, the more human they become and yet the deeper their love becomes. As one of the posts I linked above states, Romeo loves Juliet more after they’ve had sex, not less. Juliet loves Romeo more despite the fact that she knows he killed her cousin--and she is not happy with him for that, either. The more they learn of each other, the more they love each other.
Oh, and about the extra gross modern take that "it's actually a story about a 13 year old and a much older man"--that is complete bogus, as the above post says. Romeo is almost certainly 15 or 16. While people can be squicked out by it (as it was designed to do with some Italian stereotypes), to say it shows anything creepy is basically literary blasphemy and betrays an utter lack of reading comprehension.
Juliet sets the parameters in their relationship: she tells him if he really loves her, he has to marry her before she will sleep with him, and Romeo does. She muses herself how much she wants to sleep with him in a way that clearly expresses Juliet’s very human desires. Juliet is going to assert who she is and go after what she wants.
So to go back to your question, it’s not just about their families, but about society as well, as Prince Escalus says in the final scene:
See what a scourge is laid upon your hate,
That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love.
And I for winking at your discords too
Have lost a brace of kinsmen. All are punish’d.
Everyone is punished for participating in the feud, which, keep in mind, we were introduced to via an intro fight scene between the servants of the respective families joking about raping the women in the opposing family. Yes, really. It’s almost like toxic masculinity was being called out before its time.
Society is extremely sexist, as we see when Juliet’s father essentially sells her to Paris for the sake of having political clout to win the feud (literally, as Paris is the Prince’s kinsman) and threatens to send her on the streets to prostitute herself if she wants to survive for asking him not to make her marry Paris. But the cat’s out of that bag: Juliet is not going back to being the docile, obedient idol. She’s decisive. She wants to write her own story, and if that makes her a sinner, well then, she’ll go to hell. In the end, when the Friar suggests that Juliet come with him so that he can hide her away in some convent (after Romeo’s death), Juliet refuses and kills herself. She is not going back to being a figure shrouded in some kind of ethereal, unknown glow. She is a person, and people die. But she shouldn’t have had to die for people to see her as a person.
There’s also another layer here: the imagery Romeo uses for Juliet (the sun) and that Juliet uses for Romeo (the moon) is the inverse of how imagery was typically presented in those days. The moon was feminine; the sun, masculine. Even if we look at Romeo and Juliet’s respective character traits, Romeo is the flighty, impulsive, love-struck one who cries all the time, while Juliet is the decisive, bold, and loyal one. That’s the first thing Juliet declares to Romeo in the balcony scene: that she will always be loyal, and she shows this in every choice she makes in the story.
In other words, Shakespeare was deliberately playing with gender and its stereotypes in the play, which gains an even more interesting layer to it when you consider that Shakespeare was himself almost certainly bisexual (his sonnets are preeeetty explicit). It’s not a patriarchal narrative; it can well be seen as a queer narrative in a patriarchal society. And it shouldn’t take two kids having to kill themselves to get society to realize how effed up it is. It isn’t an out-of-touch play, but instead one extremely relevant to our society 500+ years later.
But, Romeo and Juliet’s story is also one of hope. Because instead of no one listening, finally, Montague and Capulet realize how wrong they’ve been. They grieve together, and Capulet vows to let Romeo remain in his family’s tomb, by Juliet’s side (also different, you know, that the husband stays in the wife’s tomb). Montague vows to build a statue for Juliet:
For I will raise her statue in pure gold,
That whiles Verona by that name is known,
There shall no figure at such rate be set
As that of true and faithful Juliet.
Gold is associated with the masculine as well; silver with the feminine. She is remembered as someone “true and faithful,” aka for her loyalty and bravery.
But no statue can bring Juliet back. She was not an idol, and it’s tremendously unfair that that is all she can become now. Same for Romeo. Even so, the fact that their deaths have finally brought peace to the city means that there is life growing from their deaths. They will never be able to birth a family of their own, but the city will grow and live, because of them.
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