Nate's Reviews > Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
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Dec 04, 13


I'm not sure what annoys me more - the play that elevated a story about two teenagers meeting at a ball and instantly "falling in love" then deciding to get married after knowing each other for one night into the most well-known love story of all time, or the middle schools that feed this to kids of the same age group as the main characters to support their angst-filled heads with the idea that yes, they really are in love with that guy/girl they met five minutes ago, and no one can stop them, especially not their meddling parents!

Keep in mind that Juliet was THIRTEEN YEARS OLD. (Her father states she "hath not yet seen the change of fourteen years" in 1.2.9). Even in Shakespeare's England, most women were at least 21 before they married and had children. It's not clear how old Romeo is, but either he's also a stupid little kid who needs to be slapped, or he's a child molester, and neither one is a good thing.

When I was in middle school or high school, around the time we read this book, I remember a classmate saying in class that when her and her boyfriends' eyes met across the quad, they just knew they were meant to be together forever. How convenient that her soulmate happened to be an immensely popular and good-looking football player, and his soulmate happened to be a gorgeous cheerleader! That's not love at first sight, that's lust at first sight. If they were really lucky, maybe as time went on they would also happen to "click" very well, that lust would develop into love (it didn't), and they would end up together forever (they didn't). But if they saw each other at a school dance, decided they were "like, totally in love," and then the next day decided to run off and get married, we shouldn't encourage that as a romantic love story, we should slap the hell out of them both to wake them up to reality.

For what it's worth, my cynicism doesn't come from any bitterness towards life or love. I met my wife when we were 17, and we've now been together almost 10 years, married for a little over 2. Fortunately for me, she turned out to be awesome. If we had decided the day after meeting each other that we were hopelessly in love and needed to get married immediately, we would have been idiots, and I hope someone who I trusted and respected would have slapped me, hard. If we were 13 at the time, that would be even worse. Enlightened adults injecting this into our youth as a classic love story for the generations, providing further support for their angst-filled false ideas of love and marriage, is probably worst of all.
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Comments (showing 1-48 of 48) (48 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

keep in mind that this play was written a long time ago when things were different.


message 2: by Nate (new) - rated it 1 star

Nate Hoot wrote: "keep in mind that this play was written a long time ago when things were different. "

"Even in Shakespeare's England, most women were at least 21 before they married and had children."


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

if you read other things from his work you will see he usually goes beyond what is appropriate and usual for his time but that adds a great twist to his work. it makes it more interesting and keeps people reading and watching his plays.


message 4: by Jacqueline (last edited Jun 22, 2009 11:15AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jacqueline That doesn't sound right to me, that woman got married at 21, at the earliest. I'm sure Shakespeare was accurate, I mean he lived during that time. Maybe it was different for powerful families. Maybe not. I don't think the age of Juliet should be counted as a negative for the story.


message 5: by Nate (new) - rated it 1 star

Nate Thanks for your comments. Hhoot, overall I agree and am a fan of Shakespeare - I give Othello 5 stars, for example - but I can't agree that the thirteen year old girl's "love story" is a great twist in this case.

And I don't think that it's Shakespeare who is inaccurate on the age point. It's readers who are mistaken. They just assume he was portraying something normal - or, more often, picture Juliet as much older than 13.


Jean Nate, I completely agree with you. This text is seen as a tragic love story and one of the greatest romances of all time when it is actually just a story of teenage lust that has been warped in modern interpretations. As evidence of this if you look at Juliet's famous "Romeo, Romeo" line and analyze the iambic pentameter, Juliet is not meant to say it in the dreamy romantic voice we here so often, but rather in the complaining and obnoxious voice of a typical 13 year old girl


message 7: by Nate (last edited Dec 01, 2009 12:00PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Nate Jean: Not sure what your point is other than the desire to be drippingly sarcastic, but evaluating the merits of a book based on how "the text is seen" and how actors read the lines is pretty ridiculous. If a book sucks and has a terrible message, it sucks and has a terrible message, regardless of how actors read the lines or how people have viewed the work for decades.

Jocelyn: Thanks for your comment. Two points in response. One, even in Elizabethan England, this was not common. See the discussion at http://elizabethan.org/compendium/9.html Sir Thomas More recommended girls not marry before 18, boys before 22. The most common age for non-noble marriages was 23 for women, 25-26 for men. Even in noble families with much earlier arranged marriages, it was to secure an alliance and the couple would "generally not live together as man and wife." Practices going on today in other parts of the world are irrelevant to both our practices today and the practices in Shakespeare's time.

Second, and more importantly, even if it was common practice in Shakespeare's time, that doesn't mean it should be taught to middle school girls today as one of the greatest romances of all time. Feeding underage girls a story of a 13 year old hooking up with some guy she just met at a dance and then committing suicide over him as a "great romance," then justifying it by saying that the practice was "common" at the time the work was written, is like presenting a Viking story of kidnap and rape leading to forced marriage as a "romance story" and justifying it by saying it was commonplace at the time. It doesn't matter whether it was common hundreds of years ago when the work was written - it's stupid and irresponsible to present it to kids today as a great romance given how horribly inappropriate the facts are in today's world. That's why I hate this play, despite being a big fan of Shakespeare in general.


message 8: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Well Nate, you missed the point. The many points actually. Sometimes literature transcends literal.


message 9: by Nate (last edited Jan 23, 2010 07:58AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Nate No Kim, you just think I "missed" something because you disagree with me. My hypothetical Viking story above could be full of multi-layered symbolism and finish with an amazing message for the ages. That still wouldn't make me like it or think it's appropriate to feed to middle school kids.

I'm sure you have plenty of books rated one or two stars that some other folks thought were sublime. That doesn't mean you "missed the point." It just means you disagree.


message 10: by Sarah (new) - rated it 1 star

Sarah Eh, the common people married in their early to middle twenties, but noble houses and powerful families arranged marriages much earlier in many cases. The age you were able to consent to marriage was 12 for girls and 14 for boys I believe. It wasn't common practice, but it was done. I'm not a big fan of the story either though.


Bonnie Blackburn Nate I hardly think the reason we teach this in junior high is to encourage students to do likewise. Rather, it's a commentary on sacrifice, staying in control, what happens when passion becomes overpowering, the dangers of lying and sneaking around, the power of forgiveness, and the importance of forgetting things that are in the past and getting on with life. If the Capulets and Montagues had just learned to get along none of it would have happened. I'd like to find a teacher who teaches this because she is claiming that you can and should fall in love and marry at such a young age. Just because we read something doesn't mean that we are encouraging all who are reading it to do the same thing. That being said... I don't love Romeo and Juliet. I far prefer Merchant of Venice, Macbeth, or Othello... but I understand why R&J is studied.


Mr. Brammer I don't think Shakespeare is encouraging the "love at first sight" aspect of their relationship - after all, their haste and recklessness is what leads them to their deaths. Also, while the play was written in Elizabethan England, it is set in Renaissance Italy - the important thing is that they are overemotional teenagers who act rashly.


message 13: by Jess (new)

Jess Juliet's age isn't the focus of the play. There are so many other important aspects, like the parents' feelings towards their child, and loyalty.

Some people find their soulmates at a young age even now, and when both families are feuding, it doesn't make it easier to be together, so they marry so no one can separate them. I'm sure divorce wasn't around in Shakespeare's time.

Maybe read it again, ignoring Juliet's age. There is love there, even if it is young love. As well as so much more.


message 14: by Ayla (last edited Nov 27, 2010 04:59PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ayla I do agree that it's quite ridiculous in today's society to think that a thirteen year old and another teen could fall in love after knowing each other for five minutes, and that, no, it probably wouldn't have turned out to be a healthy and positive relationship between Romeo and Juliet.

But another thought is that Shakespeare probably had no idea that teen aged girls in the future would be reading this, and that, in his time, it wasn't that weird for the female role in a relationship to be filled by a rather young person. Keep in mind that both Romeo and Juliet were considered to be very royal, and so maybe their age of marriage was even lower than usual.

Also, I think it's kind of unfair to rate such a wholesome and moral book 1 star simply because of the differences between our and Shakespeare's societies. The quality and elegance of the story and writing itself was astounding, and it's much better than the teen romance books nowadays.


Andie Stockwell Johns My partner and I started going out when I was 14 (he was 17). That said, I agree that rushing into things -- assuming that every thime you "fall in love at first sight" it really IS LOVE -- is an incredibly stupid decision. I agree with you there. We didn't rush into things, which is good. And at this point we've been together already longer than most people's marriages last.

Also, I would like to see a source for your statement that most women were 21 before they were married. I can name several people (mainly nobles because they are the ones who have records) who married very young, including:
- Joan of Kent (m. at age 12)
- Margaret of France, queen of England and Hungary (m. at age 15)
- Margaret of France, queen of England (engaged at 11 and married at 16 because her future husband was kind of being a dick)
- Margaret of Valois (m. at age 19)
- Catherine de Medici (m. at age 14)
- Elisabeth of Valois (m. at age 14)
- Margaret Wake (m. at age 15)
- Philippa of Hainault (m. at age 14)
- Mary of Waltham (m. at age 11)

I do not want to start an argument but if I'm wrong I do want to know about it you know?


Teresa Choe Shakespeare is a genius--the words and metaphors are just amazing. He's one of the most celebrated writers (or artist, as I like to put it) of all time. Why would people around the world read it if it were not for that very reason?

That being said, there is a reason for it to be a classic. Many people have brought up the point that it was in different times. And it was. Lady Capulet, Juliet's mother, even said she married near the age of 13. The society today is different, with modern views on love.

Yes, it was lust at first sight. In fact, Shakespeare also SPECIFICALLY wrote in the play that they both fell for the others looks. Yes, they are good looking. But their lust grew to passion; their passion grew to a clumsy first love. A foolish, young love that died and was bound in heaven. Must I repeat that again? A foolish, young love that twisted and turned everything until it eventually turned into nothing.

Also keep in mind that there might be a subconscious reason for dislike. This plot is so overused and copied again and again. Forbidden love, blah blah blah. But Shakespeare used beautiful, clever wording and phrases. I admire and both envy him with his use for words.

To add to that, we should look deeper into the book than just enjoy (or dislike) the surface. Shakespeare is not stupid. We should not argue over the details like "oh, THAT WASN'T LOVE! HORROR! THEY'RE TOO YOUNG! SURELY THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT LOVE IS BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE PARENTS OR FRIENDS!" We should look at the details in the fine print: Loyalty. Betrayal. Tough decisions. One could even say the moral of this book was "next time, listen to your parents."

And really, I am 14 years old. There are people around this age that are mature. Likewise, who's to say they have not experienced love?


message 17: by Ayla (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ayla Thank you, Teresa! Another teen with some level of maturity (I'm 13).

I agree that the concept of love is a rather overused one in today's literary world. Entire shelves have been dedicated to the romance genre, and people like me have fueled that genre to no end. Though many romance books hold a lot of moral quality and are true to their overlying theme (love), a lot are very biased, portraying teen love as something that can never lead to happy endings. Also, many books make it seem as though love is something that should be seen, rather than felt. Lust, social acceptance, and even pity have driven "love" in many teen romance books. They lead us to think that love is instant and is fueled by physical looks and perfection (ever notice how the lover always shows up right when the main character needs them most? Or how the lover is described as being perfect around 80% of the time? People in real life most likely won't show up right when you need them, and perfection is rarely a factor.

The fact is, none of us really know what was going on inside Shakespear's head when he was writing this play. Maybe he was trying to tell us that affection based on looks will never end well. Maybe he's trying to tell us that lust can blossom into love. Maybe he's trying to tell us that rushed love never ends well. Who knows what he's trying to tell us?

Our opinions of Romeo and Juliet are just that: opinions. No one knows for sure what the underlying meanings of Romeo and Juliet are, and maybe that's the beauty of it: it makes us think, which is more than I can say for most books nowadays.

And maybe, just maybe, that's what Shakespear's goal was all along.


message 18: by John (new) - rated it 1 star

John Even in Shakespeare's England, most women were at least 21 before they married and had children."

The play is set in Italy.


message 19: by Anna (new) - rated it 3 stars

Anna This review is the matter of option!! Nate does not like this play but that doesn't mean you have to hate it just because he does. It's your option wither you like it or not.


message 20: by Kira (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kira Great review, but in actuality, this play is supposed to be a satire. Everything you said is so right, but that's the whole point. This is the message Shakespeare wants to put across. That when you are thirteen, you are not in love. You don't truly understand your emotions, and you blur hormonal lust and the idea of a white wedding with deep feelings. Romeo and Juliet are idiot children who wanted to bone because each thought the other was TOTES HOT--and this is exactly what Shakespeare was trying to say. The play has been warped and completely misunderstood over the ages, especially by fools like Meyer, and now it has lost its meaning and turned into an idiotic generic tale of forbidden love. Shakespeare didn't do things by halves and nothing he wrote was simple or straight-down-the-line. He meant for the play to show people how stupid it is to assume you are in love when you are thirteen and only just evolving into a young teen, when everything is such a drama and hormones run rampant.

So, when tweens compare Edward and Bella to Romeo and Juliet, they're insulting their own fandom.


message 21: by Alex (new) - rated it 3 stars

Alex The average age then was 21, but mostly because lower classes married later, and arranged marriages were slowly on the decline, leaving girls to find their own husbands. However, among the higher classes, it wasn't unusual for arranged marriages to involve substantially younger girls. That's not to say it wasn't entirely disgusting the Capulet's were so anxious to marry off their 13 year old daughter to a 30 year old man who very nonchalantly states "Younger girls than she are happy mothers made." to her father.


Richard you are a fucking genius, love the review


Daniel Whittaker this is what i hate about shakespeare, its so shallow!


Daniel Whittaker and the fact that almost all the men seem to be homosexual


Daniel Whittaker and the fact that almost all the men seem to be homosexual


message 26: by Jane (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jane oh lordy lordy. yes, as was mentioned, if this was a modern day YA plot it would be sickening; however it is very old. And stupid romance aside, is it not still an excellent story? The prose amazes me every time. :)


message 27: by Asura (new) - rated it 1 star

Asura I agree with you. I liked the slapping parts. Haha.


Fernanda Marañón I know that the concept itself is really stupid but most of Shakespeare's work is based on another stories. He became famous because of the way he wrote stories.


Steveo Love at first sight totally exists and is beyond mosts understanding, which is why many don't believe in it. There is much about the brain still yet to be discovered, but people can connect through many other ways than just words... The best messages are those with no words at all, and it's not till one experiences these moments, can they truly believe/realise they exist.


Griffin P. To all of you dreamers in the world who believe in love at first sight, have at it: but I say that's utterly ridiculous. I'm only an act through this book, so I can't speak for it all (we're being made to read it for 9th grade English), and I know there are better parts to come, but the entire plot and all of the characters so far seem to me shallow and pointless. Romeo's just some kid who thinks he's in love with every girl he sees (he said all the same crap about Juliet as he did about Rosaline) and Juliet's supposed to be this independent woman, but she kind of lets Romeo whisk her off into a stupid fantasy. I'm sorry, modern-day or not, I just don't buy it.


message 31: by Sara (new) - rated it 1 star

Sara He wrote soap operas.


message 32: by Jess (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jess Davis I think that might've been the best thing I've ever heard. my English teacher yelled at us each time we pointed out how young they were or how they didn't even know each other. before I actually read the play, I thought they were around 18 years old and had, at least, known each other for a few months before deciding they can not live without one another.


Arabella  Adrienne I'd just like to point out- Juliet's parents were going to marry her to Paris at 13, anyway. So I think, it was better for her (at least in her opinion) to marry someone in the spur of the moment that she LOVED, then to be forced to marry someone she despised.


message 34: by Rose Tyler (new)

Rose Tyler no offense or anything, Nate, but back then, girls were married awy in their teens--anytime from 12+


message 35: by Rose Tyler (new)

Rose Tyler also, i'm 12, haven't read the play, and still know that!!! now back to my homework. :-(


message 36: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Muscatell I am reading Romeo and Juliet for the ...teenth time. 13,14,33,34 age is not important in this great work. The language and the poetry is the greatest achievement. “When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”
This quote in itself is a symphony.


Angelina Tang Well in the time period of the book the age they are is appropriate for marriage and children.


message 38: by Nate (last edited Jul 09, 2013 02:41PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Nate Appreciate that the review has engendered such discussion, both in agreement and disagreement.

Arabella, you make a fair point, but that's something to make Juliet's actions more reasonable, not something that makes this a good work to feed to children.

Kira, I like your interpretation, though that's certainly not how it was presented to me in middle school (and not how it's typically presented to kids, especially when you take into account the many romantic remakes and reimaginings).

However, to the comments that keep popping up declaring that this was commonplace in Shakespeare's time, I'll just refer back to one of my own comments above from several years ago:

"[E]ven if it was common practice in Shakespeare's time, that doesn't mean it should be taught to middle school girls today as one of the greatest romances of all time. Feeding underage girls a story of a 13 year old hooking up with some guy she just met at a dance and then committing suicide over him as a "great romance," then justifying it by saying that the practice was "common" at the time the work was written, is like presenting a Viking story of kidnap leading to forced marriage as a "romance story" and justifying it by saying it was commonplace at the time. It doesn't matter whether it was common hundreds of years ago when the work was written - it's stupid and irresponsible to present it to kids today as a great romance given how horribly inappropriate the facts are in today's world."


Grace I suppose this is why they get older characters to play Romeo and Juilet in the productions. (disregarding the plays that are intentionally set for modern society)


Grace I suppose this is why they get older characters to play Romeo and Juilet in the productions. (disregarding the plays that are intentionally set for modern society)


Hannah Rush I really liked your review and I fully agree with you. I have always thought that "Romeo and Juliet" was a disturbing and depressing story. I hate it when people call this the greatest love story ever written. There are hundreds of stories (at least, if not more) that are way better! I personally think "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen is one of the greatest love stories. I also really liked "The Shepherd of the Hills" by Howard Bell Wright. Both of these aren't creepy or depressing and actually have really good lessons. If we are going to encourage our children to read (which i think we should), then we need to encourage them to read something with lessons and not mindless, weird reading.


Kotryna fun fact: Shakespeare was making fun of them


Nirali I understand that however, this was in the late 1500s early 1600s so getting married at 13 was common. Also yes it is stupid to find someone you love and start about getting married- that isn't reality but if you think about it getting married back then was you found someone you loved and then get married but in Romeo and Juliet's case you can't get married to the opposing house (feuding families.)


Yusuf1604 I completely agree with you. For hundreds of years, everybody compared real, true loves to Romeo and Juliet. I've thought that I would read an epic love story,but it turned out to be just a lust story. They fell in love just IN TWO MINUTES. Seriously,what about Romeo's great love of Rosaline? Is it just GONE? Romeo and Juliet. Theirs isn't true love, actually not even love.


message 45: by Natalie Joy (new) - added it

Natalie Joy It doesn't matter that Juliet was too young because her father was going to marry her off anyway to Paris. This is a story about how flaws in people can hurt a whole group. It doesn't just have to be a sad love story.


message 46: by Ava (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ava Williams They didn't even kno eachother for a night it was like two hours


Nirali Andie Stockwell wrote: "My partner and I started going out when I was 14 (he was 17). That said, I agree that rushing into things -- assuming that every thime you "fall in love at first sight" it really IS LOVE -- is an i..."


I agree with your comment there- my great grandmother was 11 when she got married and her sister at 9. I think the parents got them married at young age (even Juliet) because that was the only way to keep the family name going strong.


message 48: by Kate (new) - added it

Kate Shakespeare is known for writing heart break tragedies, and I think that Romeo and Juliet was the best because its not possible, so i don't agree with you as your way of 'making fun' of Shakespeare's greatest story ever told.


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