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Literary Criticism & Bard > Romeo and Juliet

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message 1: by Ginnielee (new)

Ginnielee (vampirekisses) | 7 comments I just read Romeo and Juliet in my class, and I was disappointed in our discussion of our book.
I have read a few plays by Shakespeare and I was wondering why Shakespeare does plays about love, the guys become somewhat like a sap.
For example, Romeo cries and cries for days about Rosaline. Sulks around forever about her becoming a nun. When Mercutio drags him to the party where he sees Juliet, the whole way there he is such a Debbie Downer. Then when he becomes banished, he cries for hours and crying out banished.
So basically my question is, if back then the male sex was superior to the female sex, why don't the act like the given gender role of its time. Masculinity was almost an adorning quality during his time. Why wouldn't he create his characters with a bit more manliness.

message 2: by Ginnielee (new)

Ginnielee (vampirekisses) | 7 comments Kind of a bit off topic but what was William Shakespeare's wife's name.

message 3: by Ginnielee (new)

Ginnielee (vampirekisses) | 7 comments Ummm Hi Redusta
I don't want to sound rude but isn't Anne Hathaway the actress from get smart and princess diaries.

Btw but what is IMHO

message 4: by Robert (new)

Robert | 10 comments Yes, Anne Hathaway is a LOT older than she looks...

message 5: by Jenna (new)

Jenna | 40 comments Yes, Anne Hathaway is also an actress who was in Princess Diaries, etc. I've always rather thought she took her screen name from Shakespeare's wife or something -- though considering the bad rap she (Will's wife) gets and all the debates about being left the second best bed and all (although historians say that was really a compliment or an insult depending on who one reads)...

message 6: by Ginnielee (new)

Ginnielee (vampirekisses) | 7 comments Oh okay. I was like woah, that's weird.

message 7: by Victoria (new)

Victoria  | 3 comments I don't think Romeo's displays of emotion made him any less manly. Also he is supposed to be a younger man and that might account for some of it.
I think because it is a play some things need to be over exaggerated to get the point across. Perhaps that is what Shakespeare was doing by making Romeo so emotional at times . :-)

message 8: by Joshua (new)

Joshua Morgan | 1 comments Global -

Because of the cynical world we live in, the idea of someone suffering through that sort of painful guttural need for the one they love is sort of passe and, as you say, "less manly". However, for anyone who's ever fallen in love in their teens, we know how fast things happen and how attached we can become. Both Romeo and Juliet are quite young and therefor interpret the idea of their being apart as life threatening and as dramatic as it may's also a beautiful notion that works beautifully when played well.

The other thing is that a display of emotions from a male is also a double standard set forth by today's society that tells us that men aren't allowed to show their feelings. But that's a bunch of crap. By even saying that, it's clear that there's a certain standard we hold men too, that keeps them locked up. Women are (scientifically proven) more emotional than men but, in my opinion, we should encourage everyone to be able to have their feelings and be who they are, male or female. I know we're talking specifically about R & J but I think it colors our perception of how we look at this play.

message 9: by Ginnielee (new)

Ginnielee (vampirekisses) | 7 comments Yeah that is true, and the gender roles we have for todays society is unfair. I was just wondering why Shakespear would do create his characters like that. From what i've read about him, he seemed to think that men were supieror to women.

message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Actually, I really don't think Shakespeare thought that men were superior to women. On the contrary, many of his plays point out the injustices done to women by society. Often he portrays women as smarter, more capable and more clever than men. As for his showing the more emotional side of Romeo, I love his willingness to show a man's vulnerability. It's incredibly honest.

message 11: by Joy (new)

Joy (i_luv_tink44) | 1 comments I understand the confusion.
As was stated earlier, society's view of the sexes in the time that Romeo and Juliet was written was very Male dominant. That was what the times were. Women never left the house without a chaparone, and even then, it was rare, unless one was a servant of some sort (explaining why the Nurse spends a lot of time in town.) This is why Shakespeare's plays were so radical in his time. The women, like Juliet, had backbone. They took charge of their situation. (Notice how it was Juliet who suggested marriage, and the daughters in King Lear take charge to gain power!) The men were quite reversed from the stereotype, also, which is why Romeo is so emotional and impulsive. This method that Shakespeare used was not exercised simply to be unorthodox, but made his plays more universal. By giving the males feminine qualities, and vise versa, it made the characters more easy to identify with for both sexes.
Also, if you notice, Shakespeare often uses that vulnerability and impulsiveness as his character's tragic flaw. If Romeo had not had those characteristics, he probably would not have ended up with Juliet, and would not have ended up dead.

message 12: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 91 comments Indeed, much is made of the alledgedly bad marriage Shakespeare had with Hathaway and Jenna is right that the second best bed bequeathment is the provocation for this.

In his will, Shakespeare bequeathed to his wife the household's second best bed. Many historians took this apparent slight and insisted this indicated that they had a bad marriage. In point of fact, the traditions of the day dictated that the best bed in the house be reserved for guests. The second best bed was the marriage bed that they had undoubtedly shared so this was probably a very sentimental bequeathment. Moreover, his will left the BEST bed to his daughter, Judith, and her husband. As the father of a daughter, I can't fault him for that and I don't think my wife would either.

message 13: by Ashley (new)

Ashley (ashdolenz) I think Romeo & Juliet is a tad overrated. I wish they wouldn't shove it down kids' throats in high school. I mean, it's still really good cause it's Shakespeare, it's just not my favorite.

message 14: by William (new)

William Ginnielee wrote:
So basically my question is, if back then the male sex was superior to the female sex, why don't the act like the given gender role of its time. Masculinity was almost an adorning quality during his time. Why wouldn't he create his characters with a bit more manliness.

Two things worth considering:

1. Tybalt, Paris, Mercutio, Romeo, Benvolio: how different they are. Tybalt, for example, is little more than a long arm at the end of a rapier. Who could spend an evening in his company? Romeo, whose own long arm has killed Tybalt in a duel, has, through the fullness of his heart, won the love of Juliet not just for an evening, but for a lifetime.

2. Novelists and filmmakers have devices for showing us what their characters are thinking and feeling. Playwrights are limited to dialogue and action, which can seem overdrawn. Yet, how should Fortune's fool act, if not, at times, without restraint?

message 15: by Isabel (new)

Isabel (isabelsong) | 5 comments i've heard of this story, but I have never read it. I am debating whether or not to read it. Suggestions?

message 16: by William (new)

William Suggestions for Isabel:

1. Borrow a film version of the play from your library--get one through inter-library loan, if necessary. If you like the film, then try reading the play.

2. There may be a graphic novel of the play--GoodReads may list one. Ditto for this instead of the film.

message 17: by Isabel (new)

Isabel (isabelsong) | 5 comments Well... I hold this grudge of reading the stories or plays before watching them. It sort of gets irritating, but I try to avoid going against my grudge if I can.

message 18: by Ashley (new)

Ashley (ashdolenz) I vote read it, it's always the better thing to do.

message 19: by Candy (last edited Apr 03, 2009 09:29PM) (new)

Candy | 2748 comments Mod
Joshua said However, for anyone who's ever fallen in love in their teens, we know how fast things happen and how attached we can become.

Very true.And it doesn't get any less painful when you get older.


and...The other thing is that a display of emotions from a male is also a double standard set forth by today's society that tells us that men aren't allowed to show their feelings.

I agree. I like guys and gals... that are able to communicate their emotions.

and...Women are (scientifically proven) more emotional than men but, in my opinion, we should encourage everyone to be able to have their feelings and be who they are, male or female.

I think it is true that we accept and encourage women to be more emotional (not that it is a gender biological truth-if that is what you might have meant by "scientifically")...I think we encourage males to suppress some emotions and especially some emotions over others. We do tend to accept men expressing anger though. Females are supposed to suppress and not express anger. So both genders suffer from these cultural constraints.

Good post Joshua!

message 20: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2748 comments Mod
Isabel, I think you will LOVE reading Romeo and Juliet.
Go for it! And then come back and tell us what you felt and thought!


message 21: by Rui (new)

Rui M. (rui_m) | 1 comments It is a very interesting story :) And there is always something to say about it.

message 22: by Isabel (new)

Isabel (isabelsong) | 5 comments I am going to check it out at my public library.

message 23: by Leslie (new)

Leslie (lesliehealey) For Isabel: hope you liked it-the story is still one that speaks to people of all ages and cultures. I always liked the way the kids, Romeo & Juliet, are the ones who teach the adults about love, not the other way around. Also, you probably already know the story, because of all the movies--West Side Story, the R & J with Leo DiCaprio, Romeo Must Die, etc. It doesn't seem to matter what nationality or color you are, love happens.

message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

i love romeo and juilet it was very good

message 25: by Isabel (new)

Isabel (isabelsong) | 5 comments my publis library only has edited versions. They have ones by other authors, though.
what ahould I do?

message 26: by Isabel (new)

Isabel (isabelsong) | 5 comments public

message 27: by Julia (new)

Julia | 16 comments Can you do inner library loan through your library? Borrow from a library in your library's system?

At first, I was thinking "What?!!" about an edited version, but if it's Folger's version, or The Yale Shakespeare, or even Shakespeare made simple, it's still Shakespeare. And it's still Romeo and Juliet.


message 28: by William (last edited Apr 20, 2009 07:59PM) (new)

William Yes, any start is a good start. Use whatever is available. My first version of The Iliad, which I read over 50 years ago, was a Classic Comic.

For an online version of R&J, click here. There are others.

message 29: by Micha (new)

Micha (selective_narcoleptic) | 3 comments So, here's a question I have long debated with many a folk - do you think Romeo & Juliet should be taught in high school? Do you think our kids are ready? Or should it come with a mandatory discussion on the topics the play deals with?

message 30: by Louise (new)

Louise (louise50) | 9 comments I spent 20 years of my adult life living in England. Of course, Shakespeare is the national curriculum which student perform in elementary school. In my district Dream is done in 8th grade, R & J in 9th, and either JC or much Ado in 10th grade. 11th is American Lit so it is Crucible. Depending on which class you take as a senior you do Hamlet, Macbeth. Some classes may also do Greek tragedy. It is not about the issues alone, but also on the language itself, the imagery, literary devices and poetry. This is drama. It should be acted and spoken.

message 31: by Katharina (last edited Jul 07, 2011 04:52PM) (new)

Katharina Last time I checked love doesn't make a man any less manly. Also, literature is meant to be that safe haven where we can get away from society's expectations and bondages. How do you think the notion that men shouldn't cry came into existence in the first place? Someone planted it there, and voila! You know when women are called weak because they express their emotions, we are all up and arms, calling it feminism; however, we impose the same stereotype on men. I, personally, commend Shakespeare for showing us reality as opposed to the contemporary "writers" that just put Fabio on the cover and cross their fingers just hoping women's desperation will triumph over sound thought. So, no Romeo doesn't need to be more manly. Also, I really don't see why Romeo and Juliet needs to be censored. Romeo and Juliet is a beautiful tale about two star-crossed lovers as we all know. In fact, it's talked about and analyzed so much that you really have to delve into the play to experience that moment where you lose yourself in Shakespeare's words, consider the possibility of a real-life Romeo or Juliet. Lastly, banning Romeo and Juliet is like saying that Disney Channel is inappropriate. There is so much more to Romeo and Juliet than the act of consummation.

message 32: by Silvia (new)

Silvia Frassineti | 6 comments I think we have to read Shakespeare'works and Romeo and Juliet every time we can, as soon as possible, at high school it time to study it in its historical context. Don't forget men feel love and pain as women do, in any century, if in Shakespeare'play men can cry openly is only because the audience must to feel the same of characters. Life is a very complicated thing so when an artist succeed to show it in its depth we must read it and be greatful.

message 33: by Shelley (new)

Shelley | 6 comments Just wanted to mention to anyone who hadn't discovered it, as I hadn't--the series Slings and Arrows incorporates well-acted Shakespeare scenes among a contemporary (and I think, funny and well-written) story about an acting company.

Warning: it's Canadian. It starts slow. But it's worth the wait.

Rain: A Dust Bowl Story

message 34: by Candy (last edited Apr 15, 2012 06:51PM) (new)

Candy | 2748 comments Mod
Ha ha ha I laughed so much at Shelly's warning "its Canadian" we are a slow kind of country folk.

But we are funny as hell!

I totally think romeo and Juliet is wonderful for kids to study. It touches something so primal in young people...that feeling of being oppressed by an older...often foolish generation before them.

It is kids who aren't jaded by social constructs yet.

Important feelings and knowledge resides in the reading and performing of R & J.

We need the young people to see through the bs of old people!


message 35: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Reilly (tracyreilly) | 383 comments Ginnielee wrote: "I just read Romeo and Juliet in my class, and I was disappointed in our discussion of our book.
I have read a few plays by Shakespeare and I was wondering why Shakespeare does plays about love, t..."

The boys in the play are Italian. They seem to emote more than American boys, and both more in the Renaissance.

message 36: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Reilly (tracyreilly) | 383 comments Ginnielee wrote: "Kind of a bit off topic but what was William Shakespeare's wife's name."

Ann Hathaway.

message 37: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Reilly (tracyreilly) | 383 comments Micha wrote: "So, here's a question I have long debated with many a folk - do you think Romeo & Juliet should be taught in high school? Do you think our kids are ready? Or should it come with a mandatory discuss..."

Micha wrote: "So, here's a question I have long debated with many a folk - do you think Romeo & Juliet should be taught in high school? Do you think our kids are ready? Or should it come with a mandatory discuss..."

Yes. They are ready if the teacher understands the play well, goes slow, reads it with them, lets them act out the fight scenes, let's them in on the sex jokes and slang...many kids love it under those circumstances.

message 38: by Listra (new)

Listra (museforsaken) | 17 comments I agree with Tracy. I read it when I was in high school. It was not in the curriculum, since my first language is not English, but I blushed all over, and laughed, and I could feel it. I had always wished that my English teacher would teach it in class.

Naive as they are, I think both R and J show courage to hold on to what they believe is true. They are just teens, and the play shows how teens are when they are in love (though I don't know if it'd feel just the same when you're older).

Perhaps a bit out of topic, but if you like opera, there's an opera by Gounod with the same title as the play (in French) which I recommend.

message 39: by Ashwini (new)

Ashwini Manorathan I believe that even if a guy cries he is still a 'man'. A real man is one who can express his feelings, and not hide them and try to be something he is not. By being emotional, Romeo expresses his true feelings, and for a girl, that's the best thing about a guy. By expressing his true emotions, Romeo really stole Juliet's heart, and that's what I think was so special about the couple.

message 40: by Kimberly (new)

Kimberly (thebookbugg) I actually read this book in middle school and my teacher taught me it and other Shakespeare plays better than my high school teachers. I feel teens are ready to read this and could even relate to some of the extreme emotions.
As for Romeo being emotional I think it adds to his personality. He doesn't just cry over Juliet he also cries over the other girl in the beginning which I think is suppose to show how emotionally attached he can get.

message 41: by Michael (last edited May 28, 2014 06:57AM) (new)

Michael Kneeland | 8 comments Kimberly wrote: "I feel teens are ready to read this and could even relate to some of the extreme emotions."

I agree, though the good teacher will present the play's outcomes with some cautionary advice: Romeo's actions represent what not to do. Romeo is driven past reason due to his fear of physical loneliness: he can't be near Rosaline, and as a result he presumably would have killed himself without Mercutio there to slap some sense in him, verbally; then he can't be near Juliet, and now without Mercutio, he acts rashly and commits suicide. He is a character whose lack of thinking drives me to no end of annoyance, but at least he's able to be understood psychologically.

Juliet, conversely, is a delightful creation. When she says to Romeo, "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," we believe her. There is no irony in her voice, and her previous philosophically complex, "What's in a name?" soliloquy leads us to believe she is not so naive as to say these things blindly. Her suicide is the only rational action left to her: Friar Lawrence abandons her to save his own life; she cannot return to her father, for his previous acts of abuse in 3.5 lead us to believe his discovery of her "fake death" ruse would result in what might as well be a real death. She has no option but to take her own life--for otherwise would be to live a life that is not her own.

If the teacher can lead students to this understanding--and I've done so with 8th graders for many years--Romeo and Juliet is the perfect play for adolescents, and a wonderful way to introduce them to Shakespeare's "invention" of what we might call modern humanity.

message 42: by Sean (new)

Sean Kemery (seankemery) | 3 comments One of the best book.

message 43: by Phil (new)

Phil J | 97 comments Various responses to this thread:

* I think Ann Hathaway getting a bad rap is often part of the speculation on Shakespeare's sexuality. That's why people are so interested in the second best bed thing. Interesting that the best one went to Judith. I hadn't heard that before.

* No, I don't think students are influenced to suicide by this play. They invariably respond to Act V with frustration over how foolish the characters are being. In fact, I have difficulty getting them to understand why some people like the ending. Teenage suicide is not usually caused by the things in this play- it has more to do with self-image and isolation.

* Is crying unmanly? According to Henry V and Julius Caesar, men get their weaker emotions from their mothers. If only both my parents were men, I would never cry! Whether Shakespeare agreed with that sentiment is up for debate, but it seems to reflect the attitude of the time.

* As someone who teaches Shakespeare to 12 year olds, I admit I am leery of the innuendo in R&J. It does, after all, contain the most censored passage in all of Shakespeare- Mercurio's bit about Romeo sticking his "pear" into Juliet's "medlar."

message 44: by Phil (new)

Phil J | 97 comments Lastly, this is my least favorite Shakespeare play of the dozen or so I've read. Here's my lukewarm review:

message 45: by Ullas (new)

Ullas manchikatla | 1 comments I love the Lovestory of Romeo and Juliet

message 46: by Christopher (last edited Jun 07, 2016 06:49PM) (new)

Christopher Struck (struck_chris) | 17 comments Hi everyone,

Phil, although they are acting rashly, as a temporal modernization of Pyramus and Thisbe, I think it is important to explore how Shakespeare's audience may have felt (don't know if this will help explain it to high schoolers). The audience may have felt the same way we do. How could you act in such a way for one you love? It is so senseless and "tragic".

Through the lens of Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy, we can see that the Greeks loved life and believed that being a part of it was the best. I think that the Greeks would have seen this sacrifice as an affront to the sanctity of life and thus tragic in its senseless failure and loss. (much as we would today)

Still, if one reads Candide by Voltaire, we can plausibly imagine that people (of Shakespeare's time) would rather escape life than live it without their "one and only", the Sun, (Juliet). I think this assumes that we as people are somehow different or more advanced. "We understand things better now". With this second explanation, I think we lose the effect of the tragedy.

As Shakespeare endures, I think the lesson is more along the lines of do not waste yourself or what you love on mindless violence. Many people (and I am completely speculating on a class discussion) may prefer a more "rational" approach. Dumas (to a more 'modern' audience) uses this same tragedy to effect in Count of Monte Cristo where the Count saves the lovers, but the tension builds considerably. The frustration--and helplessness to stop it from the audience's view--seems to be the important part.

*I like R&J

message 47: by Dawn (last edited Jun 09, 2016 12:28PM) (new)

Dawn (goodreadscomdawn_irena) | 24 comments Hello All !
Chris - I do agree with all you have said with such great rationale and I too like Romeo and Juliet . I do really remember loving it as the first Shakepeare I was exposed to in my life at the tender age of twelve. I found it so exciting to be exposed to the romantic and exciting world history of time during England and also the Europeon setting of the play itself . It opened a great new subject of curiosity of time, place, people, art, society, language, poetry, and my beginning of love for historical literature . As a very young reader , I found a new branch to devour in our Shakspeare ! In my studies at a mainly Southern University literary program at the University of Mississippi ( Ole Miss) , I took a different path than most and studied English literature and excelled in the Middle Ages, Mythology, and the Victorian period . I wanted to teach Shakespeare , Dickens , and Mythogy with so much passion and so many more classics . I also had a path in mind to teach Creative Writing in poetry. When the time came to teach upon graduation , my dreams were not quite satisfied completely . I found a position after an extensive search that took over a year. I was hired a the very last minute , and I mean last as in hired on a Monday and taught on the next day. I was hired to teach American Literature and Creative Writing . You can imagine my despair , anxiety , yet elation in finding some position . My prime grades in a degree were to not be used in a way I expected and I learned very much along the way ! HA! I do still live in Oxford, MS home of the brilliant William Faulkner and many other authors even a popular Southern Grit Lit writer to whom I am related Larry Brown . This is my hometown on my maternal side and I have always spent my summers here as I was a military Air Force Brat and did not have a permanent home as normal until now. Ole Miss has been my home and source of several degrees and career choices. I now can say I will never stop studying . It is naturally a part of me to have an exceptional desire to always question more. I can't stop trying to solve mysteries ! HA! I try so hard to understand both points of view of everything in life; therefore , I keep reading in keeping with an open mind trying to learn more about the past , present and what may come .
As for Shakespeare , " All the world is a stage . " is a favorite theme I truly believe and Shakepeare's characters , just as Romeo and Juliet exist somewhere I am sure . In my heart , they did because I felt that way more than once in my life time . As for comparing Shakespeare to another author I have come to love because of his worldly characters , you all should try William Faulkner sometime too ! They are both classics ! They both have left us with characters that will always exist in the personalities of people somewhere . The beauty of life and literature is amazing !

message 48: by Christopher (new)

Christopher Struck (struck_chris) | 17 comments Nothing wrong with American lit, though yeah it does basically cut out all of the Middle Ages, Mythology (non-Native), and Victorian England.

Still, we have the lost generation which I would include Faulkner in. I noticed you're a Cormac fan. Have you ever taught him?

message 49: by P.D.R. (new)

P.D.R. Lindsay (pdrlindsay) Just watched the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Group's version of Romeo and Juliet.

Set in Italy in the 1950s with an older Mercutio there was a lot to praise in the production. Branagh explained at the beginning of the performance why he had chosen to alter the setting and the age of Mercutio, (whose age actually is not set as a young man in the play.) He wanted the action and passion he felt the play portrayed, and he remembered feeling, watching the first production he saw, aged 13.

He thought Mercutio may well be an older, Oscar Wildish, man about town. He was a relative and friend of the Duke, an older man, and his interactions with Romeo and Benvolio are that of a more experienced man. Dereck Jacobi was brilliant as that kind of Mercutio. He gave those tricky speeches - especially the Queen Mab speech, a whole new set of meanings for me

My problem was that the actors started off at such a high pitch of passion, and volume, that there was nowhere for Romeo and Juliet to go with those wonderful passionate emotional outbursts. Everyone was emoting loudly all over the place. Even Italians can hiss and whisper in fury and use silence as a weapon.

Still it brought out aspects of the play I'd not seen before and the acting was brilliant. Branagh's co-direction, with Rob Ashford, brought out a lot more humour than I remember. If you can get to see it it is well worth the ear plugs needed at times.

message 50: by P.D.R. (new)

P.D.R. Lindsay (pdrlindsay) No, I disagree with those who think R&J is good for kids. As a first intro to Shakespeare in the teen years - 13-17 - it's too tough for the boys to put up with the lovey-dovey stuff and they aren't allowed to think (social pressures) about love at first sight - that's mush! Actually the under 11 year olds often are really rapt with R&J, especially as the sexual bits go over their heads, and the bit they latch onto - the forbidding parents and R&J wanting to be together - really hits home. Had to take a little sister to a performance with the seniors once and she cried out to Romeo when he is about to drink the poison, trying to stop him.

Yes, there are young men who can cope and appreciate R&J, but if you want to hook kids on Shakespeare let them in with something they choose themselves. The favourite play with my 16 and 17 year olds was 'Much Ado About Nothing'. The plot, friends tricking their pals into falling in love, was something they really understood. And the tough guys didn't find it too mushy.

The really tough guys usually went for my least favourite play, 'Macbeth' which is too violent for me, but they really liked it, and the Japanese film version with with Samurai, they loved.

But you really have to make kids act Shakespeare, they are plays after all. And get them to see live performances.

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