Romeo and Juliet is not a romance, guys! It's a satire! Shakespeare is MAKING FUN of the hot-headed, ridiculous, and melodramatic 3-day relationship between an 18-year-old and a 13-year-old that caused 6 deaths.
Far too many people falsely believe Romeo and Juliet is a tragic romance when it's not. This lack of Shakespearian knowledge really bugs me, so I'm going to educate you all now. :) Hopefully this'll get you guys interested in Shakespeare, too. Shakespeare's the man. Seriously, read Hamlet (the No Fear Shakespeare on Sparknotes is fine!) and you'll really appreciate the guy's literary genius. Hamlet was the ORIGINAL bad boy of literature. So when guys go around in black clothes and act all hot and broody, you can thank Shakespeare for making that socially desirable.
sat·ire [sat-ahyuh r]
1. the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc. 2. a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule.
There's a huge debate on whether or not Romeo and Juliet is in fact a satire, but if you look at the way Shakespeare portrays love in Sonnet 130 (See the EXTERNAL LINK) it's obvious he thinks all the popular cliches of love are ridiculous. For example, he rags on the cliche that one can only fall in love with a beautiful woman. Shakespeare goes on to list the big points of a stereotypical "beautiful" woman. In that sonnet, he argues that his woman is ugly, dark-skinned, and has bad breath, but he still loves her. Then look at R&J, and in that, beauty and lust is all he talks about. The only conclusion I can make from this is that he was making fun of the "romance" (lust) between Romeo and Juliet.
Romeo seems to do all the stupid things--falling for a 13-year-old solely based on her looks, sneaking up her balcony and sleeping with her three days after meeting her, killing her cousin, and just all-around acting like an idiot. Most people excuse that for "being in loooooove" but the extent to Romeo's blunders is just ridiculous. Shakespeare makes really smart characters like Hamlet, so why in the world would he create Romeo? It doesn't add up unless you look at R&J as a satire.
In Hamlet, Ophelia actually goes mad from grief at Hamlet breaking up with her even though he stabbed her father though a curtain, and she drowns herself. If that's not making fun of hotheaded lust, I don't know what is. Couple that with R&J, and it seems like a common motif between plays, and it's consistent with his ideas on love (that he hates superficial love, which you can see from Sonnet 130).
Shakespeare was quite in tune with human personality and was brilliant with realistic characterization. To have Romeo be so in love with Rosaline and instantly dump her for Juliet, whom he met 2 seconds ago, doesn't sound plausible. Shakespeare also seems to greatly respect women, so I don't believe he'd ever have a character flit around between women so haphazardly unless he was trying to make a point against doing so.
Just the fact that Rosaline was even a character in the story means something. If he meant for it to be a serious love story, he would've shown Romeo alone and misguided. Rosaline had no significance to the plot whatsoever, but Shakespeare included her. That fact alone shows that Shakespeare was making fun of Romeo for loving her one minute, laying eyes on Juliet, and completely forgetting about Rosaline. That's hilariously stupid of Romeo.
Shakespeare's style is pretty subtle. He rarely outright says things (like he left Ophelia's death very open-ended and up for interpretation--did she really commit suicide or was it an accident?), but here are R&J blatantly going on and on about how much they love each other. It doesn't match with his usual subtlety, so he must have a reason for doing that--making fun of it.
Probably the biggest clue is how ridiculously they all died at the end. This wasn't tragic, it felt like Shakespeare was laughing in their faces. After all they went through, they both stupidly commit suicide for each other. And the fact that they killed themselves after meeting each other a week ago was stupid. If you've read some of Shakespeare's other sonnets, you'll know he doesn't take love lightly. He's found the deeper meaning in love, and that was NOT what he portrayed in R&J. You should find it odd that someone so knowledgeable about love and romance wrote such a blunder, so you have to think he wrote R&J to satirize hotheaded relationships that teenagers so blindly throw themselves into.
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