Romeo and Juliet | Sunday Observer

Romeo and Juliet

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is set in Verona and Mantua in Italy during the Renaissance period in the fifteenth century. The plot focuses on the ill fated young lovers named Romeo and Juliet who defy their parents and get married.

The critic Adrian Poole in his Introduction to the Penguin Classics edition of the play says, “Romeo and Juliet is a hymn to youth, to passion, to speed, to danger. It is also a warning, a memento mori. It is scarcely the only play of Shakespeare’s to pose such a challenge to the audience, at once inviting and frustrating the impulses to sympathy and judgement, insisting we hear the conflicting voices and see the contrary points of view…Whatever ideas an audience may entertain about the rights of parents to abuse their children, it’s clear there must have been plenty of Elizabethans who identified with a different conception of marriage, newly emerging out of Protestant and humanist beliefs in individual choice. The idea that a young man and woman might decide for themselves has become sufficiently familiar to readers and audiences in the First World that there’s a danger of forgetting how novel and dangerous it once was, what a ‘prodigious birth’ it must have once been, to borrow Juliet’s unforgettable phrase (1.5.140)."

Romeo and Juliet is appealing because the lovers are unconventional and rebellious. Juliet’s innocence and sincerity during the courtship is charming, and she tells Romeo is Act 2 Scene 2, “I’ll prove more true / Than those that have more cunning to be strange…” Juliet’s rebellion against her parents, especially against her mother in refusing to marry Paris is justified because Lady Capulet is a cold woman who is indifferent to Juliet and was in fact never a mother to her. Juliet’s unforgettable words to her mother in Act 3 Scene 5, “Now by Saint Peter’s Church, and Peter too, / He shall not make me there a joyful bride” vindicates Juliet’s right as a neglected and abused child to rebel against her mother and choose her own husband. Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film Romeo and Juliet starring Olivia Hussey as Juliet and Leonard Whiting as Romeo is so far the best movie adaptation of Shakespeare’s play.