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Of course, the question arises: why is the Andy Williams song a perfect theme for Romeo and not Juliet? Juliet, in contrast with Romeo, is more intelligent in her love than Romeo, and although she loves him, she does not as fully embrace his absolute belief that love will make everything come out right. "Though I joy in thee, / I have no joy of this contract to-night: /
It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden; / Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be / Ere one can say 'It lightens'" (II.2). Unlike Romeo, Juliet has a sense that suddenly throwing one's self into love carries with it a dangerous potential for excess, as well as an exhilarating glee for the lovers. When she and Romeo spend their first night together, and Romeo must steal away, Romeo offers not to go, and says he will risk death for her once again: "Let me be ta'en, let me be put to death;/I am content, so thou wilt have it so" (III.5). But Juliet refuses and sadly responds as Romeo vaults out of her window: "O God, I have an ill-divining soul! / Methinks I see thee, now thou art below, / As one dead in the bottom of a tomb:/Either my eyesight fails, or thou look'st pale" (III.5).
Of course, the plot of play validates Juliet's cautious view of love more so than Romeo's. Romeo tries to broker a peace between the Capulets and the Montagues, but all this succeeds in accomplishing is Mercutio and Tybalt both being slain, and Romeo being banished from Verona. Juliet, to avoid entering into a bigamous, arranged marriage with Paris, feigns death, fearfully taking a potion given to her by Friar Lawrence. "My dismal scene I needs must act alone" (IV.3). She does not do so without careful questioning and consideration -- unlike Romeo whom, without thinking, decides to kill himself when he believes that Juliet is dead.
Clearly, love is not enough -- violence destroys the love between Romeo and Juliet, as embodied in the street fighting that takes place. Even well-meaning and loving adults like Friar Lawrence and Juliet's Old Nurse unintentionally act to bring about the death of the two lovers. Friar Lawrence encourages Romeo to marry Juliet prematurely, in hopes of mending the rift between the families, and creates the scheme that ultimately results in the young couple's demise. The Nurse encourages Juliet to marry Romeo, but just as quickly tells Juliet to ignore the marriage when it appears that Juliet's parents will insist their daughter marry Paris or be thrown into the street.
Juliet's fearful soliloquy before she takes her sleeping potion demonstrates she knows that love is not everything, unlike Romeo. However, Romeo's belief in the overwhelming power of love is clearly one of the reasons that she adores him -- and why so many readers of the play adore the character. "And with our love, through tears and thorns/We will endure as we pass surely through every storm/A time for us, some day there'll be a new world / A world of shining hope for you and me," sings Williams.
Against all odds, Romeo hopes that Juliet and he can flee away to a new and better world. However, the two lovers are ultimately united in the grave, not in a new and better place. Death is the only 'good place' where pure love can exist. However, the lovers do create a kind of new world together, as the warring families agree to put aside their differences in respect of their children's memories. Friar Lawrence's wish that the marriage of Romeo and Juliet will create a truce is realized, but not in the way he hoped. Romeo's absolute belief in love is borne out, but not quite in the way he envisioned -- Juliet and he are united, but not in life. "A glooming peace this morning with it brings; / The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head" says the Prince, as the play concludes (V.3).
Shakespeare, William. "Romeo and Juliet." The Shakespeare Homepage. [September 27,…[continue]
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