Happy Valentine’s Day! Did you know that we celebrate St. Valentine’s Day on February 14th because that is the day he was beheaded? So it only seems fitting that “the most romantic story ever told” would end in death.
Last week The Man and I went to go see the opera Romeo & Juliet. I would first like to say that I loved every aspect of the production; the performers were great, the music was gorgeous, the costumes were spectacular, and all the other design and technical elements worked so well together. It was truly a great production, BUT it didn’t make me hate the story any less. It paints an unrealistic and dangerous picture of what love should be.
So here are 4 myths (and 1 truth) about love from Romeo and Juliet.
Myth 1) Love = Drama
It’s partly because I’m a theatre nerd so the people I hang out around are inherently drawn to drama, but insisting that R&J is the “most romantic story of all time” or a “story about true love conquering all”, it makes people feel like they must have a big hurdle to jump over in order to prove their love. There are going to be mundane hurdles like deciding who is going to take out the trash, and slightly bigger hurdles like whose family to visit during the holidays, but if your family and friends don’t like your beau and he’s in a gang, it’s lust, not love and it’s going to end badly.
Myth 2) Love = Dying for each other
To quote the new Broadway musical Hamilton, “Dying is easy, living is harder.” I know, they loved each other so much that the thought of living without the other was unbearable. While I absolutely do believe that people can die of a broken heart (depression can ravage your body), killing yourself is another thing entirely. There’s a difference between dying for someone by taking a bullet for them and killing yourself because you don’t want to be alone. Also, he was getting exiled and she didn’t go with him, so the “I can’t bear to be apart from you” seems pretty flimsy.
Myth 3) Love = No compromises
If you read anything about relationship/marriage advice, the most important buzzword is “compromise”. The kids in this story compromised nothing, which has a lot to do with why it ends the way it does. Seriously, they both talk about renouncing their family names so they can be together, but neither one of them does. Instead of killing themselves, a grander expression of love would’ve been to tell their families that they got married and then deal with the consequences, but instead she continues living in her parents’ house, he continues running around with his gang of friends. They knew that their families would cut them off, and despite saying that they would run away together, they were both rich kids who wanted to continue their rich kid lifestyle. Neither one of them gave up anything until his best friend and her cousin got killed because of their secret. How long were they planning on keeping their marriage from their families?
Myth 4) Love = Lust
This one is pretty obvious; these two did not have enough time to develop a loving relationship. I do recognize that this is a play so there isn’t enough time to develop a lot of that rapport (although other Shakespearean plays do a better job of it). I also recognize that it was written in a time when people didn’t have multi-year courtships; you met (sometimes), you got engaged, and a week later you were married. Even accepting those things, I cannot get behind the idea that Romeo and Juliet were in love instead of just in lust.
I myself don’t believe in “love at first sight”. I believe in “lust at first sight” and that eventually that can turn into love, but I hardly believe that you can see someone and instantly know they’re your soul mate, but I know there are people out there who do believe in love at first sight, and for them Romeo & Juliet’s first meeting was magical and there’s no doubt that they were meant to be together. Except for the fact that not two seconds earlier, Rosaline was Romeo’s “soul mate”! Going back to point number one, this guy loves drama and only goes after women he can’t have. Rosaline rejected him, so he pined after her, but as soon as he sees another pretty girl at the Capulet ball, he’s instantly moved on. You could argue that he didn’t know Juliet was Capulet’s daughter when he met her, but she was still at the Capulet ball, so it was safe to assume that she was in some way associated with that family, and therefore would be out of reach for him, and once he found out she was Capulet’s daughter, he decided he was going to marry her. This guy has a serious “forbidden fruit” complex going on.
Now, being good at arguing means recognizing when the other side has a valid point, so here is the only truth about love that I could gather from Romeo and Juliet:
Truth 1) Love = Commitment
I do have to give it to them; they are committed to each other. When Romeo gets exiled, it would have been really easy for him to just start off fresh and find another girl, especially considering how easily he seems to fall in and out of love with them. And Juliet could’ve easily agreed to marry Paris and kept her lifestyle. They didn’t seem to have a plan for how to get back together again, so why not just move on with their lives? So I have to admit that in that particular regard, it is sweet.
(Although the fact that he’s exiled makes her even more “forbidden” and therefore more appealing to him)