The strength of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is self-evident
How does a published work continue to capture the imagination more than 400 years after it was first introduced? Some might say, “It’s a mystery.”
For others, the strength of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” is self-evident. The world renowned work is the tragic love story for the ages; the tale of star-crossed lovers from feuding families has a resonance that is as strong today as when it was written in the late 1590s, and is quite simply considered as the quintessential love story of Western civilization.
The story of Romeo, son of the Montagues, and Juliet, daughter of the Capulets, has been adapted into no less than 13 films since 1908, including the latest, the yet-to-be-released version “Gnomeo and Juliet,” about warring indoor and outdoor gnomes.
Yes, this play has been around the block, one might say. Among the most famous loose adaptations is the 1998 film “Shakespeare In Love,” the Academy Award-winning, largely fictional account of Shakespeare’s inspiration for writing “Romeo and Juliet.”
Chances are you’re familiar with the characters’ names even if you’re not familiar with the play itself. Count Paris, who wants to marry Juliet. Mercutio, friend to Romeo. Lord and Lady Capulet.
And of course one of the most familiar lines in all of literature: “O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name; Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.”
It’s a line that is often misunderstood, as Juliet is not asking where her lover is, but rather why they cannot be together. Why, she asks, are you a Montague, my father’s enemy?
Their love is made impossible by their names, and ends as one might think a classic tragedy certainly would, with the deaths of both protagonists, in this case by suicide.