Written a long time ago, the famous love story of young Romeo and Juliet may not be as romantic as it leads its audience on to be. While the story focuses on the true love between two young lovers, there is a bit more meaning behind it all rather than the romance alone. Knowing whether Romeo and Juliet is a romance or a tragedy is significant because the difference between the two can change the entire way a reader views the story.
Throughout five different acts of the play, there are several occasions in which the love between Romeo and Juliet is not so much love as it appears. While Benvolio insists Romeo will find another woman to love, Romeo thinks he won’t. “A woman more beautiful than the one I love? The sun itself has never seen anyone as beautiful since the world began.” (Shakespeare 12). While this seems sweet and sounds like love, Romeo soon falls quickly out of “love” with Rosaline when he lays his eyes on another woman, claiming that “The girl I love now returns my love, the other girl did not love me.” (Shakespeare 34). Seeing how quickly Romeo’s feelings changed between the two girls, after knowing neither of the two very well, may put some unsure thoughts in a viewer’s mind, who does Romeo truly love? Even Romeo finds it hard to believe he loved Rosaline, when he asks himself “Has my heart ever loved anyone before this moment? My eyes were liars then, because I never saw true beauty before tonight.” (Shakespeare 21). When Romeo first sees Juliet, he claims to have fallen in love for the first time. While many believe love at first sight is a true concept, Romeo falls in love with Juliet extremely quickly, without either of them speaking a word to each other. He falls for her beauty, without knowing anything else about her.
There are many examples of the true tragedy behind this story, but there are also many points in the play that represent an excellent argument that this is indeed a romance story. In act two of the story, Romeo and Juliet tell each other, “I would be satisfied if we made each other true promises of love.”(Shakespeare 29). The two lovers seem to take their promises very seriously, and want to promise their love to each other. After all, Romeo seems to be doing things for Juliet he would not have done for Rosaline, like climbing her wall and risking his life to see her. Romeo also threatens himself, asking “In what part of my body is my name embedded? Tell me so I can cut it out of myself.”(Shakespeare 59). Seeing as Juliet wishes he didn’t wear the Montague name, he is willing to do whatever he can to get rid of it. Later on in the story, Romeo tells the apothecary he wants a poison that “works so fast that the person who takes it will die as fast as gunpowder exploding in a canon”(Shakespeare 83). When Romeo finds her, he cries out “I’ll take this mixture, which is a medicine, not a poison, to Juliet’s grave”(Shakespeare 84). Romeo spent his money to get a poison that would kill him quickly, all so he could be with Juliet.
Romeo and Juliet can be classified as many different things, such as comedy, romance, tragedy, and other things. In the end, its two main categories are romance and tragedy, a romantic tragedy. As Juliet lays Romeo’s body in her arms, she says quietly “My body will be your sheath, rust inside my body and let me die”(Shakespeare 90). A very dramatic line. There is a lot of drama in this story, even some over dramatic parts. Benvolio even believes that “Someone loves Romeo, and he’s in love again — both of them falling for each other’s good looks”(Shakespeare 24). Even Romeo’s best friend can see that they do not truly know each other, and are only attracted at first by looks alone. Juliet has a conversation with the nurse, saying “I don’t know his name. Go ask. If he’s married, I think I’ll die rather than marry anyone else.”(Shakespeare 24). Juliet does not even know Romeo’s name, yet she claims she would die for him. There are many more tragic examples, and many more romantic examples, but together, both genres make up the story, as it cannot be classified as only one.
There are two ways to look at this story, it is both a romance and a tragedy. Whichever the reader decides to take it as is up to them. Romeo and Juliet, two very young people, had married two days after meeting each other. Both claim to be in love with each other and would die for each other. While some may claim this is only an act of true love, it is also a story of great tragedy. As many people die in the story, Romeo had loved a new woman just before he had laid eyes on his Juliet. Love at first sight may be true, but dying for each other was a bit excessive, as they knew each other very little. Whichever kind of story someone takes this as determines how they view the story as a whole.
- Shakespeare, William, and John Crowther. Romeo & Juliet. Spark Notes, 2003.