Four hundred years have passed since “Romeo and Juliet” was first performed in London during the Elizabethan era, so why is the average student in the 21st century still expected to analysis and study Shakespeare’s historical figures? This is just one dilemma many students are asking. This play explores the highly distinguished themes and concepts such as; love, death, and marriage. These themes make this play relevant to today as it was when it was originally staged. The playwright, William Shakespeare is internationally recognized as the greatest dramatists and writer in the English language hence Romeo and Juliet incorporates an extensive vocabulary and powerful imagery. Shakespeare explores these literary techniques through the play as he conveys the story of two young lovers, “Romeo and Juliet” in the city of Verona who falls deeply in love with each other but sadly ends in an ill-fated death, caused by the century-old feud between the Montagues and Capulets. I believe that the play “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare is definitely worth studying because it unquestionably resonates with the 21st century, this is demonstrated through the themes of individual freedom versus the accepted values in societies. Shakespeare explores this theme through his characters allowing us to comprehend the two lovers forbidden love and how Rome is constantly departing from societies standards as Shakespeare challenges the stereotypes in both the 15th and 21st century.
The way Shakespeare represents the theme of forbidden love most defiantly allows teenagers in the 21st century to feel connected to “Romeo and Juliet”. Through much of the play, it shows how the lovers face many problems with their relationship as their family and friends do not agree with chooses, forcing them into conflict with the social world around them. The privacy of the night was used to their advantage as this was the only way “Rome and Juliet” could truly express their feelings to each other, due to the feuds undergoing between the two family’s prohibiting them from not seeing each other. Their love for each other was so strong that they consider giving up their names in order to be together. “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 ill no longer be a Capulet”. It is clear that twenty-first-century readers will be engaged by the play due to it’s similarity to Titanic, with Rose and Jack. Although the two stories have different backdrops they have the same fundamental story. Where they both tell a story of tragic love, forbidden by their self-obsessed family’s almost entirely blind to the world around them. The similarity of unforbidden love between the two couples is displayed through the idea of ‘love at first sight’. Therefore, the play of Romeo and Juliet created by Shakespeare is relevant to today’s society because many couples still experience unforbidden love in their personal lives.
Another way the play encourages teenagers to re-evaluate their attitudes towards males displaying emotions, as Romeo exhibits this effectively through the play. Romeo’s requirement to uphold his manly honor in society does not affect him as he believes in following his heart, this is revealed through his love for Juliet. Although Romeo is fully aware of the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets he still proceeded to marry Juliet as he is a Petrarchan lover. “But soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun! —Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, who is already sick and pale with grief, That thou her maid art far more fair than she.” Romeo articulates these famous words in the balcony scene as he watches Juliet leave her bedroom to look out at the night sky. The imagery Shakespeare chooses to represent Juliet is the sun which in the world of mythology is traditionally used to display masculinity and the moon with feminine which challenges the stereotypes of men and women. Romeo exhibits a few stereotypically “feminine” traits. Perhaps Shakespeare is using these sun and moon images to highlight the fluidity of gender roles? Stereotypes are definitely still being challenged in today’s society as it is displayed clearly in the literary text of “The Hunger Games”. In this novel we see the gender roles are reversed through Pete and Katniss, this is firstly portrayed when Katniss volunteers in the place of her sister, this protective action are more typically associated with men. Secondly her ability to complete the game and ultimately being victorious. On the other hand, Peeta portrays the more feminine traits as he displays his emotions more frequently, and is kind and compassionate towards others. This 21st-century example exhibits that stereotypes are certainly still being challenged after four hundred years. Therefore, Shakespeare displays Romeo as an individual who goes against the social expectations of a man and their masculinity.
Finally, the audience of “Romeo and Juliet” in the 21st century can relate to the play as they recognize the value being independent and not following societies standard. The play displays the positives of following your heart although others may not agree with your decision due to a feud. Shakespeare also challenges the idea of feminine and masculine stereotypes through the play.