Romeo and Juliet

Debatable points

Is Romeo and Juliet's love real?

Possibly the most debatable point that has consistently been asked of the play is whether Romeo and Juliet’s love is real or whether it is simply an intense childhood crush. Some argue that the all-consuming nature of their attraction to one another speaks more of infatuation than any true feelings of deep, true love. However Shakespeare’s language demonstrates an instant, mutual connection that is something unlike Romeo and Juliet have ever experienced. For example, the first lines they speak to each other form a 14-line sonnet – it would be difficult to argue that this was mere coincidence on Shakespeare’s part. Certainly, the high stakes nature of their actions seems to suggest that this is a real love worth pursuing, despite the risks.

Will the families actually reconcile?

At the end of the play, when the Montagues and Capulets discover the true story of their children’s love and tragic end, they promise to reconcile and end their ongoing feud. Lord Capulet and Montague shake hands and make public promises, including erecting a statue made of gold to honour the lovers. But will the feud finally be over? Has the tragic loss of so many young people been enough of a wake-up call, or will the grudges continue? Some argue that the promises made by Capulet and Montague are all for show, and the feud will never truly be over.

Is the play a comedy or a tragedy?

Romeo and Juliet is truly a play of two distinct halves. While classed as a tragedy, the first half of the play is akin to a romantic comedy. The play takes a sharp turn into tragedy with the death of Mercutio, and from there we are firmly in the realm of tragedy until the sad conclusion. However, early scenes are filled with laughs, sexual innuendo and romance, it is Shakespeare’s great skill that he can disrupt the trajectory of his own narrative so swiftly, making an emotional rollercoaster for his audience.

Should the plays tragic ending be changed?

Some adaptations opt to provide an alternative ending to avoid the devastating outcome in Shakespeare’s original. While West Side Story (1961) involves the loss of Tony (based on Romeo), the musical ensures that Maria (based on Juliet) survives. Children’s adaptations such as Gnomeo and Juliet (2011) avoid the death of the title characters completely, and paint a happy picture of the two families reconciling.

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