Essay On Shakespeare And Teen Sensibilities In Romeo & Juliet
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The impulses of the teen years have served to entertain audiences for centuries. Whether one is watching one of the many 1980s films directed by John Hughes and detailing the slings and arrows of adolescent life or reading the ancient story of the unique puzzle that faced the young teens Mary and Joseph, as they had to decide how to handle the most mysterious pregnancy of all time. The interaction between Romeo and Juliet in Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy shows Shakespeare’s close familiarity with the mores of the teen years: a penchant for the dramatic, an insistence on swift decisions and an overweening impatience.
It is Romeo and Juliet’s mutual love for the dramatic gesture that brings the play its tragic ending. The reason why the mutual suicides are so awful is that they are so avoidable. If either one had been willing to wait just a few minutes more, either for the long-awaited message to the priest or, at the very end, to make sure that there are no signs of life before ending one’s life, then they both could have lived and made a life together. The fierce drama of falling in love with someone forbidden may well have been the best part of their relationship, as their frequent bursts into tears and other incidents of melodrama indicate. In the final analysis, it may well be that they would have flamed out as a couple, although that end would not have been as visibly spectacular.
One characteristic of the adolescent is an insistence on keeping things moving quickly. Whether it’s the couple’s impetuous decision to marry within a day of falling in love, or the swift conclusions to which they jump, even though the language is antiquated, the pace of the action is not. The flitting pace of the tale is just as fast as the course that Ferris Bueller and his friends follow through the streets of Chicago in his epic tale of hooky from school. The transition from conflict to passion to tragedy is lightning-quick in this play.
Although toddlers are notoriously impatient, many teenagers are only slightly less so. Few teens are impatient as these two star-crossed lovers, of course. Once they believe that they are in love, it’s not enough to enjoy their passion. They must marry, and they must marry right now, as Veruca Salt likely would have put it. When things appear to be at their darkest, the couple both decide that it’s time to end it all. There is no middle ground for these two; everything is either agony or ecstasy, bliss or torture.
Most of Shakespeare’s stories involve older characters, particularly his romances. However, several of his most powerful tragedies, including not only Romeo & Juliet but also Hamlet, center around adolescent turmoil. If adolescents did not love drama, then Hamlet would not have staged that play within the play to persuade himself of his uncle’s guilt in the murder of his father. If teens could wait, then both Romeo would have seen that Juliet was not dead and could have waltzed away from her. If teens were patient, then they might have been able to convince their parents that their love was true. They could not, though, and the results ended up tragically for everyone.
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