Romeo and Juliet is not a love story.
Their romance is probably passing fancy:
Juliet takes up with Romeo to rebel against her tyrannical parents; Romeo rebounds from his infatuation with Rosaline by wooing Juliet.
Their fling unforgivably makes worms’ meat of beloved bad boy, Mercutio.
This is a play is about the dangerous world of teenagers: their insecurities, their urgent passions, their impatience, the desperate decisions they hastily make.
This is a play about the years when emotions gallop apace like fiery-footed steeds.
The play itself gallops apace. We want to slow these teens down, to tell them that there is a tomorrow. That not all is lost. That there’s help.
They gallop apace.
Romeo and Juliet do not have to be soulmates to make their suicides a tragedy. It is tragedy enough that they die so young, by their own hands. It is tragedy enough that they die so unnecessarily. A perfect love is incidental.
Let’s not romanticize their deaths (and minimize our responsibility) by proclaiming that they died in the name of love.
They died because Verona failed its youth. They died because an ancient grudge–poisonous and pointless–declared that it is unnatural for a Capulet to love a Montague.
One benign prince, a busybody nurse and a friar with an imagination cannot make up for cousins, college roommates and a popular culture that dictate whom one may love and whom one may not love.
All are responsible, says the prince at the end of the play. Some shall be pardoned and some punished.
Most recently, we lay our scene at Rutgers University and the George Washington Bridge.
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things.