Copyright: This work is in the public domain in the USA only.
“Romeo and Juliet are in love, but they are not love-sick. Everything speaks the very soul of pleasure, the high and healthy pulse of the passions: the heart beats….”—CHARACTERS OF SHAKESPEARE'S PLAYS, by William Hazlitt, 1817 THE TRAGEDY OF ROMEO AND JULIET is sometimes spoken of as the most popular romantic love story of all time. The story’s appeal may be the innocent young love shared by the title characters; however, the play’s impact (as the title suggests) is in its tragedy. Shakespeare’s theme is not love but the dangers inherent in unresolved conflicts—in this case, the lingering feud between the lovers’ families. As described in WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, by John Masefield, we see the unfortunate consequence: “Fate seemed to plot to end the folly by letting Romeo fall in love with Juliet. Let the two houses be united by marriage, as at the end of Richard III. But love is a storm, sudden love, a madness, and the fire of youth a disturber of the balances. Hate and hot blood put an end to all chance of marriage. There is nothing left but the desperate way, which is yet the wise way, recommended by the one wise man in the cast. With a little patience, this way would lead the couple to happiness. Impatience, the fever in the blood that began these coils, makes the way lead them to death.”