I haven’t read Romeo and Juliet in ten years. Also, having been in the target demo for the Leonardo DiCaprio/Claire Danes version, I tend to avoid performances of it like a particularly giggly plague.
But I’m rereading it now as part of writing a study guide thereto, and I’m having some thoughts:
1. The SparkNotes study guide manages to cover the entire play without once uttering the words “dramatic irony.” Yet this play is impossible to understand without understanding dramatic irony and its more generalized sibling, “When Things Are Not What They Appear To Be and In Fact Are Several Things At Once, Which One You See Depending On Your Point of View.”
2. I’m sad that half the sex jokes can no longer be understood without footnotes. You know the groundlings had a field day with this play. Not just because of the sex jokes, but because of the obvious contrast between the play’s lower orders and their CONSTANT SEX JOKES and the play’s upper orders and their OMG DIVINE LOVE EXPRESSED IN RHYMING COUPLETS. If one of the major themes of this play isn’t “y’all can call yourselves cultured but we know you’re just boinking each other like the rest of us,” I’ll eat my French hood.
3. I’ve studied this play four separate times in various high school and college classroom settings, yet no one has ever pointed out that Juliet is actually quite clever. Her wordplay when dealing with her father and Paris over her planned marriage to the latter is extraordinary: she actually tells them repeatedly that she’s already married to Romeo, but because they assume she’s her father’s chattel to be given away to Paris as the dudes see fit, neither one of them ever hears her. Romeo, by contrast, can’t stop being an idiot long enough to not kill Tybalt.
4. Unlike many of Shakespeare’s earlier plays (Richard III, which is a personal favorite, comes immediately to mind), Romeo and Juliet is very deliberately written. This is a man who has stopped filling the air and started realizing exactly what language can do. Contrary to what most ninth-graders believe, there isn’t a single word in this play that doesn’t do significant heavy lifting.
5. Mercutio is never more acerbic than when making fun of the “breeders.” Make of that what you will.