Party animals that we are, my husband and I, a friend, and three 14-year-old girls sat around our living room on Saturday night with chips and dip and six copies of Romeo and Juliet. My daughter's freshman "Lit-Writ" class at Homestead High is reading this classic, and a read-aloud session is our idea of a fun time.
The girls played Romeo, Juliet, and their various gang members. The adults read the various old folks parts. We made it through about half the play -- enough to have more teaching moments than a recent Glee episode.
Let's start with Romeo. Girls: Pay attention. He is an excellent example of a teenage boy's fickleness. He's madly in love with Rosaline, and crashes a party in the hopes of seeing her. But when he sees Juliet, he forgets all about Rosaline. What a jerk. If Juliet only knew, she would facestab him on Facebook that night instead of hanging out on her balcony sighing.
Speaking of balconies, Romeo shows some good ol' fashioned teenage boy recklessness by climbing over a high orchard wall, trespassing on the Capulet's property. This, along with a couple of kisses at the party, impresses Juliet so much that she agrees to marry the guy. Really. She and Twilight's Bella could clearly be BFFs. Juliet is perhaps a tad more sensible than Bella, however, since she has at least kissed Romeo, and conversed with him about kissing, whereas Bella managed to fall ridiculously in love from just sitting next to Edward in Biology class. Juliet also has the excuse that in thirteenth century Italy, women depended on marriage for money. Still, a couple of kisses and some strong biceps aren't much on which to base her future (albeit a short one, as it turns out).
Juliet might have asked herself what sort of fellow this Romeo is. The day they are wed, he gets himself into a street fight, resulting in his buddy getting stabbed to death, and Romeo killing Juliet's cousin. Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou such a stupid moron? If you really loved Juliet, you wouldn't have gotten yourself into such a scrape. As for Juliet, the dire consequences of her rush for love should be a lesson to all women.
Speaking of women, Juliet wasn't one. "She's not fourteen", says her mom (Act I, Scene 3), which is fancy Shakespeare talk for she's thirteen-years-old. Don't give me that bunk about kids growing up faster centuries ago. She was still just thirteen. Girls married young because there was nothing else for them. She should have been worried about her Algebra homework, and sales at Forever 21.
Homework? Did you notice that neither Romeo nor Juliet seemed to have any? Nor did they participate in after-school sports or the school play. Had they been properly immersed in their studies and extra-curricular activities, they would have been waking up early for swim practice rather than a clandestine meeting with Friar Laurence. Furthermore, Romeo and his pals could have channeled that teenage testosterone through a few thuggish hacks on the soccer pitch.
Yes, if those two kids had spent just a little more time reading the classics, they'd have had the brains to avoid their own tragedy.
Finally -- and this is the most important teaching moment, boys and girls -- they should have told their parents where they were going and who they were going with. Juliet's dad actually says at the party that Romeo is a "virtuous and well-governed youth" (Act I, Scene 5). OK, so Dad isn't such a great judge of character either, but the point is that the parents wouldn't have had a problem with them going out on a date.
So, kids, we come to the main take-away of Bill's immortal work: Trust your parents. Never lie to them. Tell them everything. In other words, don't be nitwits like Romeo and Juliet.