Saturday, September 4, 2010

If Romeo and Juliet Lived

What if Romeo and Juliet did not go as badly in the end as it did? Suppose their scheme worked. Suppose Juliet's message, that she was faking her death, reached Romeo in time, and she woke up and he was there and they stole away in the night, married, young, and impetuous.

In Shakespeare's version of the story (and the only version I address herein), Juliet is thirteen, almost fourteen years old. People married younger back then, but they generally had the support of people around them in the process. Romeo and Juliet have only Friar Laurence on their side, but even he can't help them any longer, since Romeo is banished and Juliet is presumed dead. Both have fled the city, for years at least, possibly for the rest of their lives.

Imagine, if you will, the last scene in The Graduate. The very end, when Benjamin and Elaine are sitting in the back of the bus, and their smiles fade into uncertainty as they realize the consequences of what they've just done. Now imagine Romeo and Juliet just outside the city, elated at their success. They stop running when they've gotten far enough away, and they give each other the same looks that Elaine and Benjamin exchanged.

Now that I have set up the scene, you must imagine what happens next. Our star-crossed couple must now find a place to reside and a way to make a living. They can wander, but that still leaves the problem of what they're going to eat. They could rely on the kindness of strangers, or the church, but only briefly.

Let's say that they find a church with a kindly friar who is just like Friar Laurence. Let's call him Friar Lor. Romeo and Juliet make it to this town, and enlist Lor's help. He finds work for Romeo and a small place for the two of them to live. As both Romeo and Juliet are used to extremely privileged lives, they have a difficult time adjusting to their new life of hard work, and they start to squabble. They aren't used to marriage, either, or commitment, or considering anything for very long before going ahead and doing it. Romeo is even more impulsive than his wife, which is evidenced by how quickly he fell for Juliet, on her appearance alone, after pining so long for Rosaline, whom he was sure he loved.

So Romeo is working hard, Juliet is staying home or going to the market and trying to figure out how to cook, and they aren't getting along nearly as well as they'd hoped. Romeo sees, across the road, a beautiful young maiden. Truly the most beautiful woman he's ever seen! Ah, but unlike last time, his initial "love" is a woman who not only reciprocates his affection, but is married to him. So Romeo cheats.

Romeo decides he wants to run off with this woman (let's call her Jessie), and approaches Friar Lor for a divorce. Lor, of course, reprimands him, and tells him to return to Juliet and be faithful. He refuses, and says he'll take Jessie and run away without getting a divorce, and simply never wed again. For some reason, Lor tells Juliet what Romeo has been doing, and Juliet, already angry and frustrated at her living situation, flies into a passion and kills Romeo, Jessie, and herself.

The moral of the story is: I hate Romeo and Juliet.


K Throbbs said...

Romeo and Juliet is full of endless possibilties

...all ending in tragedy.

Rae Botsford said...

"Star-crossed lovers" actually wasn't an exaggeration! It's amazing!

botsfri said...

You'd think that this approach to the original would have been made into a movie by now...