This Essay is for Stage 1 SACE (Year 11 in South Australia) and had a 800 maximum word limit

‘Romeo and Juliet’ is about 400 years old, yet is still seen as a valid piece of theatre - Discuss

It is interesting that Shakespeare’s plays continue to be performed and studied throughout the world almost 400 years after his death. This maybe because the plays are brilliantly written, it may also be that the themes resonate with issues faced at any one time in any one place within human society. In the case of the tragedy ‘Romeo and Juliet’ the play deals with young love, the interaction of young lovers on opposite sides of wars, depression, suicide and conflicts that last for decades or millennia and come to a head at different times resulting in bloodshed, like the battle between the Montague’s and the Capulet’s.

When Romeo and Juliet first meet they find that there is a strong physical bond between them and they classify it as ‘love-at-first-sight’. The term love is often used when two people have known each other for a long time and have built respect and affection for one another. Whereas when two people have an instant and overpowering attraction for each another the term infatuation is often used. The ‘first love’ that many people experience in their teenage years is often a form of infatuation; it will either be a flaring attraction between people that shortly dies down to nothing or it will start slower and mature to a strong healthy love. When Romeo and Juliet meet the Friar warns Romeo of not heading into the relationship too quickly in case the passion wanes away to nothing, though Romeo ignores him and marries Juliet the next day so he can consummate their marriage without it being a sin. Many people in today’s society go through the same thing; they’ll meet a person and find that there is an instant physical connection between them. They’ll then want to rush into a long term commitment like marriage; although in today’s society there is much more leeway with what is considered appropriate between two people in a relationship.

Many people in today’s society can sympathise and see parallels between their lives and that of Juliet Capulet. While Juliet is only 14 in the play, she experiences many of the conflicts that people in today’s society do. She’s in an environment that is surrounded by conflict and finds herself in love with a person who’s considered her enemy. This situation is familiar for many people in parts of today’s world; like the black and white in South Africa, Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland and Serbians and Corack’s in Bosnia. The simple idea of ‘forbidden love’ calls to something in a humans’ subconscious. The idea of rebelling from what we’ve been taught or going against a higher authority by being in ‘love’ with someone that is one the opposite side of a conflict, or that fits the stereotype as ‘dangerous’ appeals to many people. In ‘Romeo and Juliet’ this ‘forbidden love’ is the main plot line of the story and is what attracts many people to the play.

The topic of depression and suicide in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ comes up regularly. In the tragedy suicide seems to be an action that was easily and regularly done by the way and frequency that Romeo and Juliet attempt it. But from the reactions of the Friar it was a drastic thing, seen as a massive sin that would deny them entry to Heaven, and that Romeo and Juliet were just easily and severely depressed. In today’s culture the topics suicide in teenagers is an almost taboo. It is something that happens with alarming regularity but is still not talked about by the general public. It is treated by attempting to treat the depression that causes it and is talked about behind closed doors. As shown with Romeo and Juliet suicide is often treated as a final action if the person is overwhelmed by one major and negative thing in their life, and is often undertaken by teenagers who haven’t had enough experience with life to realise that it is possible to live past horrible experiences.

Even though the tale of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is almost half a millennium in age, the issues it brings up and the actions between the characters is ageless. Within the human society there will always be the issues of rebellion, depression and conflict, because of that and the way the Shakespeare presents the issues and themes the characters in his plays will always be able to be sympathised with and the issues they face will be understood; Thus allowing whatever culture or time they are read in to be able to enjoy and study them.
Word Count: 760