It’s been great to take on reading again, now that I’m getting the train to and from work. I started this reading challenge to get me going. My first book was Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding and today I completed the infamous Romeo & Juliet by… Do I even need to name William Shakespeare?!
Two things struck me as I read the play. The first was that I never knew Shakespeare actually re-told a previous story by a writer named Arthur Brookes and secondly I realized the drastic difference in reading this story again, now aged 37.
When I read Romeo & Juliet, going through school, I was learning. I had exams to take. Romeo & Juliet was part of a stepping stone in life. This time around, things were slightly different. I saw things that I’d never seen before. I understood the relationships between people better and it was easier for me to understand the position the characters played against the backdrop of their 1500s Verona setting.
Understanding the relationships between the characters on a level I can now relate to gave me a primary standpoint. Or, at least a question anyway. Would the story have been complete had Juliet shared a closer relationship with her parents?
As was custom of the class and period, Juliet was raised by a nurse. She was 14 and had been raised by someone who tested her social boundaries as well as her employers, with her dry wit. She also would have been focused on her job security. Between this and the aristocratic carry-on of her parents, Juliet was a product of convenience, necessity and arrangement. When she woke up from her induced sleep, in her family tomb, Romeo was the only real love she knew. To stab yourself takes a real dark place and real desperation. As the only love she knew lay dead, I can only imagine the emptiness she felt, understanding that we all crave genuine Love.
My key thought, having read Romeo & Juliet at this point in life, is on the education system.
Books, unlike TV screens, encourage thought. Reading through this play, I had to use my imagination to picture physical settings, personal attire, voice tones, physical appearance. Secondarily, I could also imagine the disparity of the audience. Where they would sit and how they would react to different scenes and characters. I pictured the masses under a cool 1500s London sky. I feel that I was able to take so much more from this book because of my life experience.
Books like Peter & Jane have their place and one must learn to read but how much knowledge is left untapped in the human mind because we force kids through school and homework from a young age, with the consequence of an incomplete life should they adhere to the set-up? I feel that kids should be allowed to be kids and enter into education later in life, when they are past that stage of kicking their legs under the table, labelled with ADD, etc.
I feel that we are so shaped, during our lives, to benefit the system, that we have become mere minions and totally miss the beauty and poignancy of books like Romeo & Juliet.