I felt the Twilight inspired cover of Romeo and Juliet was fitting since I am talking about teenagers and dirty jokes in this post (and I don't mean that as an insult, I hope you know that).
But the fact is, SO MANY teenagers find the story of Romeo and his gal Juliet romantic, so that cover (which I secretly love) is fitting. It captures that bloom of first love.
(now I'm really done with the bad jokes).
But really, Romeo and Juliet really does capture all that angst and torment of young love. Both characters are only 14 in the play (although now I think Juliet might even be 13...am I wrong?), so it does capture that obsessed feeling teenagers get.
I can remember those days, can't you?
I am sure that the first time I read this play I was one of those girls who absolutely loved it. And wished that I can transport myself into the play so I could be in the middle of all the romance and drama.
Now that I am older, and far more experienced with Shakespeare, I don't feel that way about this play any longer. I have read a great deal of his plays and have found other love stories that are far more touching and real (I am mainly thinking about Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing). I love their witty banter and if anything is missing from this play, it is the connection between Romeo and Juliet.
Let's be honest. The two of them spot each other across a room, meet, chit-chat for a minute, share one kiss, and they are immediately in love with one another. I am sure this goes back to all of that teenage need for love and acceptance, but we all know it doesn't really happen that way. That is why this play doesn't have a special place in my heart.
But I can enjoy it. And I can enjoy all the bits and pieces I didn't understand reading it as a ninth grader. I can pick up on all the innuendos, the dirty word play, and tense sexuality of it all. The beginning of the play is ripe with this contrast between the idea of love and lust.
As characters enter, we get snippets of these dirty jokes. Here is an example from Mercutio:
"If love be rough with you, be rough with love.
Prick love for pricking, and you beat love down.
Give me a case to put my visage in!
A visor for a visor, What care I
What curious eye doth quote deformities?
Here are the beetle brows shall blush for me," (I.iv. 25-30).
To break it down, Romeo is mooning and showing his love (he is a sap at the beginning), and being himself, Mercutio has to call him out on it. In this scene, Mercutio was discussing Cupid with the guys and starts making these dirty references. "Love" in this passage represent Cupid, and of course, "prick" represents well...you know. So when he tells Romeo to prick Cupid? Oh yeah, that's dirty.
It doesn't stop there. Mercutio tells all kinds of dirty nasty jokes throughout the beginning part of the play. Here is another lovely gem,
"This cannot anger him. 'Twould anger him
To raise a spirit in his mistress' circle
Of some strange nature, letting it there stand
Till she had laid it and conjured it down..." (II.i. 24-27).
I don't want to spell this one out for you, but hopefully you can read in between the lines. :)
But yes, that Shakespeare was a dirty old man. And clever. As obsessed as I was with this play as a teen, I never pulled those dirty references from it. I am sure my teacher didn't point them out, but I never picked them up. Amazing.
Anyway, while still not my favorite play, I am really loving everything else that Shakespeare puts into this play-beyond all that love stuff. Even though I still love all of those classic lines, I am finding so much else to love...
and I don't mean just dirty jokes. ;)