Thursday, February 10, 2011

Book 73: Teenagers and Dirty Jokes.

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 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 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. ;)


  1. So. I was never a Shakespeare fan and I always thought this play was melodramatic and a little silly. (I was one of those cynical teens sniggering quietly in the corner.) However, in college my university put on a production of this that I went to see because my boyfriend at the time was a drama major and he wanted to see it. In the production, the two actors who played Romeo and Juliet played them as if they were silly, obsessed, slightly-foolish 13-14 year olds, with lots of giggling and silliness. It was perfect! It made the whole play make a lot more sense to me and took out a lot of what felt like melodrama from various other performances and readings I had to do. I will always appreciate the way they did that!!

  2. I've never read the play but I saw the film adaptation with Leonardo diCaprio years ago. I thought it was sappy and overrated. However, your post made me want to read the play, particularly the dirty jokes. LOL. :)

  3. i think a lot of people don't realize how young romeo & juliet are when the play takes place. like you write, that has a HUGE impact on how you read the play - if you imagine the characters as being, i don't know, 25, their romance takes on more weight than it actually has. (when we were 13, how many times did we think we would literally DIE if some guy didn't like us?)

  4. I thought Romeo was 17 and Juliet was 14. But I still like it, even if it is melodramatic. It's the very very ending, when the families discover them that does it for me.

  5. It does take belief suspension doesn't it? I do however love it and this color is gorgeous and so vivid.

  6. It is funny how dramatic everything seems at that age. I'm a big fan of Shakespeare, especially his wit, but I agree that some of his other plays contain much better love stories (esp Much Ado About Nothing!) I do love his dirty jokes and they're even better in his comedies. There's a long section in All's Well That Ends Well where he pokes fun at women trying to hang out to their virginty and it's hilarious.

  7. Hey! I too am reading Romeo and Juliet, not done yet though.

  8. I do need to reread it. Although it is a sappy one, I remember enjoying it in high school. I saw Amanda's comment about the actors who made it sound like young kids, and I think that would work brilliantly. I've never seen this one live, but I do enjoy the Leonardo DiCaprio version, which just shows how universal Shakespeare's language can be since it worked in the modern setting, even if it was sappy and unrealistic

  9. Hamlet has the best Shakespearean dirty jokes in my opinion! Gotta love that naughty sense of humor.

    I have never liked R&J, even when I was a high school freshmen it seemed trite and ridiculous. I do love Macbeth, King Lear, Hamlet, etc. though.

  10. The first time I read Romeo and Juliet was in ninth grade, which is also when I was in my first pretty serious relationship. Yeah, definitely remember that obsessiveness. Mercutio was always my favorite character though, dirty jokes and all.

  11. I read Romeo and Juliet in ninth grade, like many people, and I didn't think it was romantic at all. But I did love Mercutio forever and appreciate those of his dirty jokes that I got at age fourteen.

  12. I'm excited to see what I think! I'm reading Romeo and Juliet this month. Professor Coffee does not approve. :P

  13. If I remember correctly, my old English teacher told us Romeo was 16 and Juliet was 13, but died right before her 14th birthday. :)