Romeo and Juliet (2011)
Two rival families, the Capulets and the Montagues, feud on the streets of Verona. Benvolio, a Montague, tries to part them, but a hotheaded Capulet, Tybalt, incites more violence. The Prince breaks up the fight and warns that further violence will result in death. Lord and Lady Montague discover that their reclusive son, Romeo, is sick with love for the chaste Rosaline. That evening, Romeo and his friends put on disguises and crash the Capulets’ party, where he spies the lovely Juliet, steals a kiss and falls deeply in love.
Romeo enters the Capulet orchard, where he is enthralled by the sight of Juliet. He overhears her calling his name and lamenting that they are of rival houses, so he emerges and professes his true love. Juliet asks Romeo to send for her tomorrow if his purpose is marriage. At Romeo’s request, Friar Lawrence agrees to perform the ceremony, hoping it will end the feud. Romeo gives Juliet’s Nurse a message to deliver: he and Juliet will be married that afternoon. Juliet meets them as planned and they are wed.
Tybalt challenges Romeo to a fight, but when Romeo refuses, Mercutio fights on his behalf and receives a mortal wound. Angry and remorseful, Romeo vows revenge, kills Tybalt and is banished by the Prince. Unaware of what has transpired, Juliet awaits the consummation of her marriage. She learns of Tybalt’s death and Romeo’s exile. Romeo hides in Friar Lawrence’s cell, tortured by the thought of banishment. The Friar devises a plan for Romeo to visit Juliet that night, then wait in Mantua until it is safe to return. After their first night together, Romeo grudgingly leaves Juliet’s bedroom for Mantua. When her parents tell her she must marry Paris on Thursday, Juliet objects, and Lord Capulet threatens to disown her. Juliet seeks out Friar Lawrence for advice.
Juliet confesses to the Friar that she would rather die than marry Paris. Friar Lawrence hands her a potion and instructs her to drink it that night, telling her that it will give the illusion of death. He sends Romeo a message that explains the plan, and tells him to meet his wife in the burial vault and take her to Mantua. Juliet returns home and makes a show of obeying her father. Once alone, she swallows the potion. The next morning, the Nurse discovers Juliet’s body.
Having never received word of Friar Lawrence’s plan, Romeo hears of Juliet’s death. He purchases a deadly poison and leaves for Verona to die at her side. When he encounters Paris mourning at the tomb, they fight and Romeo slays him. Romeo kisses Juliet one last time, swallows the poison and dies. When Juliet awakens to find Romeo dead, she takes his dagger and stabs herself. Lord Montague and Lord Capulet accept blame for the tragedy and agree to give up their hatred and honor the memories of Romeo and Juliet.
Since the first CSF production of Romeo and Juliet in 1962, Colorado audiences have flocked to this theatre every five to ten years to see this play. Last year’s subscribers will recall how The Fantasticks tells the same story with a twist: The lovers’ parents faked the feud to trick their children into marrying. On the radio you might hear Jason Aldean sing, “If you can be my tan-legged Juliet, I’ll be your Redneck Romeo.” A new generation of Shakespeare fans can watch garden gnomes feuding, falling in love and riding lawnmowers in the movie Gnomeo and Juliet. More sophisticated minds can choose from dozens of operas, ballets, and nearly fifty film versions including the iconic West Side Story. Shakespeare himself parodied Romeo and Juliet in a play that was most likely written at the same time, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, when he wrote of Pyramus and Thisbe: “… very tragical mirth. Merry and tragical! Tedious and brief!”
Why are we drawn to this tragic tale, and why are we compelled to tell it over and over again? Moreover, why must Romeo and Juliet remain a tragedy? Happy endings have been imposed on this story over the years, but they fade into oblivion while the true tale survives. Romeo was exiled to Mantua, a temperate locale featuring lakes, lively piazzas and excellent risotto. As the son of a prominent family, he might have lived as a guest in an extravagant palazzo. Mantua and Verona are about the same distance apart as Boulder and Denver. Horses trot at about 8 eight miles per hour, but surely the intensity of Romeo’s love would have spurred him on to a canter (10-17mph) or a gallop (25-35mph). Romeo was parted from Juliet by no more than two hours’ travel time.
Logic never had a place in the hearts of these epic lovers. No one can tell Romeo that, there are “plenty of fish in the sea,” Juliet can never be satisfied with the wealthy, handsome and obsequious Paris, and moreover, nothing can end this bloody feud but the sacrifice of something precious to both houses.