Love or Lust?


Eden Yohannes, Contributor

They are often referred to as star crossed lovers. Their “love story” is considered tragic. We all know them: Romeo and Juliet. While some would look at their relationship and see it as heartbreaking, I want to offer a new perspective: Romeo and Juliet were not in love. I believe they never liked each other. Juliet was Romeo’s rebound, and Juliet married Romeo to defy her parents. They were two children in difficult places in life, and thrust themselves into a romantic relationship to feel better.
Let’s start with Juliet. In Act 1 scene 3, Lady Capulet says “ladies of esteem, Are made already mothers. By my count, I was your mother much upon these years”. Lady Capulet is insistent on her 13 year old daughter being wed. Juliet was never enthusiastic about getting married and having a child. She is forced to attend a party where she meets Paris, supposedly her future husband. However at this party, she also meets a handsome young man who previously had his heart broken: Romeo. They share a kiss only to realize that their families have an ongoing feud. Juliet is initially attracted to Romeo because of his looks, but decides to keep seeing him as an act of defiance to her parents. Earlier, Capulet states that in order for Paris and Juliet to marry, he has to win his daughter’s heart, yet later, we discover that Capulet’s statement was false. Even after Juliet expresses her distaste for Paris, her parents still attempt to force their marriage. This demonstrates that Capulet wasn’t genuine from the start, and Juliet never had any choice in deciding her own future. Due to the overwhelming pressure she feels from her parents to get married, she decides to get married to a man that she knew her parents would hate. Seeing Romeo was Juliet’s attempt to take back control of her life. She felt like her life was already being decided for her. So, she eloped in order to feel like she had autonomy.
Before this party, Romeo had previously been in the depths of despair. His former “love”, Rosaline, had rejected him because she was a nun. Until the first act of the second scene, he basically whines about how upset he is due to his unrequited love: “Alas, that love, whose view is muffled still, Should without eyes see pathways to his will!” Mercutio drags Romeo to a party, where he ends up seeing his new obsession, Juliet. He’s instantly infatuated. He clings to this new attraction, in an attempt to get over Rosaline. Juliet was essentially, for lack of a better term, his rebound. He feels destined to always be in a romantic situation. Romeo impulsively jumps from girl to girl demonstrating how unstable he is.
Juliet takes a potion from the friar, to make it appear as though she’s dead. She does this so she can fake her death and run away into the sunset with Romeo. P Then there’s the iconic, tragic love scene we all know: Romeo poisons himself because he just can’t bear to live without a 14 year old girl whom he’s known for four days. Juliet became his new object of infatuation in order for him to cope with the loss of Rosaline. When he thought he lost Juliet, he lost himself. Juliet stabbed herself once she realized Romeo was dead. She had ignorantly put everything on the line for him; she defied her parents, got married, and planned to run away with him. After he died, she had nothing left.
What can we do with this new outlook on the story? Instead of viewing Romeo and Juliet’s story as if it’s a city on a hill, we should look at Romeo and Juliet as an example of what not to do. Their story is supposed to be a depiction of tragedy, of how much error humans are capable of. They’re seen as the epitome of love, but they’re portrayed more as foolish adolescents. I believe that Shakespeare wanted us to view them, not as lovers, but as youths that were too caught up with the idea of love.