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Romeo and Juliet – by William Shakespeare April 3, 2008

Posted by audiobooksnow in Arts & Drama Audio Books, Classic Literature, Shakespeare.
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Romeo and Juliet is the play which, in English literature at least, effectively invented the modern love story. Its charm and its power derive from the romantic setting (Verona, an Italian Renaissance city), the youthful innocence and ardour of the lovers, and (perhaps crucially) the excitement and drama created by the opposition which they have to contend with, an opposition which does not simply stem from the older generation but which is starkly present in the feud between their two families and which seems to be supported by the malignity of Fate. The richly realized context of their love is additionally enhanced by (for example) the superbly concrete character of Juliet’s old Nurse, who fondly encourages the pair until the ‘better’ offer of Paris’s love comes along. The Nurse’s sentimentality and materialism are all too convincing, and are symptomatic of the way in which Shakespeare suggests that none of the other characters can match the lovers for sincerity and steadfastness, especially once the brilliant and impulsive Mercutio has gone. Youthful as they are, we see that they are the people who grow and mature as the play progresses: Romeo, as sensitive and intelligent as the later Hamlet, realises that his ‘love’ for Rosaline is no such thing but merely infatuation: however instant the development of his love for Juliet may be, it is ‘the real thing’, as is Juliet’s for him. The imagery of light and religion which Shakespeare consistently bestows upon the lovers is suggestive of the truth and value of their feelings: at the masked ball where they first meet, Romeo’s immediate reaction to Juliet is that ‘she doth teach the torches to burn bright’, and their first words to each other are all built on the conceit that he is a ‘pilgrim’ and she a ‘saint’.

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