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Around Valentine’s Day, the commercials feature movies, confections and experiences that speak to love and romance. Visions of red roses, chocolates and teddy bears entice the eyes; promises of love unfeigned and eternal beauty twitterpate the heart.
Stories of love and romance have been mainstays in American culture since the beginning, often pulling from different cultures and attuning them to an American audience. One of my favorite love stories, no matter what time of year, is “Romeo and Juliet.”
“Romeo and Juliet” was one of those stories that was almost like a folktale to me growing up; I was always aware of the story, but each time I was told it or I told it, it had slight variations. There was always love at first sight, death and a not-so-happy ending, but it was always basically the same story.
The first time I saw Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” I was in high school and some of my peers were performing the show. Originally, I went just to support some friends who were participating in it, though none of them held major parts. While it was a good performance, it was nothing terribly fantastic, just a normal high school production, but I fell in love with the plot and the whirlwind nature of Romeo and Juliet’s courtship, marriage and untimely death.
Falling in love is one of those visceral experiences that, as a child, I was always curious about, but no one could offer me an explanation or description of it. Watching “Romeo and Juliet,” seeing the interplay between two young lovers, was the closest that, up to that point, anyone had come to showing me what love looks like. I was completely enchanted.
It was during the summer, while I was still in high school, that I was able to see this production of “Romeo and Juliet.” I tried to re-catch the magic of watching two people fall in love by checking out and inhaling a copy of “Romeo and Juliet” from the local library. It was a different kind of magic, reading the conversations between two lovers rather than watching them. It was beautiful, adding another level of sparkle and the bubbly beauty that surrounds falling in love.
I particularly enjoy the way that both Romeo and Juliet are so willing to do anything for who they perceive to be their one true love. However, I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that they both end up killing themselves in the end. While I’ve never been in their position, being forced to marry someone you don’t love, having my heart completely shredded by unrequited love, it seems a little rash and excessive to kill oneself, but I suppose that was the only choice they saw as a viable option.
Even with all the ridiculous love, lust and death that transpires in “Romeo and Juliet,” it’s still one of the quintessential Valentine’s Day shows. No matter what reincarnation it takes, whether it’s a bad made-for-TV movie, the original Shakespearean play or one of the many filmed versions, “Romeo and Juliet” ought to be requisite for every Valentine’s Day celebration.