Not anymore. Written at the beginning of Shakespeare's career as a playwright, The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (c. 1595) is now considered to be the greatest love story of all time. It wasn't a , either: the play was so popular in its own time that it was published twice during Shakespeare's life (1597 and 1599). Considering the state of printing press technology at the time, that's kind of a big deal.
Despite its fancy pedigree, Romeo and Juliet is also considered to be one of Shakespeare's most accessible works. Along with Julius Caesar, it's typically one of the first Shakespeare plays studied by Western students, who get a dose of Elizabethan theater, Shakespearean language, and, of course, love poetry. And it's not just a school favorite; it's an audience favorite, too. Romeo and Juliet has been performed countless times by world-renowned theater companies and remains an audience favorite.
But is it really nothing more than a silly Is reading Romeo and Juliet the equivalent of students 400 years from now studying ? Famous seventeenth-century journaler dismissed the plays as "the worst that ever [he] heard in [his] life" (). And even we have to admit that Romeo seems a lot more like an emo teenager than a man in the grips of immortal passion.
It's also one of the most adapted plays of all time—Franco Zeffirelli made it into an Oscar winning film in and the play was also adapted into a Tony Award winning musical, (1957). Romeo and Juliet has inspired countless pop lyrics, like Taylor Swift's "," Dire Straits' "," and The Reflections' doo-wop style "." Almost any "forbidden love" stories can back to Romeo and Juliet, from to Stephenie Meyer's saga.
But Romeo and Juliet is not just about what happens when two hormonal teenagers collide. It's clear to anyone who's watched that getting what you want out of young love isn't always all it's cracked up to be. The real moral of the story here is that sometimes love is doomed to fail, and that applies no matter how old you are and what time you're living in.
Our point? Romeo and Juliet is at least partly a tragedy about the clash between private love (you and your honey) and public interest (convenient marriages, or paying bills, or raising a family). We may not have quite the same that Romeo and Juliet have, but intense, passionate love can be just as antisocial in the 21st century as it was in the 16th century. How do you negotiate the minefield? Well, hopefully better than Romeo and Juliet did.
Want more deets? We've also got a complete about Romeo and Juliet, with three weeks worth of readings and activities to make sure you know your stuff.