Romeo and Juliet
A book review for parents
This play by William Shakespeare is published by Signet Classic, Penguin Group and is written for adults but is sometimes studied by high school classes.
An early fight scene introduces readers to the Capulet and Montague families and their long-standing feud. Romeo, son of Lord Montague, believes he's in love with a girl named Rosaline until he and Juliet (a Capulet) lock eyes at a party and determine they must be together. The lovers marry in secret, with the help of Juliet's nurse and Friar Lawrence — but all hope for their happiness seems lost when Romeo is banished for killing Juliet's cousin, Tybalt. Juliet, who is being forced by her father to marry Paris, drinks a concoction that will put her in a coma so she appears dead. She's entombed and Friar Lawrence promises to let Romeo know of the plot so he can come wake her. The plan goes awry and Romeo, thinking Juliet is really dead, kills himself in her presence. She wakes to find him lifeless and stabs herself with his dagger.
Friar Lawrence marries Romeo and Juliet and plots to help them stay together. While his actions may seem well-intentioned, his scheming, deception and knowledge of mystical elements (such as the sleeping potion Juliet drinks) render him a holy man of questionable character.
Lord and Lady Capulet push for Juliet's marriage to Paris, believing it is in her best interest. Lord Capulet's temper flares when Juliet protests. Juliet's nurse essentially raises her, even breastfeeding her as an infant. She serves as Juliet's confidante and messenger, helping the lovers execute their secret romantic schemes and putting Juliet's happiness above her loyalty to her employers. Romeo's parents demonstrate concern about his depression, and his mother dies of grief when he's banished from Verona. Prince Escalus demands peace in Verona at all costs.
Other Belief Systems
Even the earliest lines of the play, which state that Romeo and Juliet are "star-crossed lovers," indicate that cosmic destiny, not God, will guide the actions in this story. The tragic events that follow, culminating in the death of the young lovers, are attributed to fate. "Love" itself becomes a religion for Romeo and Juliet: Their passion causes them to reject nearly all of the people, values and laws they once held dear. After they first meet, Juliet even refers to Romeo as "the god of my idolatry."
God's name is used in vain several times. The bulk of the profanity in this play appears in the off-color innuendos and double-entendres for which Shakespeare is famous. Mercutio and other minor characters often jest about sex and the intimate parts of male and female anatomy. As far as violence, there is swordplay, and the main characters' suicides are emphasized.
Romeo and Juliet kiss. The first time is on the night they meet. A few days later (though no explicit detail appears in the script) they consummate their marriage. Veiled sexual humor appears throughout.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- What is the difference between true love and attraction?
Which do you think Romeo and Juliet had, and why?
- What does "Romeo and Juliet" teach us about holding grudges or acting upon our prejudices?
- What mistakes were made in "Romeo and Juliet?"
- Is a double suicide romantic?
- Based on what the Bible says about the treatment of our bodies (Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 6:15, 19-20, for example), how do you think God feels about suicide?
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.