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Why Is Romeo And Juliet A Classic? - With A Free Essay Review



Throughout time, classic stories are the ones that stay with people regardless of when they were written. Romeo & Juliet is an example of one of these for a number of reasons. A classic can be defined as a story with a timeless theme that people can relate to even hundreds of years later, such as the theme of good versus evil or overcoming odds. In Romeo & Juliet the most prominent theme is the power of unconditional love. Although the story was written 400 years ago, love still happens every day, even if not with the dramatic consequences portrayed in Shakespeare’s play. Like all classics, it is something that people of any time period can relate to. Another theme in Romeo & Juliet is violence, which is still an important problem in our society today. Memorable characters are also an important quality of classics, and Romeo & Juliet is not lacking in that respect. Besides the obvious title characters, there is also Mercutio, Friar Lawrence, and Tybalt. Unforgettable characters like these are essential in classics, and Romeo & Juliet can without a doubt be classified as such.

Despite all these things, Romeo & Juliet was written for an audience much earlier than today’s. Yet it is still remade for films all the time. Contemporary directors may choose to do this in order to incorporate its well-known theme into something that is even more relevant to younger audiences. Turning the story into one set in modern times changes it from a 16th century love story into something that could happen any day, to anyone. It makes it even more relatable for modern viewers. Although Romeo & Juliet was written hundreds of years ago, its timeless theme and memorable characters make it an obvious classic and a story that will be retold for generations to come.

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ESSAY REVIEW

It may be, for all I know, that time is a purely human construct, but normally we assume that it existed prior to our appearance on the planet, indeed prior to the planet's appearance in the universe, so phrases such as "throughout time" or, worse, "from the dawn of time," should probably be eschewed when speaking of events and phenomena confined to human history. That said, I like your definition of classical stories, and agree that it applies to Romeo and Juliet, even if that's the sort of play Shakespeare might have written while drunk. I also agree that love is a theme of that play. I think it is worth pointing out, however, that "love" is not a word that, for Shakespeare, refers to one simple concept. There are many kinds of love, and the love of young lovers is typically treated differently by the poet from other kinds. So while it may be that Romeo and Juliet is "something that people of any time period can relate to," it may be easier to relate to for some people (the young, for instance) than for others.

Anyway, let's get down to business. I said that I like your definition of a classic, but I only like it up to a point. To the requirement of a "timeless theme" to which we can all relate, you add the criterion of "memorable characters." That is as far as your definition of a "classic" goes. While there is nothing especially wrong with it, it does seem to be a subjective definition. Another writer (an Aristotelian, for instance) might come along and say that the elements of character and theme are of only secondary importance; what really matters is the plot. Some one else (a Marxist, say) might say that what matters is the extent to which the play reveals the prevailing ideologies of its time. The problem revealed by these possible different views of what makes a work a great work, or a classic, is that it makes the particular judgment (X is a classic) essentially meaningless. We can reasonably and persuasively argue that X has a timeless theme or memorable characters, but as soon as we take the next step and say "That means that X is a classic," we've immediately alienated a good number of our readers (all the Aristotelians and the Marxists and the formalists, and the Gender Studies people, and so on).

What I am suggesting, in other words, is that in calling the play a classic, you're not really saying anything about the play as such. When you say it has memorable characters and concerns the themes of love and violence, you are saying something about the play, but the horrible truth is that you are not saying very much about it. What's interesting about the play, as far as its theme is concerned, is not the bare fact that the theme is one of love, but how that theme is explored. If the play is interesting, and if we can, as you say, still relate to it, it is because it reveals something to us about the nature of love and violence, or perhaps, since we are typically both loving and violent creatures, it reveals something to us about us. So if you want to explain the continuing appeal of Romeo and Juliet, which I take to be the real purpose of your essay, then I think you need to say a little precisely about what the play reveals to us about those things (love, violence, us).

Best, EJ.
Submitted by: sable113
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