Touted as one of the greatest, most tragically romantic stories of all-time, Romeo and Juliet (as it is so often referred to when shortened from The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet) is a tale that people–especially those lusting, body exploratory high schoolers it is assigned to as required reading–frequently seem to ignore is rife with egregiousness on the part of our loverboy hero, Romeo Montague. Something of the original fuckboy, Romeo’s wandering devotion settles upon Juliet Capulet, whose family name is the sworn enemy of his own, after another girl, Rosaline, fails to return his ardor. And, lest we forget, Rosaline is actually Lord Capulet’s niece, therefore Juliet’s cousin. What a dog, as it’s widely known that to pursue two females from the same family at all, let alone within such a short span of time, is beyond sleazy.
As he describes it to his cousin, Benvolio, however, his alleged unshakeable love for Rosaline is causing him the sort of unspeakable sadness that only makes the hours of the day feel longer and more torturous without “having that which, having, makes them short.” Benvolio’s empathetic nature leads him to pity Romeo, who, in turn, only grows more depressed as the conversation progresses, remarking, “Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs;/Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes;/Being vexed, a sea nourished with loving tears./What is it else? A madness most discreet,/A choking gall, and a preserving sweet.”
In short, he’s going to veer toward complete insanity if he doesn’t find a new vagina to fixate on and, hopefully, quench his ultimate thirst. Mercifully, the fates choose to align his so-called star-crossed lover with him at a party that night. One that he is, of course, forbidden from attending as it’s being thrown by Lord Capulet. Conveniently, it’s a masked ball that permits him entrance with Benvolio and his dear, eccentric (that translates to gay in Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film version) friend, Mercutio. Though his intent in accompanying them stems from wanting to catch a glimpse of Rosaline and thereby remind her of his existence, he, instead, becomes smitten with Juliet, spouting cajoling lines in order to initiate physical contact, like, “If I profane with my unworthiest hand/This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:/My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand/To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.” What a panderer–a swift-talking operator that Romeo. Worst of all, Romeo isn’t even direct in his approach, using metaphor as a means to get to his end in discovering whether or not Juliet is DTF (in this epoch, not meaning “Down to Fire Up the Kiln“) as opposed to just being truthful about his intentions, which, for the most part, have nothing to do with love. Wielding his erudite manner of speech as a weapon to mine for pussy, no wonder Juliet fell for it in her extreme naïveté. After all, she’d never been in love the way Romeo claimed to be with the far more frigid Rosaline. And, to that point, there is most assuredly a correlation between Rosaline not being as willing to put out as Juliet that suddenly made Romeo forget all about his passions for the former. Juliet, on the other hand, is experiencing this level of fervor for what will be her only time, ruing, “My only love sprung from my only hate!/Too early seen unknown, and known too late!/Prodigious birth of love it is to me,/That I must love a loathèd enemy.” Love, hate–such similar sentiments driving the cruel hand of destiny in the world of Shakespearean tragedy.
If only she’d had the foresight to rein in her emotions, to intuit that to fall down the rabbit hole of loving Romeo would and could lead solely to bloodshed, heartache and, logically, death. Because that’s what it is to give in to the whims of an undercover fuckboy, claiming to love your cousin devotedly one minute and then you the next, just because you happen to be there with your supple, jailbait aesthetic. Feeling that burning in the loins so common to those prone to rape, Romeo stalks an enamored Juliet to find her singing his praises to herself from the perch of her balcony, site of many romantic future exchanges.
That Romeo swears his love for her by the moon should have been yet another indication of his inconstancy, even prompting her to insist, “Do not swear by the moon, for she changes constantly. Then your love would also change.” And change it surely would have, had the two been permitted the luxury of more time together for Romeo to realize that, oh, there’s another more nubile body for me to yearn for–maybe she’s related to Juliet, too!
Juliet’s blind trust and forgiveness seemingly knows no bounds even after Tybalt and Mercutio end up in the crossfire of the feud that Romeo doesn’t do enough in his power to prevent. “A plague on both [their] houses” indeed. Or really, just on Romeo, who should have controlled his emotions long enough to persist in his sense of commitment to loving Rosaline. Even though she, too, was a Capulet, she was clearly of less value to the family than Juliet. Sweet, angelic, light-giving Juliet. A light that, just as all men eventually do, Romeo had to quash with his inability to get wise to the new direction of the plan that would allow him to be with his beloved. And of course, Juliet is the one who must take all the risk, ingesting a potentially fatal potion that she really knows nothing about–is downing on a leap of bold faith–all for the sake of faking her own death (therefore never to see her family again) so that she can accommodate a love that, most of all, the fates very obviously do not condone. And, in truth, if Romeo had any sense of decency, he would have gone on living to take the heat for ruining Juliet. Causing her to end her life well before its time simply because he couldn’t keep his eye on the prize of Rosaline.
The elegy given to the lovers by Prince Escalus says it best: “For never was a story of more woe/Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.” Mainly because Juliet just happened to have the misfortune of looking what Robert Rodriguez might describe in a script adaptation as her “ripest,” therefore attracting Romeo’s easily divided attention from Juliet’s cousin, who he was supposedly so in love with. Can we blame the volatile hormones of adolescence? Sure. But even if Romeo had been given the opportunity to grow into a man, he still would have maintained the wandering eye that invoked havoc and death all around him. For men can’t help wanting what they can’t have. That’s why there are still so many sexual assaulters left to be unmasked.