“O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father refuse thy name, thou art thyself thou not a Montegue, what is Montegue? tis nor hand nor foot nor any other part belonging to a man
What is in a name?
That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,
So Romeo would were he not Romeo called retain such dear perfection to which he owes without that title,
Romeo, Doth thy name!
And for that name which is no part of thee, take all thyself.”
― William Shakespeare
A long time ago, I remember it clearly, I read Romeo and Juliet. Almost ten years have passed since. At the time I read the story I was only slightly older than Juliet, and dreamed of the kind of love that bound those two characters together. Didn’t dream of ending up like them, of course. Still, I was longing for wild, passionate, irrepressible love, the kind of love only Shakespeare could have captured. Never mind the detail that Romeo and Juliet’s love ended after only a week and with a trail of dead. I focussed on the young love, and the question: what if.
Just recently, ten years later, I had another encounter with the passionate lovers, when I found the new audiobook edition of Romeo ad Juliet by Audible. This recent version differs from the classic in the style of language and also the plot in a few details.
What can I tell you, friends?
Have you ever reconnected with a story before that had left a lasting impression on you at some point in your past? In my case, my perspective on the two has changed dramatically.
I found myself focussing much more on the freedom to love whoever you want instead of going with your parent’s pick. We are free.
I never really thought about it like that, maybe because we take it for granted that the choice of our partner is entirely ours. But unfortunately it is not a given everywhere. Even in our region, the tradition of arranged marriage has been abolished less than 100 years ago.
We are so lucky.
If I imagine my parents would have chosen a husband for me when I was 16, expecting me to stay with him for the rest of my life I’m not so sure that I would have reacted all that differently to Juliet. I guess back in the day ‘the rest of your life’ was a significantly shorter period than today, but still. If the story would have played out in our present time, with Romeo and Juliet getting together after years of enmity, it would read less like a tragedy and more like a kitsch novel.
No one would die either, everyone would take a deep breath and be thankful the old feud is finally over.
Being free to chose, as we are these days, also means that we are responsible for the consequences of our actions. Who knows if Romeo and Juliet would have felt their intense love with tinder & co at their disposal.
Would they have been a match, or would they have scrolled on?
We’ll never know.
Listening to the story I really couldn’t help but feel so grateful that we live in a time and cultural sphere where we can choose our partners for ourselves. We should be really thankful that we can have our own opinions, that we belong only to ourselves.
These days, a good woman is no longer measured by how obedient she is and how firm her body is, the inner values play a much more important role. Juliet, the classic, was an exception in how she felt and acted, and regarding the freedom she claimed for herself. The updated Juliet is no longer a victim of her fate. She knows what she wants, she is clever, confident and has a strong will. From today’s perspective I empathize even more strongly with Shakespeare’s Juliet than I used to, and I can fully understand that she’s not up for marrying a man that disgusts her. I mean, who wouldn’t get that?
In the Audible version, Juliet’s role has been slightly changed, and her fate plays out in a different way than in the classic play.
I don’t want to spoiler it. Only this much: I was pretty surprised, and had a smile on my face as I listened to the end of the story.
dress: Baum & Pferdgarten
shoes: Dr. Martens