I Hate Romeo

I recently finished teaching Romeo and Juliet to my freshmen classes. This is the first time in several years that I’ve read this play, and it instantly brought back one very big reaction: I hate Romeo. He’s a wimpy jerk. Though there could be many more, five examples from the text will suffice to make the case:

We first hear about Romeo when his friend and parents are talking about how worried they are about him. Romeo’s father says that the boy has been moping around all night, sighing and feeling sorry for himself, then locking himself in his room all day, with the windows blocked out:

Many a morning hath he there been seen,

With tears augmenting the fresh morning dew.

Adding to clouds more clouds with his deep sighs;

But all so soon as the all-cheering sun

Should in the furthest east begin to draw

The shady curtains from Aurora’s bed,

Away from the light steals home my heavy son,

And private in his chamber pens himself,

Shuts up his windows, locks far daylight out

And makes himself an artificial night:

where, I believe, he paints his fingernails black, listens to emo music, and sits in a corner cutting himself.

Even when his friends try to get his mind off the girl he likes who doesn’t like him back, by taking him to a party, Romeo whines like a brat the whole way there:

ROMEO

Give me a torch: I am not for this ambling;

Being but heavy, I will bear the light.

 

MERCUTIO

Nay, gentle Romeo, we must have you dance.

 

ROMEO

Not I, believe me: you have dancing shoes

With nimble soles: I have a soul of lead

So stakes me to the ground I cannot move.

Ha ha! Get it? It’s funny because his soul is weighed down with sorrow. Because he has a crush.

Seriously, loser, get over yourself.

If that sounds harsh, consider his response upon first seeing thirteen-year-old Juliet at the party:

Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight!

For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.

Excuse me? So what about that girl you’ve been complaining about through all of Act I? Remember your undying, hopeless love for her?

Then, of course, there’s Act II’s famous and nauseatingly sweet balcony scene, which I can largely summarize like this: “You hang up first,” “No, you hang up first,” “No, YOU hang up first…” Before they get to the sappy teen dialogue, though, Romeo starts the scene by hiding in the shadows of the Capulet family’s yard while he watches Juliet in her bedroom talking to herself.

So now he’s a creepy stalker.

In fact, at one point he thinks Juliet says something that would make a good introduction for him to pop out and take advantage of:

[Aside] Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?

Gee, ya think? Or maybe you should just stick to watching girls from behind the bushes. That’s the ticket, you romantic hero, you.

But Romeo’s biggest faults show themselves after all of this. The turning point of the play comes in Act III, when Juliet’s cousin kills Romeo’s friend, so Romeo lashes out and kills the cousin. Shocked by his violence, his says:

O sweet Juliet,

Thy beauty hath made me effeminate

And in my temper soften’d valour’s steel!

Really, dude? Really? Your first instinct is to blame a girl’s beauty for making you girly? OK, two points, kid: first, way to be a man–nothing’s more macho than blaming thirteen-year-old girls for your own actions. Second (and there’s no nice way to say this)…you were pretty girly before you even met Juliet.

For evidence, see everything written above.

2 comments on “I Hate Romeo

  1. My students and I really laugh at the difference between Romeo and Juliet as they talk on the balcony-she is down to earth (comparatively); but for romeo, how he got into the garden? “With love’s light wings did I o’erperch these walls”–so he flew over on the wings of love? Ugh!
    I always ask my kids what they are expecting when they think of Romeo (before we read anything of it) and they all think romantic hero. I like to point out that he is a crybaby and dumbhead who is mooning over a girl who has vowed to have nothing to do with men-well, duh, Romeo.
    Nice to see someone else thinks this way!

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