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"Romeo and Juliet:" A Precurser to Trandscendentalism
While reading "Romeo and Juliet" so many things came to mind to write about; nevertheless, inspiration struck while I was reading Walden last night by Henry David Thoreau. I kept finding parallels between the play and transcendentalism. Strange? I know. But bear with me.
The other night my roommate was railing on Romeo and Juliet and how much she hates the play - particularly how she views the play to be a satire on love. She argued "Shakespeare couldn't possibly have wanted his audience to read that play as being romantic. He's obviously making some sort of commentary on childish impulsivity." I contended that I think the play is more about exposing the beauty of childlike idealism in the face of institutional hatred. Often times we can look at young people and ridicule their irrationality or impulsiveness - and yet, I think we also admire their willingness to do what is said can't be done. To tear down fences where we thought there were walls. Thus the Page’s words encapsulate the play’s transcendentalism when he says “I am afraid to stand alone / here in the church yard. Yet I will adventure” (5.3.10-11).
The primary tenant of transcendentalism is the notion that societal institutions corrupt the purity of the individual. And while Romeo and Juliet verge away from the idea of bona fide self-reliance - they nevertheless embrace the idea of spiritual truth over physical truth, as well as the idealism of an individual with excess faith. However, they have put their faith in love and in each other. The love and idealism of the play’s young lovers reflect the invigorating pleas of Henry David Thoreau; in the face of institutional immorality it is better to be civilly disobedient than lose yourself within the machine, after all, “are we not men first and subjects afterwards” (Thoreau 275)? In “Civil Disobedience” Thoreau argues against the fatalist. However, there are copious fatalistic elements within “Romeo and Juliet.” However, last night during mine and Grace’s slack conversation, we questioned the use of Shakespeare’s excessive use of foreshadowing in the play – nearly every scene explicitly hints at what is to come. Why would Shakespeare do this? Does is not hinder suspense? I feel like it challenges the play’s theme of fatalism. Shakespeare’s foreshadowing makes culprits of the audience – we know what is going to happen. While this may suggest a fatalist argument, the audience is also overtly aware of all the ways this tragedy could be avoided. They see the possibilities and yet are helpless to enact them – inspiring indignation against the society that asserts a capital T truth in the face of various individualistic truths. However, this is just an idea I’m toying with at the present – I will need to track the use of foreshadowing in the play.