Sunday, February 26, 2017

Romeo and Juliet

Image result for romeo and juliet book cover"For never was a story of more woe 

Than this of Juliet and her Romeo."

Woe: Origin
Natural exclamation of lament: recorded as wā in Old English and found in several Germanic languages.
-Oxford English Dictionary (i.e. the only dictionary worthy of attention)

Everyone knows the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet, so this review will be more of an analysis than a summary and reaction.  If you have not read Romeo and Juliet, let's be honest, you've definitely been telling yourself in the back of your mind to get around to it someday.  Call me a catalyst and get thee gone to reading!

I love looking at words particularly in older English (not Old English mind you...that's different) to see what their literal meaning was versus how they are used today.  

Of course Shakespeare was a master of words and created several himself.  He could have chosen many words to go at the end of the first line of the couplet above (lots of things rhyme with Romeo which is convenient), but he chose the word woe.  

What did the word woe mean to Shakespeare and the people of his time?

According to the OED the word has been in the vernacular of many languages naturally as a "natural exclamation".  People from different backgrounds who spoke different languages shared a common reaction to pain or sorrow in the form of a very similar sound "woe".

Clear Glass Candle Holder

Some things translate over languages.  Most people even in completely different language families can get similar emotions from certain types of music.  A German-native and an Italian can hear a slow piece and feel sad and sweet, and an American and a Russian can hear timpani and horns and feel excited and triumphant.

Apparently the expression "woe", in it's sound at least, has naturally developed in different cultures.  It's something that humans just naturally pick up on and understand.  

Just like hearing a sweet violin sonata will bring up similar emotions in people who have never met before and don't share a language, hearing the "woe" sound just is very weepy and sorrowful, and the fact that it has cropped up in different places proves this.

Some things are just universal.  Apparently the natural, human-made, guttural moan of sorrow is one of those things.

Brown and Black Wooden Violin

Now this word "woe" comes at the end of a sequence in which the Montagues and Capulets realize that their children have killed each other and decide to overcome their differences and bond together for their children's sake.

They, it seems, recognize that some things are universal: love* can be shared between people regardless of what family they are from, good people can be either Montagues or Capulets and don't have to be either/or, division and separation is not a beneficial thing, etc.

They realize all these things are universal after they both share the universal feeling of "woe".  Perhaps sadness can be a binding factor in the world and isn't all bad.  Perhaps it can be put to good use, and in this case, it was used to bind two separated parties back together. 

Image result for montagues and capulets

My favorite character of the play was Benvolio, Romeo's friend and Montague's nephew.  I appreciated how he tried to help Romeo get over Rosaline in the beginning and encouraged him to go to the ball.  He seemed to really care about Romeo and try to take care of him.

He was also a peace keeper (though pretty much unsuccessful) for the Montagues and Capulets, and I appreciated that he tried even though the odds were stacked pretty tall against him.

One of my favorite lines from the play aside from the couplet I have at the top of this post was Juliet's farewell to Romeo:

Good night, good night!  Parting is such sweet sorrow, 
That I shall say goodnight till it be morrow! 
Image result for romeo and juliet balcony

Quick reminder that you can find all my book reviews in the Book Nook section, so keep checking there for new reviews.  Watch the "currently reading" feature on the right.  When I switch book covers there, chances are that I am working on a review of a book I just finished and it will be up soon in the Book Nook.

Image Credits:, Pinterest, Folger Digital Image Collection

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