17 January 2009
All I do is kiss you, through the bars of Orion
I just found out that in a couple of weeks I will begin teaching the Wee Ones Romeo and Juliet. What teacher would not dream of teaching a kid's first Shakespeare? Although I will admit, over the years-- after taking a Shakespeare class and analyzing Romeo's language, after learning that their passion arose more out of hormones than star-crossed love, after learning first-hand that death in the name of love is less than noble, after having my heart broken and having that pain be far more powerful than that inflicted by any dagger-- my understanding of the play has changed from the quintessential tale of true love to a quintessential tragedy of human folly. I don't want to say that I am jaded, but Romeo was far from the common perception of what we call a "Romeo," and Shakespeare seems less to be extolling the virtues of star-crossed love than to be warning against impulsive action and the groundless formation of strong attachments, both to hate and to love.
It will be difficult to teach the real Shakespeare to these kids, many of whom still believe in love at first sight and hold Romeo and Juliet up as the ideal of romance, without destroying their innocence. But the fact is, love-- or even like-- is complicated. It brings familial disapproval, rifts among friends, melodrama, and disappointment. The guy may say all of the conventionally (a.k.a "cliched") right things yet fall short in his actions; the girl may prove the ideal object of affection but be reluctant to take chances; and, most commonly, no matter how right the love may be, timing, society, family, and location may be hugely, disastrously, wrong. Sometimes love is not enough. And sometimes, I wonder, if romance is worth all of the fuss that it brings along-- the sweaty palms, the beating heart, the fear he won't call, the expectation that he will, the utter dependence on his presence, the hurt feelings when he fails to be attentive, the frustration when he can't read your mind, the judgments of your friends and family regarding whether he meets the cookie-cutter image of the man they always thought you would love.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm so used to it being wrong (the love being so right, but everything else being so wrong) that I will fail to recognize it being right when it comes along.
"A lovestruck Romeo sings the streets a serenade
Laying everybody low with a love song that he made
Finds a streetlight, steps out of the shade
Says something like, 'You and me babe, how about it?'"
Get thee hence, nor come again,
Mix not memory with doubt,
Pass, thou deathlike type of pain,
Pass and cease to move about!
'Tis the blot upon the brain
That will show itself without.
~Alfred, Lord Tennyson~