The plot tweet: See the prologue. That pretty much covers it.
My favorite line:
My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite. (Juliet)
About a year ago, I attended a performance of this play at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. Afterward, in the lobby, a man next to me sighed and said, "It always ends the same way." It's so close: If Juliet had awakened a few minutes earlier, or the friar had arrived a few seconds earlier to explain to Romeo, or the friar's original letter hadn't gone astray ... We certainly come to agree with Shakespeare's description of these lovers as "star-crossed." Yet, every time, I can't help hoping that this time things may work out for the best.
(Or maybe not. See this poem by Maxine Kumin about what might happen if they survived.)
The best thing about Shakespeare is that every reading presents a new perspective and new insights. With this reading, I found myself entranced by Juliet's parents, the Capulets, who are partly to blame for the predicament in which the young lovers find themselves. Here's something I just noticed:
Paris: Younger than she are happy mothers made.In the very next scene, Lady Capulet says to Juliet, "By my count, I was your mother much upon these years that you are now a maid." So, what's going on here? Does Capulet think his wife is "marred" as others are? Over time, what has he damaged in his tendency toward rage?
Capulet: And too soon marred are those so early made.
Earth hath swallowed all my hopes but she;
She is the hopeful lady of my earth.
At least the Capulets have raised a strong, independent child. When the prince speaks of Juliet and "her" Romeo, it references the fact that she's in charge here. While Romeo is swearing by the moon and murdering her kinsmen, Juliet is the one proposing marriage and making plans. We never really see Romeo interact with his parents, but she is more than able to stand up to her parents when necessary. She might not see all the options (such as the obvious one, going to Romeo in Mantua), but she is at least a spunky gal.
One thing that does not change for me on multiple readings is my impression of the nurse. She is bawdy and talkative, of course, but she can also be quite cruel, withholding information from a desperate Juliet, advising her to betray her husband, and even misleading her about who exactly is dead after the play's fateful duel. I always rejoice a bit when Juliet says, "Go, counselor! Thou and my bosom henceforth shall be twain," even though for Juliet this marks a very difficult, very lonely moment in the play.
Finally, I'm always struck by the beautiful language of this play. It is not my favorite play, and sometimes I get tired of it. (One friend refers to it as "junior varsity" Shakespeare.) But then I read it again, and I get lost in the poetry as if for the first time.