I once had a coworker who repeatedly asserted that Romeo and also Juliet was “secretly a comedy” and also only if you check out it that method is that a perfect/successful work.

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I occur to love Romeo and also Juliet, so ns wasn’t ~ above board through their opinion. Yet I never ever properly tested them top top the topic, either. Despite being an English major, ns hadn’t studied sufficient Shakespeare to feel qualified in my arguments. Also, favor Benvolio, i aim to keep the peace and didn’t really desire to gain into a small Shakespeare argument.


But their claim about Romeo and also Juliet being a “secret comedy” has actually stuck v me end the years since it was much from the only time that ns heard the argument. Spend a few minutes on the Internet and also you’ll find plenty the outspoken civilization calling Romeo and also Juliet a “comedy in disguise.” and these native aren’t just coming from angry teenagers, mental you—plenty of adults who love Shakespeare have comparable thoughts. Probably I’m simply not running in the best circles but, anytime I talk the Bard with fellow theater- and also book-lovers, Romeo and Juliet is frequently dismissed as “that melodramatic one with silly lovestruck kids” in donate of “true” masterpieces choose Hamlet, Macbeth, and also King Lear. (The coworker in question occurred to love Hamlet.)


I’ve entertained this argument a couple of times and also concluded that, sure, Romeo and also Juliet, interpreted in a certain light, could effectively role as a black comedy. Two families hate each various other for no reason; children impulsively kill each other; a couple of youths loss in love in the blink of one eye and also are all of sudden professing undying devotion; no one thinks prior to they act. Definitely, a Romeo and Juliet adaptation might be made that takes the pure piss out of all of the characters and also mocks lock from start to end.

And not just in “Hot Fuzz.”

But using that view to Romeo and also Juliet is yes, really no different from acquisition that stance around any other tragic work. Once you think around it, every tragedies function as comedies if you skew them simply a little bit. (There’s a reason why the 2 are generally referred to together opposite political parties of the same coin.) This is especially true as soon as it concerns Shakespeare, where I could, without lot thought at all, pitch any one that his biggest tragedies together a feeling or at least pretty dumb story. (Obvious disclaimer that these descriptions nothing necessarily reflect mine actual thoughts on the functions in question.)


King Lear: Main character throws a tantrum when his youngest daughter doesn’t say she loves that enough and is therefore butthurt that he disowns her. He then gets lost in the rain for several acts and behaves choose a crazy man with a jester. Daughters acquire into a love triangle through an evil duke and start a war. A couple of various other dudes hover the heath and pretend to be insane just because. Ultimately 80% the the personalities kill themselves offstage. The end.


Macbeth: Supposedly smart male meets arbitrarily witches in the woods and almost immediately trust them as soon as they say the he’s fated to be king. He and his wife kill the current king and become Scotland’s monarchs, yet then they view ghosts and start come freak out. In an attempt to protect against anyone from killing them, they death everyone else first. Climate the trees in the forest “come come life” and also a man kills Macbeth.

Othello: Othello loves his wife. Iago is salty because he wasn’t advocated and decides to wreck Othello’s marriage. Iago tells Othello his mam is unfaithful, and also Othello kills her. Othello immediately learns that Iago was punking him all along. Othello stabs Iago in an effort at revenge yet fails to mortally wound him and also only succeeds at killing himself. Iago end up in jail or something. Us don’t yes, really know.

Hamlet: Emo child is angry the his mommy married his uncle after ~ his dad’s death. He plans to take revenge yet is so ineffective in ~ it that he spends the next 4 acts complaining, acting crazy, manipulating his girlfriend, and also talking loudly during theatrical performances. He likewise seems to save forgetting about the revenge thing because he walk on other tangents and also challenges, choose fighting his girlfriend’s brothers to the fatality for no actual reason. Hamlet eventually kills his uncle in the most random and also unplanned manner once he could have excellent it that means all along. Also, due to the fact that he’s negative at revenge, he ends up dying himself.

I’m going come stick through Hamlet for a minute because, if there’s any Shakespearean tragedy that really has the potential come be covertly hilarious, it’s this one. (When it concerns my experience with Shakespeare on film, I never laughed as tough as ns did in ~ Hamlet’s large monologue in the 1996 movie. Together hilarity was, that course, unintentional, however that no negate the point.) But, for whatever reason, I have actually never watched anyone compensation Hamlet the “it’s secretly a comedy” location in the means of Romeo and Juliet. Human being talk about Hamlet’s tonal unevenness and overly prolonged runtime, yet these room treated as aspects of the play’s brilliance quite than yes, really shortcomings. (It’s “perfectly imperfect,” if girlfriend will.) There are moments of humor in Hamlet (the personality of Polonius; the gravedigger scene) but I’ve never ever heard anyone argue the Hamlet is, in and of itself, a an enig comedy.

But why not? Hamlet is simply as impulsive, mopey, and also impertinent the a character as Romeo and Juliet, if not much more so. Honestly, i feel like Hamlet deserves the snarky haters’ ire more than Romeo and Juliet—at the very least those two gain things done, whether it’s obtaining married or death themselves. Hamlet waffles around everything and also whines till he’s basically required into murdering Claudius in the final scene. Both Hamlet and the Verona pair have suicidal ideations and also cause several characters to unnecessarily dice as an indirect result of your actions. Yet Hamlet is treated together a sympathetic victim of indecision and also circumstance vice versa, Romeo and Juliet are taken into consideration selfish fools.

When that comes under to it, ns can’t help but think the Romeo and also Juliet receives the “secret comedy” brand not because it’s much more qualified to be a comedy than any of Shakespeare’s other tragedies, yet because culture is dismissive of romance—and specifically romantic melodrama. The the same factor that people scoff in ~ Titanic in a means that they don’t with other disaster movie (despite many of them gift equally corny) and look in ~ the category of young adult and also romantic fiction v so much contempt. Human being are disinclined come take every one of that passionate, spontaneous, till-death-do-us-part love seriously, for this reason they should look at it ironically instead. Sometimes they’ll even take it a step more by saying that the entirety thing is a centuries-old hoax on the audience that was meant to it is in insincere, sarcastic nonsense, and only they, enlightened, ironic audience that they are, obtain it.

To it is in fair, ns played that game in high school. I spent the beginning of adolescence reasoning that Romeo and also Juliet to be idiots and also acting favor the play was a stupid overrated work. (All without, you know, actually reading it.) And, as I studied it in student in the first year English (and establish that i secretly liked it), my entire class definitely viewed it with an waiting of disdain. As soon as we watched the 1968 film, everyone laughed in ~ Juliet sobbing over being married versus her will or Romeo crying over Juliet’s body. I mean, isn’t that hilarious? aren’t they therefore childish and also dumb??? Of course, my friends ripped personally passages choose Juliet’s love monologue due to the fact that the idea of gift moony-eyed end a boy was insane, also though a same amount of lock harbored similarly fervent crushes on assorted guys, even if it is it to be the school quarterback or harry Styles.

But this wasn’t only true for the fourteen-year-olds. Ns don’t remember my teachers giving Romeo and also Juliet much credit either. Castle wearily speak us through the renowned scenes and also made sure that we could pick the end a an allegory or two in the dialogue. But, once it involved the story, they always had kind of a smirk on your faces. I don’t ~ do so to understand what lock really thought of the play, and trying come teach it come a bunch the sullen teenagers must have actually been hell, so i can’t reprimand them because that not challenging us to take it the story seriously. However, there is something come be stated for the reality that disdain because that Romeo and also Juliet has become so pervasive in our society that most world who aren’t in the imperial Shakespeare company mainly for it as the punchline of a joke or “yeah, adolescents have to find out this just because”—unlike the actual prayer attached come works prefer To kill a Mockingbird or The Catcher in the Rye (or, let’s challenge it, Shakespeare’s other big tragedies), where teachers in reality seem enthusiastic and admiring that the material.

I’ve been out of high institution for a while now and also I mingle through a many theater folks and literary nerds that adore Shakespeare, for this reason it’s not like I’ve invested my whole life stuck in the atmosphere of a high college classroom. (Thank goodness because that that.) Yet, even among adults, over there is an attitude toward Romeo and also Juliet quite prefer that of mine high institution classmates. The writing isn’t a complete joke—no one would certainly dare criticize some of those passages—but the plot itself is “heehee” silliness in a method that Hamlet and King Lear are not. Hamlet, according to everyone ns know, is utter perfection. It’s sometimes funny, but there’s nothing “secretly comedic” around it overall.

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There is something deeply disheartening around the means that Romeo and Juliet, or any story comprise shameless romantic love, an especially between 2 young people, obtain so much scorn. Regardless of being inundated with pictures of desire on a day-to-day basis and also 99% of fiction being around love, world are extremely uncomfortable with material that gift it there is no an ironic lens or a deconstructed approach. Even if world like it—and a many them do, due to the fact that Titanic and Twilight and The Notebook have been going strong for a reason—the stigma neighboring that contents is so an effective that many won’t recognize it, at the very least not in one “unironic” way. Because that years, ns didn’t favor to point out that ns adored Romeo and also Juliet (or Titanic, or certain romantic comedies, or a grasp of YA romantic novels) due to the fact that I knew that world would instantly judge me for it—and still, as soon as I tell human being now, I need to stop myself from including on part defense like, “I know it’s cheesy, but…”

For as lot as us prize love in entertainment, society is not interested in the pure, brazen love—and being so in love through the idea of love—of Romeo and also Juliet. Granted, Romeo and Juliet’s courtship is no the healthiest form of love or a romantic that world should aspire toward. Yet, for every one of their poetic prayer of one another, Romeo and also Juliet aren’t completely oblivious when it involves their love’s whirlwind nature. The balcony scene is virtually nothing however Juliet contemplating how their romance could be ill-advised or short-lived. However you understand what? civilization seem come forget something around Romeo and also Juliet: even if it is or no Romeo and also Juliet’s love to be “real” or would have stood the check of time is not the point. The allude is that their society was so toxicity that it prevented lock from gift able come openly suffer love.

Honestly, looking at the means Romeo and also Juliet had actually to hide their partnership to the point of your ultimate self-destruction, it’s no that far-fetched come parallel Verona’s restrictions and judgment of Romeo and Juliet’s romance through that the society’s mindset toward Romeo and also Juliet as a story. As with the possibility of the characters’ love is condemned in the play, so as well is their ideological background rejected by fixed audiences. Come sympathize through the feeling of these adolescents is apparently akin to being a histrionic drama queen with no feeling of self-worth or aspirations beyond a relationship.Never psychic the reality that Romeo and Juliet (Juliet in particular) space two of the sanest characters in the whole story (as well together Friar Laurence who, it should be noted, sympathized through their desire come love). Hate, violence, and also bawdy jokes room prioritized in Verona; starry-eyed infatuation is dismissed.

I’m no saying that you can not dislike Romeo and Juliet or think that moments like the balcony step or the characters’ deaths are funny. Come each your own. Yet I do an obstacle you to study where that amused reaction stems from. Perhaps you truly uncover it ridiculous that these children quickly eloped and also died. Sometimes melodramatic love stories space hilarious; i love romance and also I quiet laugh at a bunch the them. But, more often 보다 not, a mocking tone isn’t used to tales like Romeo and Juliet due to the fact that there’s anything much more or much less absurd about them than, say, Hamlet or King Lear—it’s since whatever’s over there if we don’t look at it comedically is other that we don’t desire to entertain.

Romeo and also Juliet is a story around the toxic strength of hate and the means that it damages relationships and also lives. It’s a story wherein the doomed lovers space the just ones who dare come overlook the prejudices the they were increased to believe. It’s a story where, in spite of the characters’ dreams of unity and peace, the unyielding nature of hate and also the adults’ refuse to hear to their kids stops Romeo and Juliet, and everyone, indigenous finding happiness. Somehow, when you look those subjects in the face, no to cite when you consider how easily they deserve to be used to society today, Romeo and Juliet doesn’t seem an extremely funny at all.

Am i saying that we’re actually really frightened of unabashed, passionate love like you check out in Romeo and also Juliet? no necessarily. However the truth that we instantly shy far from it and, even in instances where we reap it, feeling compelled come cloak that enjoyment in “enjoying that ironically” hints at something possibly quite damaging. Romeo and also Juliet’s actions room spontaneous, yet they room the people who choose to care and be vulnerable and also not monitor in your family’s violent footsteps. And, once audiences room made to feel ashamed for liking, let alone empathizing with, those kinds of characters and also story, well… i wouldn’t contact the lovers, or the unironic pan of your story, the blind, closed-minded fools in that scenario.