The school where I teach requires students to read Romeo & Juliet for freshman year and Julius Caesar for sophomore year. So, after a few conversations around the classroom last month about Julius Caesar I skipped my planned sequence and read this one next. The biggest surprise to me was the collection of suicides at the end. I couldn’t really wrap my brain around why they resorted to taking their own life so quickly. Was it the loss of face and honor? I didn’t have a sense of overwhelming despair, and the whole affair left me in a similar way as the Henry VI plays. So much death with little to justify it.
I was very happy to encounter common English expressions and imagine that this play is where they originated, or at least were popularized. I felt like I was reading history, or language, in the making. This is ultimately what prompted me to start reading Shakespeare’s plays this year in the first place, so it felt like a step in the right direction. That said, I’m really hoping to read some better plots. I’ve got four plays under my belt and I can’t imagine I’ll every read any of them ever again. They just don’t capture my imagination like many other stories have. I believe I shall read Romeo & Juliet next before returning to the historical plays.