Does 'Romeo and Juliet' deserve to be considered pop culture in the Elizabethan Era?

Essay by bl4d3 February 2008

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Most of us today have heard of Shakespeare at some point in our lives. We have been told his works are a 'classic' or a 'masterpiece'. But does his most famous and well-known play 'Romeo and Juliet' deserve to be considered pop culture?Popular culture today usually consists of action packed Hollywood movies, reality television shows like Big Brother, random singers who are known for their publicity more than their actual singing abilities and the technology craze that is emptying millions of wallets. Almost everyday on your way to work or school you would see an I-pod or mp3 player. These things are taken for granted and are making the people oblivious to the 'traditional' or 'higher class' cultural activities such watching a theatrical play or attending a formal banquet. People would entertain themselves a rock concert, nightclub or disco than sit for many hours watching actors read dull plays that seem to go in circles.

Yes- indeed these activities are no longer as popular as they were Shakespeare's time but why should they not still be appreciated? They were once the rage and the height of entertainment. People would be as enthusiastic to go to a Shakespeare play as if it was the finals for the soccer world cup. This was during the peak of the Elizabethan Era in the 16th century.

Most people's attitudes, especially today's youth misunderstand Shakespeare's plays and the fail to see the immense cultural values of it. Teens today would moan or even shriek when they hear that they would be studying Shakespeare. They treat it as an omen rather than a blessing.

Shakespeare has received many bad impressions in today's society but it isn't really that bad. When you actually read 'Romeo and Juliet' you would find that it is actually quite engaging. The language may be outdated but the main motives and themes are still there. Actors would have acted the play in the same energetic and vigorous way as today's actors in a movie.

The key element between a successful story and an unsuccessful story is the plot. If the plot wasn't interesting then no matter how well it is performed it would be terrible. Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet' is a classical love tragedy. The plot can be accepted in both periods of time, as most of us love a dramatic ending.

The play set in Verona, Italy. Like most of Shakespeare's plays it starts in the form of a fourteen-line sonnet. The prologue describes the background information and the recapitulates what happens. This helps prepare the audience for what's coming and inform then of the situation. The play consists of two noble families, the Capulets and the Montagues that have feuded for generations.

Romeo is one of the major characters who is emotional, passionate and does what he believes is right. He is first in love with Rosaline and then falls in love with Juliet. Romeo is a Monatague and Juliet is a Capulet. Juliet is thirteen years old and already has a proposed marriage with Paris- a nobleman endowed with all the qualities that would make him an ideal husband for Juliet. The other characters who contribute are Benvolio and Mercutio, friends of Romeo; Tybalt, Juliet's cousin and Friar Lawrence, who help both Romeo and Juliet.

Basically the plot is straightforward and simple. Two lovers meet and fall in love at first sight. There is a problem though. They are part of two feuding families. Despite the situation they decide to marry. The tragedy happens at the end when Romeo and Juliet both die because they refuse to live without each other.

A story this simple managed to become a great success. There are many reasons to explain this. Were the audience back then not as complicated and were simple-minded?It was the way that Shakespeare wrote the play that created a subliminal rhythm. He wrote his play in 'blank verse' and had a wide range of tones. It was a very flexible and free style that allowed many different possibilities. The use of his iambic pentameter made the rhythm flow. This style of writing consists of one stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one. Each on his lines have five 'iambs' which give the rhythm without having any rhyming words.

Shakespeare was successful because he was smart enough to have characters that can be related his audience. People in Shakespeare's time could relate the character with their own lives in some way or another. There were plenty of themes which gave the play a more completed feeling. The themes of courage, love, loyalty, independence and revenge are plentiful in the play. These themes are still present in some movies today. Even though time changes the people's thoughts and values remain similar.

There is a whole array of similes, metaphors and oxymorons to keep the play interesting. The audience might not pick it up at first but when they do it sticks in their mind. This is a clever way to make the audience remember the play better. There are hidden phrases that people in Shakespeare's time would understand. Maybe that's one of the reasons that Shakespeare isn't as immensely popular as it was in the 16th century.

When you take the time to consider and analyse the play the plot is perfect, the characters are interesting and the ending is fantastic. Probably the only reason why people don't like Shakespeare is that they don't like the language. If 'Romeo and Juliet' was written today and made a move it would be a Hollywood Blockbuster Hit!!Popular culture today is completely different to the Elizabethan era. Times have changed since people watched the theatre or listened an opera. It just isn't popular culture for today's time but it certainly was, without a doubt popular culture in Shakespeare's time.

Bibliography: William Shakespeare "Romeo and Juliet"