The Greatest Love the World Has Ever Known: An analysis

Posted in blog post on February 12th, 2010 by Merrill Markoe
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Well, its Valentines Day, almost. I’ve actually had a few nice ones in a row since I am happily co-habitating with someone I genuinely like. But as usual for me this time of year,  I start thinking about the lack of reasonable romantic role models in the world at large.  My family didn’t provide one. And come on… don’t we all want to see  a functioning hopeful model?

Where public couples are concerned, I am always cynical at first. But then, if  they persist  for enough years, I   start to buy that maybe they know something that I don’t .  It always takes me a while but damn…as soon as  I make that leap of faith, the next thing I know they are  filing mutual restraining orders.  A good example is Brad and Angie. For a long time they seemed ridiculous  both separately and together. Then recently I started to think that maybe they actually had defied the obvious shallow cliches. I no sooner spoke that silently to myself than  I read that she is trying to kill herself. Boom.  Not only are they both disqualified but I am pissed off at them because  they have made me feel like an idiot for  cashing in my cynical chip . (And as a bonus, in this case,   I want to strangle her for dragging all those children in to such an apparently neurotic mess  of a life .)

And that is why this year ,  it behooves us all to re-examine the greatest love story ever told: Romeo and Juliet.Here we can truly gain wisdom.

If you have not had the occasion to do so lately, please allow me to reacquaint you with the details of a timeless model of romantic love .
When we first meet the teenage Romeo, it is a Sunday night and he has decided to crash a ball just to catch a glimpse of Rosaline, a girl with whom he is desperately in love. Instead, he meets the thirteen-year-old Juliet. And even though, only seconds before he was deeply in love with Rosaline, now he knows instantly that this new thirteen-year-old girl is the greatest love of his life. Really. She is. He’s not kidding this time.

Juliet has never been in love before. All she knows about Romeo is that their two families hate each other. But so what? No ones parents ever like anyone cool that you like.  The important thing is that by Monday afternoon, so beautiful is their love, that they go ahead and get married.Just one day later. Maybe it seems hasty but back in those days, time moved so much more slowly than now that a day was more like two days or even three.

Anyway, in lieu of a honeymoon,  Juliet goes back home to spend the night at her parents’ house because her parents do not know about the marriage yet. But  to mark the day in a way that will make it memorable, Romeo kills Juliet’s cousin.  So by the time Juliet gets home,  her family is consumed by  grief.  They are so sad, in fact, that Juliet’s father decides there is no time like the present to arrange for Juliet to marry an older man. Perhaps he is thinking about how life is fragile and time is a-wasting. After all, Juliet is thirteen and not getting any younger.

However, because he’s Juliet’s father is a full grown adult, not a hot-headed teenager with raging hormones, he  knows better than to rush things. So he sets the wedding date for Thursday.

Naturally, the already-married Juliet realizes she must defy her father’s wishes. She is , after all, in the seventh grade.  She has boundaries and  she must  let her intentions be known. She probably could corner him at dinner and ask him to sit down with her for a serious talk. But instead she takes the most sensible course of action under the circumstances. She pretends to be dead.

This choice of action certainly bodes very well for the future of her marriage to Romeo since we now know that the core of any “love-at-first-sight” attraction is usually “repetition compulsion” – wherein a person reenacts the identical behavior and problems first seen in the parent-child relationship. In that respect, perhaps its for the best that Romeo and Juliet decide to  kill themselves a few pages later.. long before we are able to chart their marriage any farther into the future when it most certainly would have descended into scenarios like this:

Romeo (enters parlor) “Juliet! Juliet! My Light! I’m home! And I really have to talk to you about something that is bothering me….You know they say ‘Never go to bed mad’ and Juliet? Juliet? Oh no. Honey. Not dead again.  Please don’t be playing dead again. You were just dead on Monday. I can’t call 911 twice in one week. It is too embarrassing. Juliet? Juliet?”

So, summing up: A thirteen-year-old girl who likes to pretend to be dead married to a teenage murderer who has no trouble falling in love with two different girls on the same Sunday night.

Which leaves us with this slightly comforting fact. There is no reason to lament today’s lack of viable romantic models. Things only seem worse now.  The main difference between love now and then is that back then no one watched Oprah or went to therapy so they didn’t mind calling deranged neurotic behavior “the greatest love story ever told.”

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2 Responses to “The Greatest Love the World Has Ever Known: An analysis”

  1. Laurie says:

    I am suddenly needing a whole book of short pieces like this. I’ll never look at Romeo and Juliet in quite the same way.

  2. Cathy says:

    Did you see the recent WSJ piece on secrets to lasting marriages? I think they ended the article with some 60+ year married couple who said their secret to being together was that neither one of them died yet — kind of the Woody Allen Principle to being married. So the Bard and Woody Allen are a little apart philosophically.