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  • Hi I’m John Green; this is Crash Course English Literature, and today we return to

  • Romeo and Juliet, a tale of love and woe, or else a tale of lust and woe. Anyway, it’s

  • definitely a tale of woe.

  • As the play begins, Romeo is telling us that he is completely in love with a girl and will

  • never love anyone else. And her name is Rosaline. And a day later--A SINGLE DAY--he has married

  • an entirely different girl. And the whole thing is forbidden in a desperate

  • and exciting way. “My only love sprung from my only hate,” etc.

  • And that makes me wonder, does romantic love benefit from--or maybe even require--these

  • kind of obstacles in order to feel intense and real?

  • Mr. Green, Mr. Green. Yes. Truly spoken like a teenager, Me from the

  • Past. Because from where I’m sitting, true love is when youre standing in line at

  • Chipotle and you say, “I shouldn’t get guacamole,” and the great love of your life

  • says, “You know what? Just get the guac,” and then you go home and you watch TV together

  • while eating burritos. That’s true love, Me from the Past, of a

  • depth and quality that you can only imagine and poor Romeo and Juliet will never know.

  • And not least because there were no Chipotles in medieval Verona,

  • (Intro.) So, it’s telling to look at the way that

  • Juliet describes her own feelings and the reasons for them. She calls their romance:

  • too rash, too unadvised, too sudden; Too like the lightning, which doth cease to

  • be Ere one can say 'It lightens.'”

  • But then in the same scene, she says: 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.

  • The lightning is over in a flash, but the sea is infinite. Juliet also famously speaks

  • of hertrue-love passion,” which conflates two very different ideas--

  • As previously noted, true love is eating burritos together on the couch in your sweatpants,

  • whereas passion never involves burritos. What’s that? What’s Rule 34? Really? Okay. Yes.

  • Apparently passion occasionally involves burritos. By the way, this play is full of bawdy jokes,

  • usually told in prose courtesy of the Nurse or Mercutio, so it’s not like Shakespeare

  • wasn’t aware of sex without love. Are Romeo and Juliet making themselves believe

  • theyre in love to excuse their sexual desire? Would Juliet have gotten tired of Romeo? Stan,

  • I thought that we established that these were real. How is this? [a][b]Why is this happening?

  • Ah, it’s a metaphor, isn’t it, Stan? Get rid of the metaphor.

  • Possibly. Romeo can be a little bit intense. Like, sword fight murder intense.

  • And although Juliet violently rejects Paris, the man her father wants her to marry, he

  • seems like a pretty stand-up guy and in many ways a better match for her than Romeo.

  • So Romeo and Juliet’s flirtation follows the traditions of courtly love, a medieval

  • concept still popular in the Renaissance that advocates love at first sight and forswearing

  • all for love. But vitally, you aren’t supposed to sully

  • courtly love with sex or marriage, as Romeo and Juliet clearly do.

  • Youre supposed to sit around and pine and be miserable for the rest of your Edith Wharton-ing

  • life, like Petrarch and Dante did. All these supposedly amorous Italians but all they ever

  • do is write poems. Right, so you can really read the first couple

  • acts of Romeo and Juliet as a potential comedy. Girl falls for the wrong boy and theyve

  • got to figure out what to do. So far, that’s the plot of A Midsummer’s

  • Night Dream. But with those characters, there was not skoodilypooping.

  • Romeo and Juliet do skoodilypoop, and sullying their love with sexeven post-marital sex--proves

  • kind of deadly. Oh, it’s time for the open letter.

  • An Open Letter to Literary Sex But first, let’s see what’s in the secret

  • compartment today. Oh, it’s Shakespeare socks. Perfect because Stan won’t let me

  • wear shoes because they just painted the set. Dear literary sex,

  • Why you gotta be so fatal? Here’s an interesting fact: until about

  • 40 years ago, every single human who was ever born was born as a result of sex.

  • But to read the great novels and plays of human history, you would think that the mere

  • act of having sex is fatal like 65% of the time.

  • How did we acquire all these Montagues and Capulets if just having sex is so dangerous?

  • And I’ve noticed that having sex is particularly fatal to young ladies.

  • And that doesn’t seem very fair. After all, it does take two to fandango.

  • Best wishes, John Green

  • Okay but as always in Shakespeare, it’s not quite that simple, and there are indications

  • that Romeo and Juliet may be, at least in Shakespeare’s conception, really in love.

  • I mean, in their first conversation, they speak a total of 14 lines to each other. And

  • those 14 lines, when combined, form a perfect Shakespearean sonnet.

  • So this isn’t some random hook up at a party; this is literally instant poetry.

  • And Shakespeare bestows many of his most gorgeous lines on them--Northrop Frye calls this play,

  • word magic.” Not only that, but remember, through their

  • death this intractable conflict between two families is ended.

  • And in that story of transcendental suffering and sacrifice, one can’t help but recall

  • the more famous story of transcendental sacrifice: that of Jesus.

  • Romeo and Juliet don’t actually do much together. If you think about it, they don’t

  • even actually die together. Only a few days separate their meeting and their deaths.

  • We can see the play, then, as a tragedy about time, how little there is of it, and also

  • about youth, how we assign passionate importance to things and people when were young, because

  • we don’t have the breadth of experience to behave more moderately--which is maybe

  • the tragedy of adulthood. “Old folks,” Juliet maintains, areunwieldly,

  • slow, heavy, pale as lead.” But for me the play is ultimately about having

  • to make difficult choices with limited information. This love, which feels real and I would argue

  • therefore is real, has to be balanced against responsibilities to your family and to the

  • state, in the form of the Prince of Verona. And to the church.

  • In your life, are you going to seek what you want, or are you going to listen to your parents

  • when they tell you want to want, or to the state when it tells you what to want?

  • Until the very end of the play, both Romeo and Juliet are trying to find ways to please

  • all these masters--the self, the state, the church, the family.

  • And that is what kills them. Had they run away together, or hooked up without getting

  • marrying in an unchurchly fashion, they probably would have survived.

  • Their love is an ardent and over-the-top response to the violent and unjust world in which they

  • live and the patriarchal authority that controls that would--but they can never really abandon

  • or reject that authority. And this is still a challenge for teenagers,

  • who are often dismissed as idealistic or melodramatic, and who must balance their intensity of feeling

  • against the expectations of the world around them.

  • Don’t drop out of high school to follow your dream of being a trapeze artist; honor

  • thy father and mother; register for the draft; don’t pass up a full ride to Harvard to

  • follow your girlfriend into the Marines; etc. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble.

  • As Harley Granville Barker put it, Romeo and Juliet is ‘a tragedy of youth as youth sees

  • it.”

  • If youre young or have ever been young, you know what it’s like to be pulled in

  • many directions while trying to discern whether feelings that are brand new to you are more

  • like flashes of lightning or an eternal ocean,

  • and you know what it’s like to want to live fully and fearlessly and maybe even a little

  • foolishly.

  • And the occasionally tragic thing is that you are just grown up enough for that kind

  • of thinking to get you killed.

  • Romeo and Juliet, to live the lives they want, must alter the world, or maybe even the cosmos.

  • Theyre always looking for night to come quickly or to stay late. Juliet tells the

  • horses that draw the sun to

  • gallop apace ye fiery footed steeds,”

  • a speech that was considered so racy that many 19th-century actresses wouldn’t perform

  • it.

  • And in the next scene, after their single night of wedded bliss, she tries to keep the

  • dawn from arriving, telling Romeo:

  • It is not yet near day: / It was the nightingale, and not the lark, / That pierced the fearful

  • hollow of thine ear.”

  • Characters are constantly invoking light and dark imagery and calling out to the sun and

  • moon, to day and night, as though they were seeking some control over the universe.

  • Because it’s the only way that they can have all of what they want: their families

  • at peace, their faith, and a life together in their hometown.

  • But the universe will not bend to them. Or to anyone. No matter how real your love, you

  • can’t avoid fate and you can’t alter time. Well, except for daylight savings.

  • Thanks thought bubble.

  • So that’s one way to read the story. Romeo and Juliet’s hubris in believing they can

  • change the universe leads to their demise. But actually, how responsible are they? I

  • mean, there’s a lot of bad luck involved. There’s the messenger’s delay, the hastening

  • of the wedding between Juliet and Paris. Now, in the source material, Brooke’s Tragicall

  • History of Romeus and Juliet, Brooke makes it explicit that it’s their own fault and

  • they get what they deserve. But, Shakespeare is a lot more ambivalent.

  • The Friar, who marries them, worries thatviolent delights have violent ends,”

  • which seems to imply that Romeo and Juliet are to blame for their own undoing.

  • Yet the play calls themstar-crossed,” which implies their sad end was written out

  • by fate before they ever even met. As with so much of Shakespeare, and great

  • literature in general, how you feel about this question says a lot about you.

  • And these meditations on fate, combined with the question of whether immediate attraction

  • can also be lasting love, have made Romeo and Juliet a story with legs.

  • These days, it might be race that separates the two loves--as in West Side Story--or religion,

  • as in a nineties Bosnian production that saw a Christian Romeo and a Muslim Juliet.

  • The obstacles may change, but the underlying problem of love in an unjust world isn’t

  • going anywhere. It’s tempting to dismiss the plot of Romeo

  • and Juliet as a sappy emo romance, but in truth, each of us will live out our lives

  • having answered--consciously or not--the questions at the heart of the play.

  • Do you believe that fate is inescapable, or that people forge their own lives?

  • Is the fault in the stars or in ourselves? And will you prioritize your personal wishes

  • over the wishes of your family, or your religion, or your country?

  • If you think about it, Romeo and Juliet aren’t offered an easy choice: They can hurt family

  • members they love, or they can hurt each other. Either way, there will be tragedy. And these

  • messy, ambiguous, ethically fraught, high-stakes questions are still part of all our lives.

  • Shakespeare’s gift to us is giving voice to them in all their maddening complexity.

  • Thanks for watching. I’ll see you next time. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan

  • Muller. Our script supervisor is Meredith Danko. The associate producer is Danica Johnson.

  • The show is written by Alexis Solosky and myself. And our graphics team is Thought Bubble.

  • Instead of cursing, I use the names of writers I like. If you’d like to suggest writers,

  • you can do so in comments, where you can also ask questions about today’s video that will

  • be answered by our team of highly-trained Englishy people.

  • Thanks for watching Crash Course, and as I often say while sitting upon my golden throne,

  • don’t forget to be awesome.

  • RJ2 [a]Hey Stan is this something for us to handle

  • with characters or no? Thanks! [b]Hey Suz. I can't edit comment from my phone,

  • sadly. I'm handling this moment

  • Sent from my iPhone

Hi I’m John Green; this is Crash Course English Literature, and today we return to

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Love or Lust? Romeo and Juliet Part II: Crash Course English Literature #3

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    榮得傑 posted on 2014/04/09
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