A Free Book Report for Cheating Students Everywhere Who Would Otherwise Be Forced to Trudge Through “Romeo and Juliet”

I just read “Romeo and Juliet.”   I had not read it since ninth grade.  I had not read it since being taught it by the same English teacher who would somehow turn me off to all literature for the next 25 years.

I remembered being taught it was a tragedy.

It is not.

I will summarize.

Romeo is in love with a girl.  It is not Juliet.  It is a girl  named Rosaline.  He thinks Rosaline is meant to be his eternal love.

But Rosaline does not love him.

He wants to die.

He hears Rosaline will be at a party.  He goes there.  Runs into a different girl.  This is Juliet.  He thinks Juliet is meant to be his eternal love.

But Juliet is from a different family.  He can’t be with her.

He wants to die.

Juliet fakes her death to escape her family.  Romeo is supposed to meet her when she awakens.  Gets there too soon.  Thinks she’s dead.

He wants to die.

Decides that rather than listen carefully for a heartbeat, he should kill himself.   He does.  He dies.

Big mistake.  Juliet wakes up refreshed.  Which he doesn’t know because he’s dead.

Romeo is not romantic.  He is mentally challenged.

That is why I say this is not a tragedy.  It is a comedy.  Romeo should have carried a seltzer bottle and popped out of a crammed Volkswagen with fifty other Italians.  He is Harpo Marx minus the horn.

But he should have carried a horn.  He could have honked it after each scene to tip off the comedy.

If there is anything tragic about “Romeo and Juliet,” it is that my ninth grade English teacher didn’t double over in laughter when Bozo the Italian couldn’t tell a dead person from a living person.

Because that was comedy gold.

Honk honk.

38 thoughts on “A Free Book Report for Cheating Students Everywhere Who Would Otherwise Be Forced to Trudge Through “Romeo and Juliet”

  1. I had forgotten all about Rosaline … and yes this is comedy gold.

    We had “Lord of the Flies” at school which was delivered by a linguistically challenged teacher who would berate us for not enounciating properly and then saying, “Let us read about the boys in the jungul – what has happened to these peepul?”

    She had us in fits for the entire year

  2. I enjoyed reading Romeo and Juliet in high school.

    However, the vision of the clown car filled with Montagues is quite entertaining!

  3. usually i love your humor, but this post just confuses me more every time i read it. your still the man though

  4. Haha! You should take over for spark notes! Next time I have a book report I’ll just consult Pearls (especially with brit. lit. next year)

  5. I find Romeo and Juliet to be boring. And everyone winds up happy in the end. Romeo and Juliet are together if you believe in life after death, so it’s really only a tragedy for people who don’t. Except for the parents. But then again, the parents were all idiots. ‘Let’s have Juliet marry three days after her cousin dies!’

  6. I agree. Never figured out the romance in that story… And since when does stupidity=tragedy?

  7. I have Just read Romeo and Juliet and I am going into sixth grade. I liked it and I actualy started laughing when Romeo killed himself. I don’t know what that says about me.

  8. If one truly reads the bard they find a truly great insult artist…and what exactly did he have against the Danes?

  9. Unlike your English teacher, MINE actually gave us a lecture following the completion of the play on just how much he believed Romeo and Juliet were idiots. He was flabbergasted that we’ve all were just blindly thinking this was the ‘most romantic story and couple in all of literature.’ In short, he goes ‘I hope none of you guys actually think about having relations like this . . . you know, the kind without a single THOUGHT of intelligence’

    But he still thought this was a tragedy and not a comedy . . . if only because these two kids were supposedly members of the human race. d:

  10. That is the funniest, yet best review of Romeo and Juliet that I have ever read. If that doesn’t smack of Angry Bob, I don’t know what does.

  11. Even as a teenage girl, I never bought Romeo & Juliet. A man starts looking for the next chick before the last one’s body is cold. In fact, Romeo would have looked up Rosaline, taken her to Juliet’s tomb, and tried to score sympathy sex.

  12. Stephan, some Shakespeare scholars (such as René Girard, in his book A Theatre of Envy) agree with you! They point out that if Shakespeare had really viewed Romeo & Juliet’s story as tragic, he wouldn’t have parodied it in the play-within-a-play in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

  13. When I had to read that in school, we each took roles and read aloud. I now kind of wish the kid who’d been Romeo had honked.

  14. I love literature but I will be the first to admit, I DO NOT LIKE SHAKESPEARE! Romeo and Juliet is just irratating! I like the ones where men prance around like girls (Midsummers Night Dream) or with hateful women (Taming Of the Shrew). Otherwise Shakespeare is way overrated.

  15. Ya gotta admit, though…Olivia Hussey in the Zeferelli film version really was to die for, especially to my raging Grade 9 hormones.
    And you know, she STILL looks hot, how many years later.

    But you are correct…R&J is one of Shakespeare’s most self-indulgent plays. It’s like Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye: it seems profound when you’re in your teens, but once you hit your twenties it’s just silly.

    Sorry to hear a bad teacher killed your interest in Lit. I was an English major, and it was a great ride.

  16. Stephan, you are a complete genius. I can’t believe I didn’t notice this before.

  17. Somehow, I beg you to get these words into Rat’s mouth.

    Something frighteningly irreverent, this way comes.

  18. There no art in Romeo and Juliet.

    Juliet even said: Romeo, where for Art, thou..

    Even she must have realized it was going straight to DVD..

  19. I have to admit that Romeo and Juliet was one of my favorite plays. Not in high school, because they put the abridged form in a textbook and rushed us through it. It had everything that would make public school officials uncomfortable: gang violence, sex and suicide. What teenage kid wouldn’t want to read about that?

  20. Hmmm…. I’ll tell you tragedy! Being your best pal all these years on your rise to the top! And then?!? Having email I sent in April answered by a machine (or human machine) – that carefully and thoughtfully written!

    OK… maybe not thoughtfully written, but certainly funny! And what happened?!? Atlanta Jim is reduced to a commoner – after nearly 6 years of access to Mr. Rat Pig himself!?

    I was crushed. I’m left to communicate with Mark – and he doesn’t quite understand the whole “Darb is Dead” conspiracy (or playing comic strips backwards) – he’s still trying to get over the whole Calvin thing.

    Come on, Pastis! That was a BIG email sent with attachments for you! A year ago!

    To throw away our friendship (sniff!!!) because of your fame….. Well, I’ll have you know what *I’m* doing about it! I’m only going to order the 6″ plushies! THERE! What do you think of that!?!?

    jim

  21. i was fortunate enough to marry someone who hates dancing as much as i. at our wedding, we did one obligatory box step at the appropriate time and then let my crazy parents and the other dancing fools monopolize the floor while we headed for the bar. in 13 yrs of marriage, we may have only danced together once or twice more. she’s a keeper!
    sorry about the ‘worm’ incident, but that’s what happens when you try to fit in.

  22. Shakespeare’s tragedies are pretty funny in general. Take Hamlet, where through Hamlet’s ineptitude and procrastination, a bunch of misunderstandings, and even wacky hijinks… a guy from another country has to be brought in at the end to give the final lines because everyone else died in an orgy of stupidity.

    It ultimately has to do with the fact that Shakespeare was writing in the form of Classical/Greek tragedies. These can often seem rather humourous, because the fate steps in at the beginning of the story and things just keep rolling down hill from there. There’s no real attempt to build things up (Romeo and Juliet never have a real relationship… just a bunch of infatuation and stupidity), the story is more about fate punishing people for their flaws from the start. Naturally, that lends itself to epicaricacy… but there also tends to be a bit of silliness because the characters don’t really have free will, resulting in them doing remarkably stupid things on their way to their death.

  23. I find this particularly amusing since I read Romeo and Juliet for the first time just a few months ago (voluntarily).

    Too bad it didn’t go through the ever-discerning hands of Rat the Book Editor before the public liked it and started making cliches out of it.

    You should watch this condensed comedic version by the Reduced Shakespeare Company… parts of it are quite hilarious.

    (Romeo and Juliet, Part 1 of 2)

  24. Okay, what *I* want to know is what in the *world* would compel you to read a girly romance story outside of 9th grade required reading? I find that extremely suspicious… unless your wife is forcing you to read books she likes or something…

  25. Just read that book and got an A on an essay saying pretty much the same thing. First sentence: It’s all Romeo’s fault. Yep, 9th grade English.
    I hate Mr. S.

  26. Read Pyramus and Thisbe. It’s the original Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare based his story off of it), and it’s much, MUCH funnier. Romeo and Juliet was, in my opinion, about the futility of conflict (note how they never explain the reasoning for the feud between the two homes, but as the reader watches in dark hilarity as it tears the story apart), not love (since it was love and fickle, fickle Romeo can’t tell the difference).

  27. haha this made me laugh hard because the last remaning weeks of school we read this. I thought the same thing plus the dude would fall in love with a freaken’ horse if it was hot enough for him.

  28. you just gave me a whole new [more exciting] way of looking at shakespeare’s plays. (:

  29. I read that this year. My friends and I had quite fun pointing out all of Romeo’s stupid choices.

  30. I remember having to read this in 9th grade as well. Sadly I don’t remember much becuase Shakespeare has a tendency to put me right to sleep, so I slept though most of it.
    Although I found this post quite hilarious, expecially the image of Romeo in a clown car! LOL! I never thought of Romeo and Juliet this way, and now thanks to you, I will never forget your comments on it whenever its brought up.

  31. Everyone waxes lyrical about the “wonderful, inspirational” teachers that were a major influence in their lives.

    Yes, they have their place.

    But let’s hear it for the lazy, cynical, stupid teachers who also formed us into the human beings that we are today.

    I’d especially like to celebrate my German teacher, who really wanted to teach Russian instead, and got us to read all the German texts in English. Thanks to him, I can hardly speak or read a word of it!

  32. Thank you. This absolutely made my day. Everytime I read it, I can’t help but laugh hysterically!

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