Before I read William Shakespeare's timeless masterpiece, I thought "Romeo and Juliet" was just a ridiculous, soppy, and unreadable tragedy (due to the time era it was written). I must admit, I was rather hopeful at times, especially when my giddy English teacher announced that "Romeo and Juliet" was the next work of literature we'd be doing, that the play wasn't as bad and non-understandable as the cultural stereotype suggested. I learned that she, my English teacher, wasn't wrong about this tragedy being worthy of all the abounding love it has received through out the centuries.
First of all, especially for those who learned like I did several months ago that they would be reading "Romeo and Juliet" for English class and don't know barely a smidgen about this play, this tragedy is about a feud between two powerful families, the Montagues and the Capulets. The son of the head of the Montague family, Romeo, meets Juliet, the daughter of Lord Capulet, and they fall in love the night they meet at one of Lord Capulet's feasts, Romeo disguised so that the Capulets won't try to kill him while he crashes their feast. Romeo and Juliet's love has disastrous consequences, including the death of one of Juliet's relatives, Romeo's banishment, and eventually the deaths of the two lovers themselves. But these deaths don't just bring darkness, they bring light, and in a way I won't disclose so that you'll be more pumped up to read this play.
I have to admit, it's hard to read Shakespeare, and even harder if you're a first-timer, but give it about two acts and, with help from your English teacher, you'll be able to process what he is saying. Shakespeare has, or had, quite a talent of portraying the meaning of several sentence in one phrase, making it unbelievably easy to see what the characters' points, poetic in nature, and hard to paraphrase for tests. The characters he used to make his play come alive are important archetypes that are often used today: the witty, immature companion, the loving, yet clueless, father of love-sick daughter, and the quiet, wise mentor to one of the characters. And the romance... despite how soppy and emotional it can get, I have to admit it does make your heart flutter. On top of that, it can open up some great discussions on what love really is. A lot of kids in my class, after reading "Romeo and Juliet", are convinced that the way Shakespeare portrayed Romeo and Juliet's relationship was not true love, but an infatuation. I agreed, and even did my research report on teen love and how tumultuous it can be, as it was for Romeo and Juliet. I even had a talk with my mom about their relationship, which was very insightful.
The flaws that I saw in this play were few, but they included the stereotypes; the helpless daughter, objectified maids, playboy buddy, and overly emotional nurse. They did, in their own ways, add to the magic of Shakespeare's masterpiece, but, to our culturally different society, it may offend to see so many of these stereotypes in one play.
Overall, the play was excellent. Educational material includes details about Renaissance life, the lasting affects of family feuds, etc. The violence includes sword fighting that ends usually in someone dead, though you'd have to go see the play in a theater to see any live fighting. The sexuality extends to crude references involving rape, adultery, and intercourse. A student once told me that one of the scenes took place right after a love scene; it is understandable given the situation the characters in the scene are in, but Shakespeare never said anything of the sort in the stage directions.
If you are a freshman in high school, it is very likely you will have to read this play for school. Don't be alarmed or a groaning fit, the play isn't that bad. For girls, there is a perfect example of a couple that made drastic, and impulsive, decisions; things they shouldn't make in their relationships. For boys, there are sword fights... and little else that will interest them. I know, those are small lists of things to look forward to, besides poetic dialogue, but at least you could later say that you've read the beloved masterpiece by Shakespeare, and state whether you loved it or hated it. It all depends on the reader's personality, I guess.