Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

Having just finished reading Romeo and Juliet, I promptly succumbed to a 24 hour stomach flu, during which I binged the last season of The Good Place, and kind of got the two stories mixed up. It occurred to me in a fever dream during this time that the message of both were the same – they both deal with moral philosophy. After looking up the theories of the philosophers mentioned in The Good Place, I found out there are actually a lot of similarities between the two shows/stories/play.  The theory I think sums up the similarities says that it is the finite nature of life that makes it special.

I guess what I’m saying is… one of the reasons we love this play is because Romeo and Juliet die. They endear themselves to us with their lust, their poetry, and their passion, then after a series of unfortunate events, we are left wondering what would have become of them, if only things had gone better. But if everything suddenly went swimmingly for them, it would probably be pretty boring.

Compare that to The Good Place, where they thought they were in the Good Place, but they were actually in the Bad Place, but the only thing that made The Good Place Good, was the threat of The Bad Place. In the conclusion, the characters have been “in love” with the idea of fulfilling their ultimate goals in life, only to find out that once they’ve done it, there’s nothing left to wish for, or wonder about; their continued existence is boring.

I also realized that the play Romeo and Juliet is basically an oxymoron, a comparison of opposites. In looking up some interpretations of love, and sex, and hatred, and death, I learned that in Will’s time, the word die was slang for orgasm. Then it became clear that symbolically, Romeo and Juliet combine physical death and sexual climax. Ironically, when a man and a woman have sex, it usually results in the creation of life, but with these two, it results in the ending of life. Even their love is a paradox since their families’ never ending feud is the only thing messing up ‘fair Verona’s’ Chamber of Commerce speech. Ironically, the two lovers’ deaths is what finally brings the two warring families to a truce.

There’s also the question of religion and whether killing themselves, or even the friar’s assistance with their marriage was ‘moral.’ But the father of moral philosophy, Emmanuel Kant tells us that religion and morality are separate entities, they shouldn’t even be in the same room (wait, more paradox?). He suggests that whether or not we ought to do something isn’t a moral choice, its just contingent on our desires, with consideration of our actions’ potential effects on others, in other words, “It doesn’t matter whether you want to be moral or not—the moral law is binding on all of us” and provides us with “commands you must follow, regardless of your desires.” Many morals of the time were, if not broken, bent pretty badly. The fact that Kant wasn’t even around in Shakespeare’s time notwithstanding, it looks like Will proved his point pretty well. That, and, as Michael in The Good Place said, “Humans make a lot of mistakes when they’re horny.”




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