Shakespeare Started the Meet-cute

 Anne Kwok, Milton Academy

February 29, 2020

In the greatest love story of all time, young Romeo and Juliet go from strangers to falling in love within the first few seconds of encountering each other. By the end of the next Thursday, the couple is dead in each other’s arms because of their undying love. Aside from taking speed-dating to new heights, this tragedy has attracted many audiences and remains one of the most famous Shakespearean plays. For a moment, try to imagine this tragic demise happening in the real world– perhaps, to your teenage neighbor Billy, who has fallen in love with a girl at a birthday party, or to another young couple having a meet-cute. We would most likely see their extreme loyalty to each other as quite ridiculous and rather impulsive. In real life, they would eventually meet other people equally suitable for them. We know that there is more to life than losing a romantic interest, that it is rather a bad idea to throw away what our entire lives had been before the meet-cute happened.

However, this sacrifice is precisely what makes the story of Romeo and Juliet so appealing. They give us the fantastical, romantic ideal that each person’s destiny is harbored in another person. Romeo’s purpose is Juliet, and his purpose is strong enough to drive him to death. In contrast to our world, where people are constantly being infatuated with different people, the idea that there is one person for everyone is incredibly satisfying. Shakespeare even raises the stakes in the plot by placing the lovers in feuding households. By transcending these forbidden borders, Romeo and Juliet feed to the audience’s lovebug that romantic love can be powerful enough to conquer any hardship. Many people desire what they cannot possess, and this journey and satisfaction of eventually possessing the ‘forbidden’ have been documented in many stories and movies. 

Next time you’re watching a soap opera or Netflix romance, try noticing the stakes that keep two characters apart, whether it be book store competitors (You’ve Got Mail), a rogue and frankly embarrassing love letter (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before), or an ancient deity pursuing a high-school girl (Goblin/Twilight). Happy Valentine’s!

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