Why Romeo and Juliet Should Stay in the Curriculum

My name is Juliet Capulet, and I’m 13 years young! I love my boyfriend Romeo so much! We’re gonna get married, I love him so much and we just met XD! I would give my life for him! Romeo and Juliet, am I right? The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare, is the story of two teenagers from feuding households who fall in love. Can a 400-year-old story possibly be useful to you and I as members of the modern world? Yes. Yes, it can. Romeo and Juliet should stay in the English curriculum at Citipointe because it is a valuable text that teaches students important life lessons and literary skills that will be needed to be a successful adult. As an educational authority the QCAA judges a text to be of value where it cultivates within students a deeper understanding and a broader experience of differing personal, cultural, social and aesthetic ideas through timeless representations of literary forms and styles. As a literary piece of work, Romeo and Juliet has survived four centuries of reading and it continues to be relevant to modern society. Written in a variety of styles it exposes readers to new text types which, in year 10, students are unlikely to have experienced before. The techniques used in the story paint a vibrant picture by which readers gain an image of scenes and are immersed further into the world of Shakespeare. Hence, it is artistic, timeless and widens a student’s horizons of reading. Romeo and Juliet however also provides students with a window into societal values and cultural norms of the 16th century in relation to marriage and stereotypes that still continue today. The plot is based on the premise that actions reflect stereotypes and unfounded attitudes. The feuding families have been at odds for many generations and the basis for hatred stems from a surname rather than a remembered specific event. Though slights, assaults and murder have been occurring throughout history, the origin of the conflict lies hidden in time, forgotten to both parties. This attitude of action based on prejudice is still pervasive in society today; between families, cultures, religions and races. The unfortunate reality is that the tragic death at the end of Romeo and Juliet reflect all too often how many of these conflicts end today, with innocents being maimed and killed because of intolerance and prejudice. Society has failed to learn from both history and literature how to avoid conflict, an important lesson for students to become aware of. One of the main concepts also referenced in the play is the idea that marriage is a means to an ends and not the consequence of love. The arranged marriage of Juliet to Paris is seen as a means to increase family wealth, status, influence and power. This idea is important for students to understand as it has been prevalent throughout human history as people strive to climb the social ladder and achieve a easier and more secure way of life. Within many cultural, religious and racial groups today, arranged marriages still occur as a means of maintaining social order, racial or religious continuity or economic benefit. Conflict arises in the plot between characters who want to marry for love and the wishes of the parents who see value in this long standing tradition. This is an important lesson for students of today to understand as it accurately reflects situations that occur today. Situations where the younger generations rebel against parental instructions on marriage resulting in significant conflict within and between families and groups. The literary skills students can pick up from Shakespeare’s style are crucial for them to learn for later in life. So how does Shakespeare use language techniques? He makes it so that his readers cannot escape them. For example, every event of foreshadowing ever. An example is when Romeo says “I fear too early, for my mind misgives some consequence yet hanging in the stars” and this is to show that by going to the Capulet party, bad things are going to happen, like his death. He says that he is tempting fate by being there, but as we see that gut feeling stops nothing. Shakespeare is not for the optimistic of us. Romeo can also often be found speaking in hyperbole or metaphor to show just how stupid (in love) he is. One instance of these techniques is when he is banished from Verona in Act 3 Scene 3. “Calling death “banished,” Thou cut’st my head off with a golden axe, And smilest upon the stroke that murders me.” According to Romeo, banishment would be worse than death because he would have to leave familiarity and would never be able to see Juliet again. Banishment, for him, would be a fate worse than death because he is alive, and able to think about what and who he can’t have anymore. But if he was dead he would not be able to think about Juliet. In death Juliet cannot haunt him and make him crazier than he already is. Another literary device in the play is dramatic irony – a type of irony where the audience knows something the characters don’t. An example is when Lord Capulet doesn’t know Juliet married Romeo when he arranges her marriage to Paris. This explains why Juliet is so against marrying him later on when she didn’t seem to care earlier, and why he is so annoyed at her not fulfilling his plans for her. Another is when Juliet professes her love to Romeo on her balcony because she doesn’t know about Romeo hiding in the garden. This is why she is shocked when he appears in the bushes and says he likes her back. Romeo is the picture of an articulate man, however he doesn’t focus his skills on something that is actually beneficial for him, like being a diplomat for the prince. We should be raising a generation of Romeo-level articulate men and women that can go out into the world and change it for the better. It is of the upmost importance to teach students how to use and understand language techniques full because being able to manipulate language is central to life: within the workplace or otherwise. Therefore, Romeo and Juliet should stay in the English curriculum at Citipointe because it is a valuable text that teaches students important life lessons and literary skills that will be needed to be a successful adult. For the students to get anything out of the play, they need to enjoy the unit first. Unenjoyment leads to disinterest and then students who are unwilling to learn from the subject matter. According to the Australian Curriculum, “Students engage with a variety of texts for enjoyment.” Therefore, if Romeo and Juliet isn’t enjoyable, it doesn’t even meet one of the prerequisites for being in the English syllabus for year 10. Romeo and Juliet is about teenagers who make rash decisions before thinking it through, and parents becoming either absent (Montague’s) or controlling (Capulet’s) of their children. Let’s just hope you can do better than these characters. They each correlate with one of the major themes in the play. Romeo is infatuated with Rosaline and then Juliet – the Lover Juliet is no older than 14 and is already making significant life choices – The Young and Dumb The Nurse is constantly pushing Juliet into the arms of whichever handsome male happens to be in the vicinity – Brevity/Impulsiveness Benvolio somehow manages to survive the hurricane – Responsibility Mercutio puns his way to the afterlife – Mortality These themes are so important because they drive the characters to make decisions and choices that move the plot forward. If Romeo wasn’t such a sucker for pretty girls then he wouldn’t have talked to Juliet in the first place. Juliet makes rash decisions: she marries Romeo after less than a day of knowing each other and doesn’t hesitate to kill herself at the end of the play. Being impulsive is the main reason these families still hate each other; they don’t think before they act, and they let an outdated stereotype be their basis for what can be assumed regular murder and assault. No one wants to take responsibility, and so many people died because of it. Their lives are all so crazy, and this is the method by which students will find enjoyment in the play. Even after 400 years people haven’t changed enough for these characters to be irrelevant. Well done Shakespeare. Therefore, Romeo and Juliet should stay in the English curriculum at Citipointe because it is an enjoyable, relatable and valuable text that teaches students important life lessons and literary skills that will be needed to be a successful adult. William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has been celebrated for all it accomplished for English literature. I firmly believe that Romeo and Juliet is necessary for high school students to study as it is an enjoyable, relatable and valuable text that teaches students important life lessons and literary skills that will be needed to be a successful adult. Citipointe, do the next generation a favour and stick to Romeo and Juliet or be ‘Fortune’s Fool’ when students aren’t solidly equipped to progress through life.

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