Whatever became of Rosaline, Romeo’s first love? That’s right: Romeo’s first love. Do you remember her at all? When Romeo says in Act I “fairer than my love... the all-seeing sun ne’er saw her match since first the world begun,” he’s not talking about Juliet! He hasn’t even set eyes on her yet. No, in the opening of Romeo & Juliet, Romeo is in violently, sufferingly, sighingly in love with... Rosaline. Do you remember that bit? He crashes the Capulet ball not for Juliet but for Rosaline and there he sets eyes on Juliet and like mercury his affections shift, just as his kinsman Benvolio, knowing Romeo’s tempestuous nature, had guessed they would.
That’s not love. It’s adolesence. Romeo was a BOY. He fell into and out of love at the drop of a hat. This greatest and most celebrated love of Western literature wasn’t even love, but hormonal overexcitement. Does that make the suicides less tragic, or more? Perhaps less tragic for Romeo, who you could argue deserved it (my Shakespeare professor once called him a “homicidal maniac”), and more tragic for poor Juliet for whom this act of passion and defiance was likely the one moment of her tightly bound existence when she felt truly alive, and who could have had no real idea how fickle her young husband was.
And what of fair Rosaline? I’m guessing that she wore a mourning veil to the double funeral and blessed her lucky stars she never gave that crazy Montague kid the time of day.
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