Romeo and Juliet: A Comedic Satire

This is a comprehensive research essay incorporating several other resources, with full works cited included, which argues that “Romeo and Juliet” is neither a romance nor is it a tragedy, but that it is a comedic piece of literature.

Using literary critics and text-based information, this paper argues that in “Romeo and Juliet” there is a lack of tragic elements, an abundance of comedic scenes, that most critics overlook the lack of “romance” in the relationship of the protagonists, and that Shakespeare never intended ‘Romeo and Juliet to be a romance or tragedy.
William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet is most notably regarded as the quintessential romantic tragedy, but this view is superficial, at best. While some literary critics would argue that Romeo & Juliet is a tragedy in the classic sense, adhering to Aristotle’s principles of what a tragedy should be, other critics have concurred that the structure of Romeo & Juliet falls more into the category of comedy and / or satire. The issues which cause critics to fight over the true genre of the piece may be seemingly obscure and minute, but, under close examination, it becomes quite clear that in literature as classic as Shakespeare’s, it is in the detail that the meaning is found. James Forse contends with the Neo-Classicist critics of the Eighteenth Century who “adjudged Romeo & Juliet as a flawed tragedy which lacked Aristotelian unity of plot and action, the character flaws essential to tragic protagonists, and a sense of the inevitability of tragic outcome” (122). Harold Wilson, on the other hand, disagrees, stating that, “The play’s tragic theme is unified by Petrarchan notions of noble death: the lover’s suicides represent the triumph of love over death? (31). Thus he attempts to defend the play’s tragic intent and nature. If a critical reader examines this work, it will be difficult for him or her to find reasons for defining themes like true love and fateful destiny by the tale of Romeo & Juliet as so much of the general public does today. Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet is neither a tragedy nor a romance, but is, rather, a comedic satire meant to be didactic in nature.”

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