Shakespeare cartoonified: Romeo and Juliet — Act V
It’s here! The final installment!
It’s a little late for regret, you guys.
To fully understand the kind of prank that Shakespeare just pulled in this act you need to know something about theatre in his time. Theatre in the early 17th century was a little like the soap operas of today. Plays were predictable, always reusing the same plot points. They were almost written with a template format, with the same kinds of twists and turns taking place with the same types of characters.
Sometimes Shakespeare adhered to this predictability… and sometimes he didn’t. And those plays where he didn’t are much more interesting.
Shakespeare wrote plays in three (or four, depending on who you ask) different genres. That in itself is impressive as most playwrights only write in one genre. He wrote history plays. Then he wrote comedies and he wrote tragedies. Romeo and Juliet is a comedy. A comedy in seventeenth century theatre always included marriage. Check. It also involved some form of opposition to said marriage. Check check check. And then it included a last-minute happy resolution where the opposition is cleared away and the couple can start their lives together. No check. Now we’re looking at the moment when Shakespeare broke the comedy genre and turned Romeo and Juliet into a tragedy.
In a real comedy the letter that Friar Lawrence sent to Romeo to warn him of the plan to pretend that Juliet is dead would have reached its destination and everything would have worked out in the end. Instead, Shakespeare threw a massive wrench into the whole genre and the letter never arrives. From there the whole plot is just one giant, tragic misunderstanding. A fatal one.
Do you know how much I would love to have been a fly on the wall of the theatre the first day this play was performed and he pulled that one in front of an audience expecting a template ending? Because the answer is very much.
Romeo was right. He is too rash. Both of them are. But his heart also shows in this scene when he realises the man he has killed is Paris (it was too dark for him to see the face at first. I just couldn’t draw it that way). He shows he is capable of pity even for this man who is his most dedicated rival. He is truly sorry about Paris’s death. Romeo may have many faults, but he also has many good traits.
In Romeo and Juliet Tybalt and Mercutio die. Lady Montague dies. Then Paris, Romeo and Juliet all die. Both Friar Lawrence and Lady Capulet claim at the end that they will die soon. This may just be grief, and, then again, it may not. The death toll is almost on par with a full-on tragedy. This play is not a love story. It’s a tragedy.
I hope you enjoyed this, you guys. I didn’t. I love the idea, but these posts are a shedload of work and my stress level has been way too high because of this. Having said that… which play should I cartoonify next? (Not any time soon. It is way too much work to attempt again within six months.)
If no-one votes (likely, I know), I’m going pick it myself.