NOTE: This 2-lecture course is excerpted from the 8-lecture course Shakespeare's Catholicsm: A Critical Analysis of the Bard's Life and Plays taught by Joseph Pearce. Click here to purchase the full course.
The Greatest Love Story Ever Told?
Romeo & Juliet is touted as the greatest love story ever told, but we must decide which of two ways of reading the play we’re going to adopt. The most popular reading is the romantic reading in which Romeo and Juliet are hapless victims of a family blood-feud who are redeemed and purified by the passion and purity of their love for each other. This romantic reading reflects the narcissism of the age in which we live.
A Faith-Centered View of Family, Obsession and Cautionary Tales
Far from taking a popular interpretation of their star-crossed love, Professor Pearce illustrates Romeo's egocentric obsession with Juliet, the destruction of her childhood innocence, and the fault of all the mature figures in the play who fail to protect her. An objective and proper reading of the play reveals a cautionary tale wherein the exercise of free will has sometimes tragic consequences for which we must be responsible. If we approach the play as Shakespeare the Catholic would, we discover it is something quite unromantic and, in fact, truly tragic.
Romeo and Juliet are just one couple in a whole canon of literary lovers whose lust caused destruction. Think of Guinevere and Lancelot whose illicit affair destroyed Arthur’s kingdom; Dido killed herself on a pyre as Aeneas sailed away; Francesca and Paolo whirl about in eternal torment because of their adul- tery; Paris and Helen caused the Peloponnesian War, which ended in the complete annihilation of Troy. These stories are all cautionary tales that highlight the dangers of unrestrained passion.
Join Professor Pearce for this fascinating look at how the eyes of faith help us to distinguish true love from the shallow vanity so often found in "romantic literature", and particularly in The Bard's most famous play, Romeo & Juliet.
- Joseph Pearce