Shakespeare's Loss of Inspiration: Romeo and Juliet's Uncharted Truth


With a kiss I die whispered Romeo, with a strike I shall fall down grumbled Pyramus. Both had been embraced by the hearts of people. One died millenniums ago, another died centuries ago but what made the agony so hard, same people died twice in different lines...


The misty air of Stratford which surrounded the air of a 16th-century frame house became home to the famous writer William Shakespeare. Later on, his balcony was about to be a station for lovers where many Juliets wait for their Romeos; whose bitter laments unite in the air where the same families' swords cling in the very same air for the lovers' unification. Shakespeare’s writing Romeo and Juliet created a big influence on the English language and literature while his verses united the concepts of love, despair, and many more feelings that love contains in it all around the world.

Between the yellow old dusty pages of Romeo and Juliet which left many tears running down, there was a hidden truth behind the red curtains of the play. In this article, the hidden origin of Romeo and Juliet will be revealed. To make it more clear, they will be explained in three different stages. The origin of the story will be followed up with the literate meanings of the characters’ actions and it will be finalized with the psychiatric personalities hidden under the verses.

Many people know that the origins of Romeo and Juliet stand to Shakespeare’s pen but there is a different story behind it which even Shakespeare himself confirmed. His play Romeo and Juliet's roots trace back to an Italian story which is translated from its origins to English by Arthur Brooke and fit into prose as Palace of Pleasure by William Painter within the official records. Within having been inspired by these two works, Shakespeare created the first forms of Romeo and Juliet. But this information is scantily clarified. The real Romeo and Juliet’s roots belong to Pyramus and Thisbe who were living in Babylon’s city, Semiramis, and their families were in an impertinent under the blood feud. Son and daughter of the two families which were displeased with each other due to the blood feud; they discovered each other by the little fracture in their rooms. As it happens, both families were living under one building which was separated by a wall. They ripped up the stretch and created a hole. This hole became an intercessor for their communication which led to a passionate love that races its lovely thrill with the night until the sun rises. Two lovers who love each other tumbled on each other due to their parents' blood feud and they both decided to run away together. They decided to run to Nineveh, a place outside the city where the Ninsun graveyard is, at midnight. Thisbe who was overwhelmed with his patience decided to arrive earlier than their plan and started to wait for her lover at their meeting point. A lion showed up from the trees with the blood of its prey dripping from its teeth and it started to approach to Pyramus and Thisbe’s meeting point.

Thisbe who had seen the lion got scared and ran towards trees to hide from it while her scarf folded down and dropped on the floor. After finishing its meal, the lion started to play with Thisbe’s scarf as a toy. By that time, Pyramus who had come to meet up with his lover saw Thisbe’s scarf and believed that she had been killed by a lion. After seeing this horrible scene which he thought was of her lover, he felt an unidentifiable agony and took his sword and stabbed himself with it which took his soul out of his body in seconds. After a while, Thisbe got out of her hiding point and saw her lover, covered in blood as dead. She would be grieved for her lover's faith and stabbed herself with the same sword which stole the soul of her lover and died beside him.


Inspirational Pierre Gautherot - Pyramus and Thisbe, 1799



The agony of two lovers that even surrounded the gods with a feeling of sorrow made their families fall into deep pain and regret. This in the end led them to make a peace to end their blood feud. This story, at the date of 8 A.D. takes part in Roman poet Ovid’s book of Metamorphoses which is the first form of Romeo and Juliet in Greek mythology. Ovid’s story on Greek mythology, Thisbe and Pyramus became a cornerstone for many Romeo and Juliet stories years later. After Ovid, a short story called Maritto and Gianozza was written by Masuccio Salernitano in Siena, Italy in 1476. Not even after a century from Salernitano’s work, Luigi da Porto took the lead of Italian short story and re-formed it under the title of Giulietta e Romeo in 1524. It was officially published in 1531 in Venice for the first time. Within the touch of Luigi da Porto, Giulietta e Romeo became the first form of Romeo and Juliet of the pre-16th-century imitator reformists. While Matteo Bandello published his second novel in 1554, he published Giulietta e Romeo’s format and in 1562, Romeo and Juliet’s tragic poem got translated by Arthur Brooke. After Arthur Brooke’s translation, Shakespeare’s interpretation became the last evolution for the tragic agony of the lovers, from the fingers of Shakespeare.


Figure 1, Frank Dicksee’s painting on Romeo and Juliet.


Another topic with its importance hidden in the details is that literary meanings are hidden behind the characters' actions. Chiaroscuros are one of the things that cannot be seen easily. Romeo's struggles with agony because of the love he feels for Rosaline changes when he attends Capulets' ball and sees Juliet. The words "Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright,"(Shakespeare, 2011, p. 53) come out of his mouth. He describes Juliet as "Juliet is the sun" (Shakespeare, 2011, p. 69). On the other hand, Juliet describes Romeo as "day in the night" (Shakespeare, 2011, p. 159). Both lovers see each other as a blinding light. They both take each other as a sanctuary for the darkness they have always been surrounded by before they ever met. While talking about each other, they describe each other as "Shining Star Who Illuminates the Sky" (Shakespeare, 2011, p. 33). Chiaroscuros and quibble intersect at one point. The ballroom where Romeo saw Juliet was surrounded by torches that their lights hit the walls (Soft-Light) and Romeo and Juliet’s roads cross for a second time under the moonlight (Soft-Light/Figure 1). Another meeting of theirs was at the cell of Church where Father Laurence pronounced them husband and wife (Soft-Light). The night they married, Juliet’s room was lightened by the challenging shadows of the moonlights (Soft-Light). These Chiaroscuroses symbolise both lovers who experienced their love in the darkness/hidden and they also symbolise the tragic future of the lovers which has no happy ending. Even though it is clear how distinctive the eras of English and Modern English differ from each other, Shakespeare managed to use equivoques successfully in his writings. This brilliant side of him becomes an example in the following sentences: "My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand to smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss." Romeo’s sincere and emotional outpouring in these lines are portrayed vividly. Romeo is defining his kiss with a tender touch and usage of specific detail as Pilgrim during his presence at the rest of the ball, which can be identified with his way of kissing a holy object. The kissing of the ring in the church is a metaphor that can define how Romeo sees Juliet as half a goddess and places himself in a position as a religious follower of the holy one. Another similarity also rose at the lines of Father Laurence: "To paly ashes, thy eyes’ windows fall,"(Shakespeare, 2011, p. 185). In these lines when Father Laurence states "The eyes’ / Windows fall"(Shakespeare, 2011, p. 185), it means Juliet’s eyes / windows will be closed in same meaning. In a deeper sense, the meaning of these lines refers to Juliet’s conciseness on what is going out of her world, which compels her to take any action to prevent what bitter end she may face.



Pyramus and Thisbe created by Daphne Rios and Melanie Arambula.



In this research, the last thing that will be focused on is the hidden psychoanalytical characteristics of Romeo and Juliet behind the lines. According to Freud, instincts divide into two categories: To live (Eros) or to die (Thanatos) in order to produce sexual pleasure instincts. Hence, willing to die was crave for danger, the aggression of craving for death. When these two works in order, they would stabilize each other. Romeo was a person who was in love with the idea of being in love. When he saw an attractive girl whom he knew not even a little about her identity, he declared he was in love. He wanted to be in love with someone he found attractive. When Romeo saw Juliet, he forgot about Rosaline’s presence, the girl he wept for nights till mornings, and he followed up his feelings towards Juliet by identifying himself in masterful word games to show his charisma. He suffered a major breakdown on his love journey with Rosaline and he could not let himself fall into the same deep emotional pain again, so he opened himself to more like a physical attraction and those he loved at first sight. As matter of fact, it was the same for Juliet too, as she was open for physical attraction. Whatever Romeo’s superego was, what Juliet dreamed was a marriage. Romeo’s superego was ruled by Thanatos, and this was leading him to aggression. He was not a stable person. If he could not achieve what he desired, he became captive under his superego, Thanatos. Thanatos led him to the option of death if he decided that he cannot have what he desired. Juliet was under healthy unity when she was telling her nanny, "I would rather die than marrying with Paris or I will run away with Romeo and live the condescensions." It was showing that Freud’s division of instincts was working correctly. Romeo’s superego was leading him to have a destructive character and his action to kill Tybalt was another result of Thanatos. The feeling of death, being in the ascendant for Romeo was traumatic when he saw Mercutio die in front of his eyes. Romeo’s willingness to die after Juliet’s death is also another example of how Eros was not working correctly. But there is another thing that their desires were so powerful to push ego into suicide. This eventually led Romeo and Juliet to unify in the other world and be satisfied with their presence. Juliet’s willingness to kill herself was her Superego’s (Regret) result. This is a story in which death wins over the will to live.


Another perspective can be a comment on their age and living conditions of that era. Juliet was a 13-year-old teenager. Her death can be interpreted as being due to her inability to reach maturity and having a weak ego while Romeo’s death can be interpreted as a result of the chaos and war inside his mind. Romeo and Juliet are good examples of their unhealthy instructions ex-Duco. Romeo and Juliet is a story of desire and death that portrays the effect of the collision of the unformed ego and superego and how it can destroy an individual’s life. They tried to stand against the cruel world without any plan and tried to fight and they failed. Father Laurence was hope for the lovers in their story but Romeo’s love, and sexual attraction to Juliet ruined Father Laurence’s plan which he had not seen before it had happened. Taking everything into an account, this story shows how people should control their desires and how they should take care of their steps in the same manner as the social norms show them. Individuals should be aware of their responsibilities. Thanatos's (death) victory on Eros (life) is bad for human history. When all the necessary information is gathered, one can see that even though Shakespeare’s work has been finalised by the thousands of years of different ethnicities of lovers who couldn’t end up with a happy ending in different societies. One can see that many different societies in time were the victim of the same tragedy that hold its roots to thousands of years back till today. In each work during the evolution of Romeo and Juliet, there is one simple answer to finalise it: Individuals should not be a captive of their desire and their dedication to reach their goals and they rather should be in reasonable form to do the right action which is beyond emotions.


References:

  1. Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. New York, Little, Brown and Company, 1942.

  2. Giovanni, Boccaccio. Decameron. Istanbul, Bahar Printing House, 1351.

  3. Shakespeare, William. Romeo ve Juliet. Istanbul, Yaylacık Printing House, 1591.

  4. Scarci, Manuela. “From Mariotto and Ganozza to Romeo and Giulietta: Metamorphoses of a Renaissance Tale.” Scripta Mediterranea, 2015, scripta.journals.yorku.ca/index.php/scripta/article/viewFile/39826/36049.

  5. Pyramus ile Thisbe. 2018, https://www.arkeolojikhaber.com/haber-pyramus-ile-thisbe-17754/

  6. Angelakis, Jacqueline. "Romeo and Juliet: Love Developed by Mental Illness." 2015, https://jacquelineangelakis.wordpress.com/portfolio/romeo-and-juliet-love-developed-by-mental-illness/

  7. Qualls, Jaida. "Psychoanalytical Analysis of Romeo and Juliet." 2014, https://prezi.com/acrxcdppg6r0/psychoanalytical-analysis-of-romeo-and-juliet/

  8. Dastagir, Faaiz. "Psychoanalysis of Romeo and Juliet." 2019, https://faaizdastagir.wordpress.com/2019/09/01/psychoanalysis-of-romeo-and-juliet/

  9. MarComm, Redazione. "Mariotto and Ganozza: Romeo and Juliet’s ancestors." 2016, http://insolitaitalia.databenc.it/en/history/mariotto-ganozza-romeo-juliets-ancestors/


Image References:

  1. Gautherot, P. (1799). Pyramus and Thisbe [Painting]. Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Melun. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pierre_Gautherot_-_Pyramus_and_Thisbe,_1799.jpg

  2. Dicksee, F. (n.d.). Romeo and Juliet [Illustration]. Southampton City Art Gallery. https://southamptoncityartgallery.com/object/sotag-1006/#:~:text=Dicksee%20studied%20painting%20with%20his,Royal%20Academy%20Schools%20in%201871.&text=One%20was%20the%20basis%20for,and%20I’ll%20descend’.

  3. Rios, D., & Arambula, M. Pyramus and Thisbe [Illustration]. Haiku Deck. https://haikudeck.com/pyramus-and-thisbe-art-and-design-presentation-1f7d283524

Author Photo

Doğukan Ejder

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