|Photo by Carol Rosegg|
Shakespeare did romance well; he basically invented it as a stage concept. Antony and Cleopatra. Beatrice and Benedick. Kate and Petruchio. Rosalind and Orlando. The nutty quartet of lovers in A Midsummer Night's Dream. His comedies, and a few of his tragedies, are riddled with couples entangled in love-love or love-hate relationships. But no pair of lovers bests the devotion and reputation of the title teens in Romeo and Juliet. They defy family and friends for their forbidden love. They, in fact, literally, and willingly, die for love. Four-plus centuries later, the two Veronese's names are synonymous with amour at its most extreme. The play itself, in fact — unlike other works by the Bard that place a romancing couple at the center — has no other theme than love. As such, most of its famous speeches are dedicated to that subject. Playwrights and the lovers they have created have struggled to reach R&J's heights of ecstasy ever since.
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