Why is Romeo and Juliet misunderstood?
the tragedy of it isn’t that it’s a romance and they’re starcrossed lovers or whatever, it’s that children kill themselves because they hate the world they live in that much. plays and movies and stuff usually have much older actors play them (that’s how you automatically know the people making it don’t understand the play), but romeo and juliet are only like 13-15 years old
when the play opens, verona’s in the middle of a blood feud between these two families that’s been going on so long they don’t even know why they’re fighting anymore, they just blindly hate each other and are willing to kill just because their parents are like “yeah, those people? we hate them.” people are always like “romeo and juliet are so stupid, they got all these people killed” but like. no, the feud between the families started way before either of them were even born. people were already dying all the time because of this nonsense feud, nothing changed when these two kids started sneaking around together
when romeo is introduced he’s completely in love with some other girl, rosaline. he’s talking about her the way he later talks about juliet. that’s the whole point: he’s a dumb innocent kid in love with every girl he sees, not at all concerned about the blood feud and hatred his parents and older friends are so preoccupied with. part of the importance of romeo and juliet being so young is that ~the world hasn’t corrupted them yet~
in the end, they both kill themselves because 1) they are literal children making rash decisions, but also 2) they see each other as the only good thing in the world, a world where people kill each other in the streets and don’t even know why. that is why the play’s classified as a tragedy, not a romance
after they’re dead, the two families come together and are like “ok wow holy shit why are we like this” and the deaths of these two children are what end the feud. for generations, a whole lot of people died because of this ignorant hatred and it all only fueled the conflict. like “we don’t know why they hate us or we hate them, but they killed x person so let’s go kill y person” back and forth forever. then, two children die for love (not necessarily what we define as romantic love, though romeo and juliet saw themselves as that) and that is what ends all the bloodshed. the deaths of innocents made the adults look at themselves in horror and wonder why and how they let this happen and realize they were the reason
if shakespeare intended for it to be about an actual romance (the way it is commonly interpreted), then the main characters would’ve been adults like in all his other stuff. the feud wouldn’t be as important or even mentioned after setting up the story. the tragedy is, as stated above, that children kill themselves because their world is so hateful and they saw no other options
i would say that i’m surprised society fetishizes pre-teens killing themselves and takes a story about the damage blind hatred has on young people and turns into a mindless romance, but.