These violent delights have violent ends. And in their triumph die, like fire and powder, which as they kiss consume. The sweetest honey is loathsome in its own deliciousness. Therefore, love moderately. —Romeo + Juliet (1996) dir. Baz Luhrmann
The original “Star-crossed lovers” are none other than Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, history’s most famous fictional couple. Over time, the term has become synonymous with a love that is destined to overcome all odds. It’s a lyrical staple used by artists ranging from the Smashing Pumpkins to No Doubt, and a common sight in sappy news pieces about adorable young couples. Our entire culture is teaching us to desire the kind of romance in which people could be described as “star-crossed.”
Here’s a quick synopsis of Romeo & Juliet: A boy and a girl from rival families fall in love despite all the associated challenges, yadda yadda yadda, something, something, they both pointlessly die like goddamned idiots. They’re the ur-example of a romance that completely, utterly fails.
Which brings us to what “star-crossed lovers” really means. Users of the quote correctly assume that “star” refers to fate or destiny, but stop before decoding the “crossed” portion. It is not “crossed” as in “paths cross,” but “cross” as in how Sir Topham Hat feels when Thomas the Tank Engine does something fucking stupid. “Star-crossed lovers” literally means the stars are angry with Romeo and Juliet, and as such, their romance is destined to fail.