June’s glowing heartbeat in Greensboro, North Carolina mimics the famous balcony scene in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Thrills of nearby adventure abound, passionate speeches on the joys of summer fill magazine pages, and enraptured dreamers stand by and fall in love with how fresh everything can feel. When Romeo asks, “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?” (2.2.2) how many readers swoon, knowing that romance and deep albeit tragic fun are in store for them? As Juliet pines “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” (2.2.36) can’t the sparkling appreciation for mutual love be found in summer picnics and toes on the beach? While Mercutio belts out any of his witty numbers, how does the third groomsman at your sister’s wedding not come to mind? Our famous bard/poet penned a masterpiece that fits in well with this season. Long, reflective days attend classic, regal literature.
I tend to equate Romeo’s very unattractive Act 1, Scene 1 whining with winter, the designs of his kinsmen to get him a new lady with spring, and the quick yet gorgeously-narrated care of the two lovers entering summer. The ball thrown by Capulet strives to be one of the finest parties in the kingdom, and not even a visit from his rival family can prevent celebration. So by the time readers get to the balcony, they have already been swept up by wealthy amusement and banter between characters. The air is light and perfumed; intoxication and gutsy danger aren’t far away. The only thing left to do is curl up tighter on a blanket in the rose-gold sand, and move swiftly into Acts 2 and 3.
Naturally, longer sunlight permits further hours of reading time. And more of these hours cause you to really get to know the work intimately. Shakespeare gave us literature that requires multiple visits, composing jewels that eventually form an avalanche. “Oh, this is what the Nurse meant when she doted on Juliet in front of Lady Capulet,” “Is Friar Lawrence really going to just let them do this?,” and “Does anyone think that Paris was just a little cheated, here?” make for just a few of the millions of discussions on the play. Memorable writing demands plenty of re-readings. Sometimes I like to rehearse the overdramatic tones of ninth graders performing for the class in my head, entertained by the thought that teenagers just a few years outside of Shakespeare’s generation most likely did the same thing.
Present heat is also a good match for the intense, vibrant pace of Romeo and Juliet. By the time the lovers’ declarations are familiar, they are thrown into a tailspin of cruel destiny. Readers remain on the edge of their seat to watch foreshadowing unravel and monologues squeeze emotion out of characters. No, vice-versa. One topic to discuss is, “If you knew what your fate as a doomed lover was, would you still go through with it?” Though I pretend to be more mature than I am, I would still go with an all-out “Absolutely!” Time was short for Romeo and Juliet, but they grabbed that time and drunk it deeply. It’s understood that this tale is tragic, but if these two plowed through a life without knowing such passion isn’t that worse? I would reason yes. And before one thinks of his first infatuation of the play, Rosaline, it should be remembered that she did not feel the same way. Rosaline returneth not Romeo’s love, whilst Juliet’s grace rained from above. (My stunted attempt at Shakespeare…) Put better by The Bard himself in the words of Romeo, “Her love I now/Doth grace for grace and love for love allow. The other did not so.” (2.3.91-93)
This lethal nectar of silly-looking sacrifice is important to creative spirits, but most definitely to Christians. We have Old and New Testament dialogue in the Bible to explain how utterly brief our candles will burn, the giant chasms of love we are to swim in during that quick life, an understanding that persecution will occur if realistic about how weird this faith seems to most of humanity, and random, heart-reviving Jesus showing the world what God really looks like. Maybe Shakespeare would agree lovers of something worth loving look crazy and deliriously happy. They are, and summer stretches out the insanity.