Romeo and Juliet: An Outcast in the High School Curriculum


Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

Alicia Correa Trujillo, Writer

     The freshman reading curriculum is the first real exposure to complex literature that most students get. Every year, a new group of freshmen will be handed their school issued copies of To Kill a Mockingbird, Great Expectations, The Odyssey, or any other book on the required reading list. While most of these books contain important lessons about race, class, social structures, or even coming of age, there is one book that stood out to me for its lack of teachable content: Romeo and Juliet. At Wylie High School, our teachers do a great job of addressing the problematic themes of the play, and they manage to encourage thought provoking conversations about them, but a different play might give them more content to work with. This classic play about a love story gone awry is now forever ingrained in pop culture, but is it really worth being taught in schools across America?

     The romantic Shakespearean classic Romeo and Juliet contains the complex and revolutionary writing of The Bard, but to some, it lacks a moral that young students can glean and apply to their lives. The play follows two tweens who meet at a party and fall in love. The catch: they’re families have been in a feud for decades. The two star crossed lovers attempt to blossom their love despite their families’ fighting, but eventually the war between their houses claims their lives. The story is dramatic, fast paced, and riddled with teenage angst and impulsiveness. These characters make no good choices, and they put their lives at risk for the sake of a stranger whom they barely know. Romeo and Juliet may fight for what they want, but they are not good role models for young people today. Their will to fight for love does not outweigh they’re brash behavior and their poor choices, and though they do suffer the repercussions, this story has been glamorized to the point where it is no longer a cautionary tale but an idealistic selfless romance. 

     Love and romance is something that should definitely be taught in schools. Romantic relationships are one of the biggest parts of a person’s life, and exposing students to healthy examples of this is important. To some, Romeo and Juliet is the correct choice of a love story to be taught in schools, but there is no applicable lesson that the classic provides. Books such as Pride and Prejudice teach about sacrifice for someone you love, but in the sense that we must find healthy compromises for a relationship to work. Wuthering Heights teaches that passion alone cannot sustain a relationship and that a foundation of mutual respect is best for long lasting love. If the reasoning for having Romeo and Juliet in the high school curriculum is to teach students about love, then it is not the classic best suited for the job. 

     Shakespeare’s writing is exceptional. His mastery of words and his creative storytelling make his works an indispensable part of the teaching curriculum. Though Romeo and Juliet does exemplify The Bard’s incredible writing, it is not the only one of his plays that could be used to teach Shakespearean work. Twelfth Night for example contains Shakespeare’s writing and masterful storytelling, but is also heavier on the life lessons. This play teaches that though love is beautiful, it can cause pain and confusion. It provides the same quality of writing as Romeo and Juliet, but it’s lessons complement it better. Shakespeare’s work has to be taught in schools, but Romeo and Juliet is not the best play to do so.

   Books that are taught in high school can define a person for the rest of their lives. The novels taught in schools need to contain lessons that students can carry for the rest of their lives. Though Romeo and Juliet is a great example of Shakespeare’s writing skills, its story does not contain good enough lessons to justify its being taught in schools.