We all have literary conventions or character quirks that we hate in fiction. Or maybe “we” don’t. Maybe I’m lumping y’all together with me. I know that there is at least one other person who agrees with me though because this friend has never been quiet on the subject of her vehement hate for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.*
First, some background on this friend (whom we’ll call Betty) is one of those super-genius people that should she ever spawn, her children will take over the world and make Brain (of Pinky and the Brain fame) look like a humble, unassuming type. No, should these—at this point imaginary—children take over, you’d better hope they like or you should go about getting out of here in a “don’t let the atmosphere burn you on the butt on the way out” fashion. Betty studied many things in our time together in college, but she wrote her senior thesis on Shakespeare. She knows the bard forwards and backwards and this breadth of knowledge has only reaffirmed the R&J hate.
Romeo and Juliet, in her opinion, were suffering from puppy love and not anything true or lasting. She just hates that is often referenced as the epitome of true love.
Which makes the fact that R&J were referenced at her wedding ceremony as an example of true and everlasting love all the more amusing. The original preacher who was supposed to perform her wedding ceremony had a heart attack the day before the wedding and the visiting preacher had to step in. Not only did Preacher #2 have an accent that made him sound suspiciously like the priest from the Princess Bride (Wuv, twue wuv), but he also felt the need to ad-lib. As Betty and her husband were sitting facing wedding guests, Preacher #2 began to address the group about their love, “Wuv everlasting and pure like the wuv of Romeo and Juliet…”
Betty was not amused.
When the wedding was finally over she stomped out of the church, practically threw her bouquet on the ground and yelled, “What? So I’m supposed to [bad word deleted because I’m at work] kill myself now!?”
Unlike Betty my biggest problem with R&J is not the puppy love passing for the true sort, but that the whole situation never would have taken place if people would have just communicated. It’s the same problem I have with Othello (although, I love Iago as a character) or any other piece of work that bases the momentum of the play on a situation that could have been rather easily resolved.
The Big Misunderstanding makes me cringe. I was flipping through a book yesterday, and as soon as I realized part of the plot hinged on the Big Mis, I started mentally composing a negative review. I hadn’t even really read the thing yet! There are books out there that have successfully pulled the contrivance off, but make the motives behind it believable, but those are few and far between.
So what about you, anything that turns you off immediately or tweaks the reading experience so much that it immediately downgrades the story? Betty and I can’t be the only ones like this.
*I apologize if I’ve told this story before, but I was reminded of it when I was dining with some friends last night and the topic of Betty’s wedding came up. Also, to be completely truthful, I’m still not fully awake despite the fact that I’ve been answering phones for two hours.