It has been a while since we were in high school. We’re glad to say that technology has advanced since then.
For example, today’s high-schoolers don’t have to rack their brains all night to come up with something smart to say about Romeo and Juliet for one of those godawful Shakespeare papers. They can just go to a site called Shmoop.
Shmoop was started about a year ago by Valley entrepreneurs David and Ellen Siminoff (employee No. 6 at Yahoo, former CEO of Efficient Frontier, etc.). It’s off to a nice start…
Here’s what Shmoop says Romeo and Juliet were really doing on that balcony:
Romeo and Juliet: In A Nutshell…
A lot of people think the balcony scene is about as deep as a twelve-year-old interpretation of true love. Boy meets girl, cue sappy music. They stare into each other’s eyes and say a lot of poetic things. Anybody who makes it past the age of fourteen, of course, realises that’s not what love is about. Romeo and Juliet’s interaction can seem pretty shallow. They’re swearing that they love each other fifteen minutes after they’ve met. That’s not love – it’s infatuation.
But Romeo and Juliet is not just about what happens when two hormonal teenagers collide. It’s clear to anyone that’s watched Engaged and Underaged that getting what you want out of young love isn’t always all its cracked up to be. The real moral of the story here is that sometimes love is doomed to fail, and that applies no matter how old you are and what time you’re living in.
This story is relevant as a cautionary tale to anyone that’s ever been in love – next time you’re fresh out of a breakup and see some young couple kissing at the bus stop, you can take solace in the thought that they’re likely to break up soon via text message. At the end of the day, young love isn’t worth killing yourself over. Love like Romeo and Juliet’s just doesn’t happen in real life. If you fall into the mythical half of society that is happily married, you might take away the good feeling that passion is delightful but is useless without communication. Shakespeare reminds us that lack of communication, or communicating through your church representatives, might end up in badly timed double suicide.
It’s also important to remember that Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy, not a romance. Fine, love hits our two young heroes hard, but they act rashly, and it costs them their lives. They live in a time fraught with tension, and as there’s no omnipotent Bono-figure to call in for conflict resolution, all the odds are against them. In Shakespeare, as in life, everything is tragic when times are tragic, and even love can’t be expected to solve every problem. You can’t buy the world a Coke, and you can’t blaze through your own life living only on love. Romeo and Juliet moves us because we hope to feel the love that these two feel, but it stays with us because we’re jarred by the poignancy of their failure and loss. For all the good strategising, great sex, and poignant speeches, Romeo and Juliet is a simple lesson that love doesn’t conquer all. But it has the potential to conquer each of us. We can take solace in our shared misery or delight here, but the most important thing is that, whatever we feel, we’re all feeling it. Cold comfort, but comfort nonetheless.
Shmoop will make you a better lover (of literature, history, life). See many sides to the argument. Find your writing groove. Understand how lit and history are relevant today. We want to show your brain a good time.
Our mission: To make learning and writing more fun and relevant for students in the digital age.
Shmoop is currently a Beta Test. To paraphrase Robert Frost, we know that we still have miles to go before we sleep.
“Best of the Internet”
– PC Magazine, Jan. 2009
“Shmoop impresses me because it is intentionally about learning, and the joy of learning, not just about passing courses and jumping through educational hoops.”
– Paul Hamilton, teacher and blogger
Who Writes Shmoop?
We’re educators and experts. We’re from Ph.D. and Masters programs at Stanford, Harvard, UC Berkeley (and other top universities). The vast majority of our writers have taught at the high school or college levels.
- Learn more about Who Writes Shmoop
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“I think Shmoop is a great concept, and it is exponentially better than [ed: Website name deleted to protect the innocent], which deter kids from studying, as opposed to Shmoop which helps encourage it more.”
“I’ve been using Shmoop to study for my AP American history tests, and it is so helpful! The “Why Should I Care” section is really cool. I don’t remember ever seeing an equivalent to that on any other website, and it gives context for the information that follows.”
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