|Deirdre and Naisi, Breogan|
Well, there's that king. He's not happy about this interloper. And he's also not above using treachery, magic, and plain old pettiness to avenge his wounded pride. By the time the story's done, Naisi and his brothers have been murdered, and Deirdre - who tried belatedly to warn them of the dangers of hanging out with her - has died of a broken heart, but only after having been married for a year to King Backstabber. And the worst part is that they go into danger knowing that they could die. Deirdre's ominous dreams, the warnings of Naisi's brothers, even the prophecy that started the whole shebang are all openly discussed and perfectly interpreted. They know exactly what faces them, and they still can't change their fates.
|Lancelot and Guinevere, Herbert James Draper|
|Romeo and Juliet, Frank Dicksee|
But here's the catch. Even though pretty much everyone can agree that each pair of lovers creates their own problems, no story ever takes them to task for the impulsiveness and recklessness that leads them to separation and/or death. Deirdre and Naisi are fulfilling a prophesied fate; Lancelot and Guinevere are used as pawns by Mordred; the Weaving Princess and the Cowherd are perhaps most sympathetic because they're most human, stumbling through life with no foreshadowing and reacting to things as they happen. And Romeo and Juliet get romanticized to a ludicrous extent. They were incredibly lucky that the greatest poet of the English language made their story famous. Without Shakespeare's exquisite words, they'd be a couple of innocently moronic teenagers who made their bed and now have to lie in it. As it is, they're the English byword for true love, with countless silly songs using their names as shorthand. (No, Taylor Swift wasn't the first one to misread the play. She's just the most obvious.)
So even when the lovers themselves contribute materially to their own destruction, they're not really blamed. Storytellers may be trying to hammer home a moral about rash impulse, but even they fall under the spell of an all-consuming love. It's an easy thing to do. Two people who sacrifice everything, including themselves, for each other, is an incredibly attractive story. In fact, the lovers who make that sacrifice get immortalized far more readily than those who don't. Prince Charming and his princess of choice have a zillion iterations; Romeo and Juliet are unique, and instantly recognizable. It's as if the making of that sacrifice elevates a particular love above all the other couples who, for all we know, would have given their lives for each other just as readily. But it wasn't asked of them, and so they're not the celebrated ones.
|Romeo and Juliet, Joseph Wright|