Firstly, who doesn't obviously compare Bella and Edward to Romeo and Juliet. Juliet on a balcony with Romeo below; Bella at the upstairs window with Edward below; lovers destined to be with one another but separated by unnatural hatred of warring houses or unnatural love of species; la tua cantate and star-crossed lovers; blah, blah, blah...Get it?
It is worthy of note that Shakespeare's lovers are "star-crossed" which serves to intimate that the stars themselves have predestined the love and end of that love. Conversely, Meyer sets her novel in an area of the North American rainforest that rarely sees sun let alone stars, therefore their fate cannot be "predestined" by the stars. Not even Alice, with her visions of the future, is not right all of the time although she could be construed as a Greek Oracle--that is for another discussion.
Alright, so what seems to be the major theme for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is love--specifically young, passionate love, even forbidden love. The same can be said for Meyer's first two books, Twilight & New Moon. Our lovers in both cases can't not avoid one another. For Romeo and Juliet they are doomed lovers. Choices, circumstances, and misunderstandings lead to their deaths. However, in Twilight, Meyer doesn't doom her lovers' love to death but rather seals their fate to loving one another for eternity in this life and not yet in heaven as are Shakespeare's lovers.
Romeo and Edward are similar in one important way--each makes a conscious decision towards love and the circumstances that surround it. Romeo and Edward are aware of the hazards of breaking social expectations and prior commitments not only to self but family as well. Neither one are subjects of the Greek tragedy or hamartia. They have no real tragic flaw because they choose their paths and make mistakes. For example, Romeo confronts and challenges Thibault after Mercutio's death. He chooses to kill Thibault not because he is flawed to do so but because of his circumstance. Romeo must uphold his family’s honor—it is a social norm of the time that cannot be ignored. By comparison, Edward chooses to save Bella from being crushed by Tyler's van not only because he loves her but also because of his circumstance: he is impossibly fast and can get to her before the van; he must save his family from exposure because allowing Bella's blood to be spilled would have rendered Jasper uncontrollable as well as himself. Hamartia in the essential Greek sense means"to have a moral deficit". In this light it is clear that neither Romeo nor Edward have any such defect in their morality.
A major motif in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is the imagery of light and dark: Loyalty to family or loyalty to love. The imagery in Twilight saga is similar. Fascinatingly, light is not always good and dark is not always bad but there are many shades of gray. Lines are blurred--this is especially true in New Moon. Bella is in conflict as Edward leaves her "for her own safety". She falls into a dark place for months as her depression deepens over her loss of Edward. She eventually seeks companionship from Jacob Black. Bella is not romantically in love with Jacob and only cares for him as her very best friend. When she learns that Jacob is a "werewolf" and has a hatred of all vampires--good or bad--her lines of what is right or wrong, light or dark become blurred. She can not convince Jacob that not all vampires are bad and would not violate the ancient treaty of the Quilleuttes. Bella describes Jacob as being like Paris in the tale of Romeo and Juliet:
The use of the light and dark imagery in Romeo and Juliet is also to show conflicting alternatives of equating the light of someone in one's life to the darkness--death in a sense; in Bella's case, a hole--that the absence of that beloved can exhibit. Juliet is Romeo's sun and Edward is Bella's light and comfort and vise versa. In Romeo's soliloquy under the balcony, as he contemplates the sun and the moon saying that Juliet is the sun and he wishes to banish the moon so that he may only have his sunlight. He continues in his wish to stay with his "light", Juliet, the morning after their only night together, “More light and light, more dark and dark our woes” (III.v.3). Romeo, like Edward, has no wish to live in a world where his light is not.
Similarly, Bella pursues "more light and light" as she tries to fill her need to hold on to Edward after he has left. She pursues dangerous "extreme sports" that she might hear his voice warning her to stop what she is doing. She has no wish to release him from her life and she states as much in New Moon as she mulls over Shakespeare's lovers: "She (Juliet) would never have moved on...Even if she lived until she was old and gray, every time she closed her eyes, it would have been Romeo's face she saw behind her lids". Bella cannot live in this manner. She, like Juliet, cannot live without her Romeo following him in to death, if necessary, so as not to be without him: "I'd never seen anything more beautiful--even as I ran, gasping and screaming, I could appreciate that. And the last seven months meant nothing. And his words in the forest meant nothing. And it did not matter if he did not want me. I would never want anything but him, no matter how long I lived" (New Moon, page 451). Similarly, Juliet feels the same upon waking from her false death to discover her lover, her only love, truly dead, "O happy dagger! This is thy sheath. There rust, and let me die" (Act V.iii).
I do not fault Ms. Meyer in her choice to share such similar imagery--either conscious or unconscious. Rather, I am pleased and admire her for doing so. She has given a generation of young readers the ability to relate Romeo and Juliet toward their own lives. For me and some of my friends--Jeanene--she is a hope that we, too, can publish our own works!--MH
"Tempt not a desperate man" - William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, 5.3