Heathcliff: A Dark Romeo

     Almost all girls dream of having a man in their lives like Romeo from Shakespeare's classic work Romeo and Juliet. They picture them being handsome and bold, but sometimes one does not get what one wants.. There is an old Chinese proverb that states, "Beware what you wish for," and this advice could have saved many a life from despair and agony. One such life that could have been saved is Catherine's.

     The character Heathcliff, from Emily Brontė's 1847 Wuthering Heights, filmed in 1939 by William Wyler, at first seems to be very much what the ideal man is considered to be, bold and daring. Upon further exposition, though, he (Laurence Olivier) is touched with a sort of madness that twists his condition to a darker side. Like Shakespeare's Romeo, he loves the woman (Merle Oberon) he cares for deeply and would do anything for her; but, whereas Romeo accepted his lot in life and tried to work around what was, Heathcliff attempts to twist reality to his liking. This twisting of reality may have deepened his madness and brought him to more perverse and grotesque deeds.

     His marriage to Isabella (Geraldine Fitzgerald), which seemed at the beginning to be of a genuine affection for her, is later revealed to be more or a spiteful act when reality will not bend the way he wishes it to. He seems almost childlike in that, if he cannot be happy, he does not think anyone else should be. One can almost feel the vehemence and anger laced into the glares he gives Edgar for stealing what he thought was his.

     This also gives us some deeper insight into his character. Whereas Romeo regarded all people as having their own free will and choices, Heathcliff regards everyone else as mere objects and is quite indifferent to everyone but Cathy. It would seem that in his own private world he and Cathy are the only inhabitants. This would eventually lead to an even deeper well of madness for him, especially when Cathy marries one of these objects over him (David Niven), and stays with him after Heathcliff asks her to leave him.

     Another parallel that can be drawn between the two characters is their deaths, both brought around by their own choosing; but, whereas Romeo's death was by poison in his secret wife's arms Heathcliff's was a wasting death. Heathcliff did not eat or sleep for a very long time, and by doing such weakened his own state to the point that his body finally accepted what his soul had possibly longed for the entire time, death.

     One distinct difference can be observed between Shakespeare's Romeo and Heathcliff though, friends. His friends and companions in arms always surrounded Romeo whereas Heathcliff faces the world alone. This lone fact would drive one to ask whether it be the man who makes his own destiny, or his friends.

Bryan McGregor

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