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Romeo and Juliet is one of playwright William Shakespeare's most well-known and enduring tragedies. Two powerful families, the Montagues and the Capulets, are embroiled in a Cold War in the town of Verona. The play also includes several other unaligned characters, namely Mercutio and Prince Escalus. The two most important denizens of the city, Juliet of the Capulets and Romeo of the Montagues, are caught up in a relationship that is discouraged by both houses. Matters are further complicated by Juliet's betrothal to Count Paris, a member of the ruling house of Verona. A complex plan is forged by Juliet and a local clergyman, Friar Laurence. However, the plot is rife with miscommunication. Living up to its categorization as a tragedy, the play ends with the deaths of three of its most prominent roles, Romeo, Juliet, and Count Paris. Additionally, Mercutio, Romeo's friend, is killed in a duel earlier in the play. His death resounds with Holden Caulfield the most.

Catcher in the RyeEdit

Education Edit

Caulfield's discussion about Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet exposes an enigma of his education. Caulfield has moved around from prep school to prep school. Early on in the novel, it is revealed that Caulfield is not a good student, and has failed a vast majority of his classes. The one anomaly is his English grade, but in even that class his grades are poor. Despite all this, he casually discuss Shakespeare on a train. Even today, a teenager carrying on a conversation about sixteenth century poetry would be viewed with respect and interpreted as intelligent. In addition to this, he consistently refers to other books and authors with triviality. As Caulfield discusses the play, he does not simply recite facts or impose his knowledge, but carefully analyzes the characters and thinks. He thinks about their actions and internalizes their emotions. Caulfield, in this particular encounter, comes across as an educated and smart young man, but his school record disputes this image. It is as if their is a disconnection between Holden Caulfield's mind and the paper. He defies expectations.

This could be due to Caulfield's difficulty in dealing with authority. He is not arrogant or belligerent, but when he faces someone who demands him to do something, he falters. This appears when he fights with Maurice in the city. Caulfield is at the disadvantage, yet will not back down. Likewise, he makes few lasting connections with superiors or even adults. His relationships with his parents is strained, and they play no physical role in the plot. Aside from two teachers, Caulfield mostly only interacts with people his own age or younger.

Another factor that may play a role in his awkwardness with adults, is a fact that is briefly mentioned in chapter 24. After Caulfield's encounter with Mr. Antolini, he mentions that awkward situations like that had happened to him "about twenty times since [he] was a kid" (Salinger 193). Events like this would definitely have impacted Caulfield's life in some way. His ineptness when dealing with adults may be due to a general distrust stemming from being taken advantage of as a child. Needless to say, Holden Caulfield is an intelligent person, but has some social issues and is apprehensive about entering the adult world.

"All those Montagues and Capulets, they're all right - especially Juliet - but Mercutio, he was - it's hard to explain"
-Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye, page 111

Mercutio Edit

Of all the characters in Romeo and Juiet, Holden Caulfield identifies with, and feels for, Mercutio the most. He explains that despite Mercutio playing a minor role in the play, he was saddened by his death the most, even more than Juliet's or Romeo's. Mercutio was a neutral party, although a friend of Romeo, he was a member of neither house. His death was unwarranted and uncalled for, as he was not a participant in the family feud. He was innocent. Caulfield values innocence greatly, and he sees that in Mercutio. He claims that Mercutio's death was Romeo's fault. Caulfield views Mercutio's death the same way he views the loss of innocence by a child. Both are unnecessary, and both are painful to watch, yet death is inevitable, as is a child's entrance into adult hood. However, both are unfortunate when they come too early. Caulfield cherishes the innocence of a child, as he lost much of his with the death of his younger brother by the sword of illness, just like Mercutio by Tybalt. Holden Caulfield sees in Mercutio innocence, something which he cherishes. He is saddened by Mercutio's death above all else as he sees in it the loss of innocence.


Brown, Mather. Romeo and Juliet. 1805. Oil on canvas. Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon.

"Romeo and Juliet." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 3 Jan. 2015. Web. 7 Jan. 2015.

Salinger, Jerome D. The Catcher in the Rye. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1951. Print.