Why Shakespeare would love Fleabag

“These violent delights have violent ends/ And in their triump die, like fire and powder/ Which, as they kiss, consume”

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

It’s rude, crude, violent (to head, heart and limb), outrageous and tragically romantic – Shakespeare would lurv it…and love it, frivolously, earnestly and always truthfully. Fleabag. Season two especially; there is SO much Romeo and Juliet in there – the star-cross’d lovers whose misadventure piteous overthrows.

It takes only first sight and the fuel of a family feud to incite calamity. (That dinner…yes, that dinner (“Get your hands off my miscarriage – it’s mine!” Pardon the digression…but that dinner!).

Imagine the Globe theatre 1610, three years before it was destroyed by a fire and then rebuilt, and then closed (along with other London theatres) in 1642 as a representative of “lascivious Mirth and Levity” – how apt.

Imagine Fleabag (played by a man, of course); she/he enters the stage and contemplates the merits of anal sex and stealing art from one’s almost mother-in-law. The plebs in the yard hurl astute boos and putrid fruit at Fleabag and her/his vulgar immorality whilst the richies in the seats feign intolerance with stifled giggles and horrified expressions.

And then Fleabag meets a hot priest, falls in love and tragedy renders empathy, tears replacing taunts.

That’s Shakespeare. Unsubtle irony.

We’ve got a family feud and love at first sight. Check.

Sex. Yes but only once (with the priest). Check.

A pure virgin – uh no (understatement)…unless we count the hot priest as sort of virginal. Check (kind of).

Suicide. Perhaps metaphoric? Whilst Fleabag and the hot priest perform hara-kiri on their love (which, like Romeo and Juliet’s is only a few days old, yet, strangely believable) there is hope in the tragedy; the hot priest affirms his true love (God) and Fleabag finds, well, herself but perhaps most essentially, hope and thus life. It’s as if the stars of the lovers crossed to the purpose of betterment.

Sadly, in Shakespeare’s love story, it took the end of life to initiate the end of a destructive family feud. The Montagues and Capulets hating on one another with reckless disregard. A stark reminder that people are pretty lame…and selfish and weird, pondered by Shakespeare in a tale of powerful woe and whimsy and by Phoebe Waller-Bridge with self-reflexive, grief-stricken, slightly sadistic rhetoric. But, in spite of all our brokenness, we’re also good at love, when we’re not being Fleabags:

“Love is awful. It’s painful. Frightening. It makes you doubt yourself, judge yourself, distance yourself from the other people in your life. Makes you selfish, makes you creepy, makes you obsessed with your hair. It takes strength to know what’s right. And love isn’t something that weak people do. Being a romantic takes a hell of a lot of hope.”

The Hot Priest, Fleabag

If that’s not Shakespearean then FUCK YOU “weakie” – in the words of Fleabag.