One of the characters in my current novel wonders aloud why all the famous love stories are tragedies. They invariably follow the Romeo and Juliet pattern: doomed young lovers, prevented by circumstance from having a normal married life, their story ending in premature death. Why?
Such lovers die at the height of their passion, before it has time to fade into ordinariness. Their love is obsession, infatuation, the kind of love associated with the teenage years when sex and love are powerful new forces in our lives that make us feel both desperate and intoxicated.
This powerful magnetic force transcends reason, as well as social barriers. It reminds us that the human spirit, when truly aroused, is noble and invincible. We don't want to be reminded of how the daily grind can wear down those magnificent emotions, how our spirits can be dragged down by familiarity, routine and the thousands of petty worries that beset us once we set up house and start a family.
Clearly youthful, all-consuming passion is a luxury that cannot be allowed to continue forever. Even adulterous affairs in later life can wreak havoc, if only because the passionate lovers are mooning over each other, constantly day-dreaming and texting each other, instead of getting on with their work! But we may still harbour regrets for that first, wonderful experience of love when the beloved was just perfect in every way and our whole lives revolved around them.
Who, I wonder, gets the better deal: those 'star-crossed lovers' who fade away before their love does, or we who remain with our compromised lives, lovers who turn into 'best friends' and 'companions,' no longer heroes and heroines but human beings with feet of clay.
Let us not forget that glorious sexual passion can also bring pain and misery when it is unrequited. Perhaps what we admire most about those tragic lovers is that they die before their love is tainted, still believing that their passion is everlasting.