The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet portrays the problems and triumphs and comedies of the human condition like few other stories ever have. In fact, many stories have almost exactly emulated the storyline of R & J.
The issues most particularly apply to high school students and this is why it is placed in so many 9th grade classrooms. The themes of infatuation, lust, love, jealously, secrecy, mentorship, all types of relationships, revenge and rivalry are relevant across all societies and generations. If we aren't careful to learn from others choices and consequences, we are bound to repeat them.
What a good question. I think people still study Romeo and Juliet, because the story touches the human heart in a special way, at least in the West. In short, the message still resonates. Themes of love and the challenges of love are still very much a part of our daily lives. The story also still inspires. Who does not like a good love story. In addition, the story captures the sadness of life, which all people at one time will experience. So, if a story can do all of those things, then it is no wonder that it is still relevant to us today. Finally, we should acknowledge that Shakespeare was a fabulous writer.
We still study the play 'Romeo and Juliet' by William Shakespeare because sadly the human frailties and errors of judgement are still evident in our societies and we can still learn from the works of Shakespeare. In Romeo and Juliet we learn about pettiness, glorififying fighting for its own sake, a false sense of family honour, the dangers of inpulsive behavior, the temporal quality of infatuative love, control issues in parenting, hatred and despair. We also get a sense of history and a feel for how other cultures in Europe live, or lived. The play itself is full of beautiful poetic language from which we can learn much about Elizabethan writing and theatre. It is also a very appropriate play to study with teens as it has issues that pertain to them.
In addition to the moral lessons of choice vs. fate and the tragic tale of young love, there is a subtle satire upon the infallibility of the religious habit as Friar Laurence makes fatal errors in judgment. But, above and beyond all the cogent themes of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," there is a beauty in the poetry of this play. For, the entire play is written in blank verse with two sonnets built into it. The light/dark imagery, as well, is delightfully beautiful. There are lines that readers long remember for their beautiful imagery:
Earth-treading stars that make dark heaven light (I,ii,25)
Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear--
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear! (I,v,41-44)
This is a fairly interesting question. I would say that the play is a good entry into the world of Shakespeare. There is much in there for younger audiences of Shakespeare to appreciate. The plot is fairly straightforward, so that students can focus on the language and development of characters. It is standard in most ninth grade classes, as the previous post alluded, because of its relative ease in terms of grasping. There is a line of logic which suggests that much of it is fairly "played out," but I think in terms of opening the world of Shakespeare to newer audiences, "Romeo and Juliet" is an excellent starting point from which greater appreciation can emerge.
Your question could be worded, "Why do we still study Shakespeare?"; for most teachers teach Romeo and Juliet because it is Shakespeare not just because of its themes. So, in answer that question, I always tell my students that if they can begin to appreciate Shakespeare and understand his language, then their reading and analytical skills will significantly improve--skills that we need for all aspects of life and all majors in college.
Specifically, in regards to Romeo and Juliet, the play offers many universal themes--young love, illogical feuding, teenage rebellion, suicide, etc. The play is normally studied in American high schools in the ninth grade or even in some middle schools, because most teens can identify with the conflict between parent and child, the search for a wise adviser, the struggles of romantic love, and impulsive behavior. While it is not my favorite Shakespearean play, and most critics do not consider it the playwright's best work, it is an effective introduction to Shakespeare and his more complex works, and it certainly demonstrates that humans have been struggling with the same conflicts since the beginning of time.
We continue to study Romeo and Juliet not only because it is a classic Sheakespere story but also because it is still relavant for today. See the movie West Side Story. It is the same story. It is relevant since we still have racism, prejudice, bias and racial profiling. Think of the idea of you marrying someone your parents disapproved of because they had a bias against the people group your honey came from.
How would you feel if your parents said you could not marry someone you loved simply because your loved one came from a people group your parents disapproved of? Juliet and Romeo had that problem. They solved the problem in a tragedy of errors. If you can understand the language of the story try reading a notes book on the story and then read it. Pegalita