Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Relationship: Hamlet and Ophelia
Method: Hamlet played the “hot and cold and crazy” method on Ophelia. At first, he ogled her in her room, quite creepily I might add, and then subsequently yelled at her to “get thee to a nunnery” — definitely textbook hot and cold and crazy breakup methodology. Eventually, he kills her father Polonius (by accident of course) by stabbing him several times through a curtain. Even though he thought he was ousting Claudius, his father’s supposed killer, the fact remains that he murdered the poor girl’s father. This leads Ophelia to go mad and eventually drown herself. Relationship over.
Modern Dating Adaptation: This is definitely one of the more drastic breakup moves, involving first-degree murder, suicide, and poison, among many other tragic ends. But what the modern man can take from Hamlet’s actions, however, is the “hot and cold and crazy” breakup method. I wouldn’t suggest stabbing anyone or even “accidentally” committing murder, but some solid manic behavior should be enough to have a girl leave you to your crazy antics in no time.
The Importance of Being Earnest By Oscar Wilde
Relationship: John and Gwendolen; Algernon and Cecily
Method: Between falsifying a country house, a brother, a friend, and multiple names, both John and Algernon lied more than an MLB player in a courtroom. Yet, neither man was left by his love interest. Even though these relationships were set up on some shaky foundation, the men didn’t quite suck enough to end up dead or alone (like most of the other men on this list). John was discovered as a baby in a handbag, so maybe he just had a predisposition for never losing affection from women.
Modern Dating Adaptation: Although no relationships were ended in this play, there is still some valuable breakup advice hidden in the story. Case in point, sometimes lying is not enough. You may change your name only to find out she likes your new name much better. Instead, do the exact opposite. Never lie about anything, complete and utter honesty — think Jim Carey in Liar Liar. If asked what your favorite thing to do is on a free afternoon, say going to the movies… by yourself. When questioned about where you see yourself in 15 years, simply state the truth: on a La-Z-Boy watching the game with your beer gut supporting a bowl of Cheetos and a cherry-flavored Big Gulp. Yep, that should do it.
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Relationship: Willy and Linda Loman
Method: Willy Loman killed his relationship with his addiction to his work. He traveled across the country constantly and was never present enough to truly understand his slacker family. He thought everyone should be in business, and didn’t know much else. So, when he loses his job he pretty much loses his purpose and direction in life. This leads him to commit a suicidal car crash so his son, Biff (not the one from Back to the Future), can cash in on his life insurance policy and use it as capital for a successful business. Biff doesn’t use the money, and in the end, Willy is still dead.
Modern Dating Adaptation: Again, I urge you to avoid the path that leads to any sort of death or dismemberment; however, obsessing over your career is still a surefire way to end a relationship. Constantly blabbering about how your boss likes his coffee or how you’ve sold more Mustang GTs than any other salesman in the Greater Duluth area will definitely not win you any points. A couple months of these work conversations and your girlfriend may suggest you run your car into a tree for her, too.
Antony and Cleopatra / Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Relationship: See titles
Method: In both of these tragedies, the men think their significant other is dead (in which case, no breakup needed!). This leads them to commit suicide, only to find out later (the reader that is) that the women are, in fact, alive! The men’s deaths, however, lead both ingénues to kill themselves in stereotypical Shakespearian fashion. In any event, if one or more parties are no longer living, it’s safe to assume the relationship is dead.
Modern Dating Adaptation: What is the modern breakup adaptation of these stories? Killing one’s self on the internet! Delete your Facebook profile, block your Twitter account, and remove all Instagram photos — it’s like you don’t even exist. You can’t be “Facebook Official” if you don’t have a Facebook profile. The lack of tagged photos and general presence of an internet life will lead to a lingering, but no doubt, eventual breakup.
The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard
Relationship: Henry and Charlotte; Max and Annie
Method: Henry is a playwright and his wife Charlotte is an actress. Max is an actor in Henry’s plays, who’s married to a woman named Annie in real life but is married to Charlotte on stage. Got it? Well, Annie leaves Max for Henry, and both Charlotte and Max eventually move on to other people. Henry discovers Charlotte was unfaithful during their entire marriage, and he also learns of Annie’s trysts with her co-star Billy during their marriage as well. In total, Henry, Charlotte, and Annie all manage to cheat on each other. Whew, I’m surprised Tom Stoppard didn’t name this play The Real World.
Modern Dating Adaptation: If you really want to mess up a relationship (or multiple relationships), this play seems to say, “move to Hollywood.” With the end of Brad & Jennifer, Tom & Katie, and countless other A-list actor romances, this seems like sound advice. But if The Real Thing has one main piece of advice, it is, whatever you do, don’t become a writer.