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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: March ::
Re: *Romeo and Juliet* (*TN* Question)
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0176.  Tuesday, 7 March 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Juliet A. Youngren <
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        Date:   Monday, 6 Mar 1995 10:22:39 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Romeo & Juliet/Twelfth Night
 
(2)     From:   Michael Swanson <
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        Date:   Monday, 6 Mar 1995 12:50:24 -0500
        Subj:   Re:  [*Romeo and Juliet*]
 
(3)     From:   S. Hampton-Reeves <
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        Date:   Monday, 6 Mar 1995 12:30:17 +0000 (GMT)
        Subj:   romeo and juliet
 
(4)     From:   Curtis Shumaker <
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        Date:   Monday, 6 Mar 1995 20:18:48 -0800
        Subj:   SHK 6.0165 Re: ROMEO AND JULIET
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Juliet A. Youngren <
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Date:           Monday, 6 Mar 1995 10:22:39 -0600 (CST)
Subject:        Romeo & Juliet/Twelfth Night
 
Regarding question (2), is it possible that "in thy bosom" refers to the fact
that the marriage was secret?  Keeping something in one's bosom could mean
keeping it to oneself or secret, it seems to me.
 
Regarding question (3), it is worth noting that in Brooke's poem "Romeus and
Juliet," which was the source for R&J, it is explicitly stated that the poison
is in powder form.  Perhaps Sh. had this in mind when he had the apothercary
say "Mix this in any drink you will ...."
 
As for Twelfth Night, I understand there's a movie version somewhere with Alec
Guiness as Malvolio (made in the '50s, maybe?).  I'm afraid I don't have any
more information--I haven't even seen it.  My mother caught it on tv
unexpectedly one afternoon, and we haven't found any trace of it since then.
Anyone know more about this?
 
J.A.Y.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Swanson <
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Date:           Monday, 6 Mar 1995 12:50:24 -0500
Subject:        Re:  [*Romeo and Juliet*]
 
1)  Benvolio was a woman, and she and Mercutio were clearly as least casual
lovers.
2)  Romeo's parents were African-American, while R himself was white.
3)  The Prince was actually a princess -- an African-American woman.
4)  The friars were lovers.
 
I know that some will have trouble accepting these changes, but it was quite a
good production, with some problems in "act II" -- they cut the lamentation
scene (thereby losing some potential humor, since we know she's not dead), and
substituted a death pavane -- rather too serious for me.  But the changes above
worked well.  When Mercutio died, Benvolio's grief was much more intense and
personal than I've seen it;  the friars being gay seemed to allow Laurence to
relate more deeply to Romeo's forbidden love;  and the Princess was used more
than usual to indicate the power she held in the society -- for example, when
Lord Capulet tells Tybalt to lay off Romeo in the party scene, it's only
because the Princess is standing nearby (though this, of course, wasn't because
the Princess was female or black -- just good directing choice.)
 
Production was good enough to go on to the American College Theatre Festival's
Region III festival.
 
Incidentally, I'm pretty sure that lots of people are using Cecily Berry, and
finding that she works well, and allows actors into the text and the rhythm
without feeling the need for sing-song readings that "iambic pentameter" can
seem to imply.  Her definition of the rhythmic scheme may be slightly off, but
her method -- including that on verse -- has good results, from what I've seen
among actors and students.
 
 Michael Swanson, Franklin College
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           S. Hampton-Reeves <
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Date:           Monday, 6 Mar 1995 12:30:17 +0000 (GMT)
Subject:        romeo and juliet
 
I disagree with Dan How when he says that there was nothing unusual about
thirteen year olds getting married in the sixteenth century. In the first act
of *Romeo and Juliet*, we learn pretty quickly that Juliet is 13 (we are told
this several times), that the nurse and Lady Capulet were younger than that
when they married, and all the local 13 year olds are already pregnant. If such
marriages were commonplace for Shakespeare's audience, why does he go on about
them so much here?
 
After all, Anne Hathaway was twice as old as Juliet when she married. According
to Joyce Youings (*Sixteenth-Century England*,1984), this was not an exception,
more like the rule: "as in most of the countries of western Europe, men and
women in sixteenth-century England married late, that is, in relation both to
their attainment of the legal age of consent and also to their physical
maturity. Men, on average, married for the first time in their middle to late
twenties and women some four or five years younger ... there were few teenage
marriages." (p.368). On the other hand, "upper class people on the whole
married younger ... though rarely under fifteen." (p.379). It is Youings's
thesis that late marriages acted as a way to control population - it was also
financially convinient to delay having children for some years (life expectancy
was short but not that short). Later on, Youings notes that the number of
teenage marriages increased towards the end of the sixteenth century - possibly
Shakespeare was writing *Romeo and Juliet* in response to these social changes?
 
I'm no expert and possibly there is more up-to-date research refuting Youings's
conclusions. It would be interesting to know if there is a debate about this,
and what implications this has for readings of *Romeo and Juliet*. Another
thought: why does Shakespeare change Juliet's age from the definitely
uncontroversial 16 (Brooke) to 13?
 
Stuart Reeves
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Curtis Shumaker <
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Date:           Monday, 6 Mar 1995 20:18:48 -0800
Subject: Re: ROMEO AND JULIET
Comment:        SHK 6.0165 Re: ROMEO AND JULIET
 
Hello, friends,
 
This is my first post to the conference so, hello and  please have mercy. This
is in reply to Marcia's about the final scene in R&J. I would agree that the
lines about Tybalt and the bosom are probably metaphor. As to the question of
the cup and the poison I may have an idea.
 
I don't think you need to worry about the Apothecary's instructions in ActV sc
i. He tells Romeo that the posion should be mixed with liquid. That doesn't
necessarily means it has to be. The haste with which Romeo seems to be possesed
with would preclude any mixing of drinks in my mind. The posion might work even
faster with out diluting it. As seen in the final scene Romeo barely has time
to get out his two lines before collapsing. This suggests as well as Romeo's
apparent haste that he did not worry about mixing.
 
The cup is another matter. Instead of bringing it in could it not be possible
that it is already there. Give me leave while I attempt to set a stage picture
for you. I am not up on the burial customs of the people of Verona so this is
merely a theatrical solution not a textual one. Would it be out of place for
the Scenic Designer to create a crypt that not only has people but, things as
well. These are not the Pharohs but would it be to far fetched to have
memorabilia of the Capulet family of the past in there as well. Say, a chalice
or two of  former heads of the Capulets. This would give Romeo an exciting
moment when he pulls out the vial and seals his fate by taking down and
drinking from the cup of his enemy. I think it would be a nice bit of irony
that he uses his "new" families belongings to join them forever in eternal
peace. That is how I might solve this oddity, but I am an actor and director
not a scholar. I always look for the dramatic finish.
 
Hope this is helpful,
                        Curt
 

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