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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: December ::
Re: Juliet and the "inconstant moon"
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1248.  Monday, 22 December 1997.

[1]     From:   Bradley S. Berens <
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        Date:   Saturday, 20 Dec 1997 09:26:45 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1245  Q: Juliet and the "inconstant moon"

[2]     From:   John Velz <
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        Date:   Mondayy, 22 Dec 1997 01:09:25 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1245  Q: Juliet and the "inconstant moon"


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bradley S. Berens <
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Date:           Saturday, 20 Dec 1997 09:26:45 -0800
Subject: 8.1245  Q: Juliet and the "inconstant moon"
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1245  Q: Juliet and the "inconstant moon"

Dear Marilyn A. Bonomi,

I found your student's question fascinating, and while one small part of
me thought, "sometimes a moon is just a moon" most of me didn't.

If you take a gander at some of the scholarly editions of the play (the
Variorum, and Evans' New Cambridege, for example) you'll find a general
consensus that the line is a Renaissance commonplace, and many think it
has little to do with Diana or chastity.

However, there are several directions to go here.

#1)  Is there a difference between making a comparison to classical
literature (e.g. "she hath Dian's wit") in a learned witty way and
actually taking an oath in those terms?  In other words, what would the
status or force of Romeo's oath be if he took it to a pagan god?  And
what is a good Christian girl like Juliet doing saying that Romeo is the
"god of her idolatry?"

#2)  What does an implicit reminder that the balcony scene is
potentially unchaste do to a playgoer's moral evaluation of Romeo and
Juliet?  and why would Shakespeare deploy such a troubling question at
this moment?

#3)  Can you widen the context of the discussion to include lines like
"it is the east and Juliet is the sun" along with Romeo's oath to the
moon?  Are the oath and the sun-comparison complementary or
incompatible?

Mostly, I think that your student has asked an interesting question that
does not have a conclusive answer, which is the best sort of question
there is.  Your student should be congratulated.

        Happy Holidays!
        Bradley Berens

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Velz <
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Date:           Mondayy, 22 Dec 1997 01:09:25 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 8.1245  Q: Juliet and the "inconstant moon"
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1245  Q: Juliet and the "inconstant moon"

M.A. Bonomi, and others who may have an interest:

The moon is inconstant because she changes monthly to full from new
etc.  Since women are connected to the moon by menstrual cycle, women
have been thought inconstant  (Virgil says that women are ever
"mutabile", e.g., and it was a truism in the renaissance.)  The
delicious thing is that women in Shakespeare tend to be constant in love
and men to be the fickle ones.  Try reading *A Midsummer Night's Dream*
in these terms, and enjoy.  (In other ways as well, the two plays are
companion pieces:  love in a tomb, war between two families, attempt to
force a girl in each play into a marriage she abhors.  Even the imagery
of lightning in the balcony scene and in 1.1 of MND.)  The two plays
belong together in your mind if not also in the minds of your students.
I would like to teach them to h.s. students as a pair.

Cheers,
John Velz
 

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