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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: August ::
Re: Adult Spin-offs; Lust in Rom.
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0753  Wednesday, 12 August 1998.

[1]     From:   Harry Hill <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 11 Aug 1998 13:56:28 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0750  Re: Discussion of Adult Spin-offs

[2]     From:   Marilyn Bonomi <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 11 Aug 1998 14:28:16 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 9.0750; Romeo & Juliet(Was part of porn discussion)

[3]     From:   Paul S. Rhodes <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 11 Aug 1998 15:02:09 -0600
        Subj:   Romeo & Juliet's downfall


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Hill <
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Date:           Tuesday, 11 Aug 1998 13:56:28 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 9.0750  Re: Discussion of Adult Spin-offs
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0750  Re: Discussion of Adult Spin-offs

Re: Porn

"I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue...."

Wee Johnnie Milton,Esq.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marilyn Bonomi <
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Date:           Tuesday, 11 Aug 1998 14:28:16 -0400
Subject: 9.0750; Romeo & Juliet (Was part of porn discussion )
Comment:        Re SHK 9.0750; Romeo & Juliet (Was part of porn discussion )

Responding to Paul S. Rhodes statement that R&J is about Romantic Love
with both physical and spiritual components,  Larry Weiss comments:

>I agree, for the most part.  But in my view of the play, it is the
>physical aspects of the relationship-the characters' impatient lust for
>each other-that overwhelms all else and brings about their downfall.
>Lust may be said to be their tragic flaw, as ambition is Macbeth's,
>vanity is Brutus's, etc.  While it is a perversion of the play to
>portray R & J as perpetually concupiscent, that may be a better reading
>than showing them as mooning over each other because of their need for
>companionship.

I take issue with Larry's suggestion that both Romeo and Juliet are
lusting for each other in a physical sense.

Romeo, in fact, desires not Juliet's body but simply the sacrament of
marriage, if we take his words as he speaks them.  (I'm working from
memory here; my citations may not be absolutely word-perfect.)

In 2.2, when Juliet asks, "What satisfaction canst thou have tonight?"
(and we all like to think she is rejecting a sexual satisfaction, I
suppose?), Romeo replies, "Th'exhange of thy love's faithful vow for
mine."  Then, in 2.6, as the Friar is waiting w/ Romeo for Juliet to
arrive, Romeo says "Do thou but close our hands with holy words / Then
love-devouring death do what he dare / It is enough I may but call her
mine."

Juliet's first reaction to meeting Romeo?  "If he be married / The grave
is like to be my wedding bed" (1.5).  And she calls on Death to be her
paramour on several other occasions, as for example, in 3.2: "And Death,
not Romeo, take my maidenhead."

What Romeo and Juliet both lust after is death.  Perhaps the best
example (beyond even Romeo's puerile puling in 3.3 when he wants to
"sack the hateful mansion" where his name is found) is in 5.1 when he
decided to "defy you, stars" and dash back to Verona to kill himself by
Juliet's side.  Here, he risks death to find death, a pattern repeated
when he duels and kills Paris in order to be able to kill himself in
safety, if you will.

Having taught the play to 15 and 16-year-olds for the past 33 years, I
have come to see all the participants in this sorry story as so deeply
flawed as to arouse little sympathy.  While I am as much of a sappy
romantic (note lower case there!) as I was in my teens, I simply cannot
find much sympathy for these two.  However, I also cannot find much
legitimate sexual intensity either.  I think they're both playing at
love while courting death.  And that is a sorry story to share with
students.  (So I tend not to point out this lust directly; more often
each year students find it there themselves.)

Marilyn Bonomi

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul S. Rhodes <
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Date:           Tuesday, 11 Aug 1998 15:02:09 -0600
Subject:        Romeo & Juliet's downfall

Mr. Weiss wrote:

>But in my view of the play, it is the
>physical aspects of the relationship-the characters' impatient lust for
>each other-that overwhelms all else and brings about their downfall.
>Lust may be said to be their tragic flaw, as ambition is Macbeth's,
>vanity is Brutus's, etc.  While it is a perversion of the play to
>portray R & J as perpetually concupiscent, that may be a better reading
>than showing them as mooning over each other because of their need for
>companionship.

I write:

Lust cannot be a tragic flaw in the Aristotelian Sense because lust is
not an admirable quality.  An Aristotelian Tragic Flaw is also the
Hero's most noble trait.  That said, lust can certainly be the cause of
someone's downfall.  But, I suggest it isn't the cause of R&J's
downfall.  In Shakespeare's world, no one is willing to die for lust.
_Measure for Measure_ tells us as much.  Why?  Because lust makes the
soul weak (e.g.  Claudio).  A weak soul can hardly muster up enough
courage to die for something noble, much less something ignoble like
Lust.  Romeo and Juliet hardly had weak souls.  Whatever their tragic
flaw or cause of their downfall might have been, it most certainly was
not lust.

Paul S. Rhodes
 

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