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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: February ::
Re: R&J Prologue
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0329  Wednesday, 16 February 2000.

[1]     From:   Kirk Hendershott-Kraetzer <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 15 Feb 2000 17:36:10 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0321 Re: R&J Prologue

[2]     From:   Abdulla Al-Dabbagh <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 15 Feb 2000 23:59:12 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0296 Query on R&J Prologue

[3]     From:   Peter T. Hadorn <
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        Date:   Wed, 16 Feb 2000 08:48:55 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 11.0321 Re: R&J Prologue


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kirk Hendershott-Kraetzer <
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Date:           Tuesday, 15 Feb 2000 17:36:10 -0500
Subject: 11.0321 Re: R&J Prologue
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0321 Re: R&J Prologue

Marilyn Bonomi has mentioned that her college professor told her that
Shakespeare almost certainly did not write the Prol, to Romeo and
Juliet.  There's an interesting discussion that speaks to this issue in
E. Pearlman's "Shakespeare at Work:  Romeo and Juliet" (ELR 24 [1994]:
315-42).

Pearlman argues, in short, that Shakespeare wrote the Choric segments,
but that he abandoned the device of a Chorus as he continued to work on
and revise the play-in effect, the two remaining Choric segments are
"vestigial . . . residue of Shakespeare's first intention" (322).
Although initially "Unsure of his ultimate purposes" (322), as
Shakespeare grew more confident in his drama and in his abilities, he
set by the well-worn dramatic templates-such as the Chorus-that he used
when he started to write.

There's more to the essay than this, obviously, and while the tone is
speculative, Pearlman does ground it in some fairly tight textual
study.  Well worth a look.

Regards,
Kirk Hendershott-Kraetzer

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abdulla Al-Dabbagh <
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Date:           Tuesday, 15 Feb 2000 23:59:12 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 11.0296 Query on R&J Prologue
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0296 Query on R&J Prologue

Marilyn A. Bonomi writes:

On a more thematic level, within the play ONLY Romeo professes a belief
in stars, fate, Fortune. Every other character recognizes the primacy of
human action.  And yet the Prologue asserts that the pair are
"star-crossed lovers"  "whose misadventured, piteous overthrows" lead to
the end of the feud with their own lives.  The play does NOT to me seem
to support Fortune as the culprit; it seems much more to me a tragedy of
character, albeit not a very profound one in comparison to the later
plays.

May I be permitted a bit of self-advertisement and point to an article
of mine that will appear in THE COMPARATIST (Journal of the Southern
Comparative Literature Association) in May under the title of "The
Oriental Framework of ROMEO AND JULIET", which addresses precisely this
issue? A brief abstract of it would run something like this:

Early twentieth-century critical attention concentrated almost
exclusively on the structure, the characterization and the imagery of
ROMEO AND JULIET.  Since then, the content of the work has usually been
rather schematically discussed as "themes" of "fate" and "love". The
play is almost always compared, to its detriment, with Shakespeare's
"mature" tragedies. Even when acknowledged as one of Shakespeare's great
works, the status of the play in later criticism has remained
problematic. This critical confusion, reflected in the debate on whether
this is a "tragedy of fate" or a "tragedy of character", stems basically
from the failure of modern criticism to establish the proper framework
within which the play should be understood.  It is the argument of this
paper that the oriental mode of love and, more specifically, the Islamic
Sufi concepts of the unity of existence and of love as light in a dark
world provided the appropriate perspective from which this play is best
approached.  Such a focus, in addition to linking the play directly to
the oriental genre of tragic romance and thus suggesting a hitherto
unidentified solution to the generic problem, will also provide an
excellent all-encompassing context for the dominant literary motif (the
oxymoron), the dominant pattern of imagery (light and dark) and the key
conceptual issue of fate and free will that run throughout the play.

Sincerely,
Abdulla al-Dabbagh

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter T. Hadorn <
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Date:           Wed, 16 Feb 2000 08:48:55 -0600
Subject: 11.0321 Re: R&J Prologue
Comment:        RE: SHK 11.0321 Re: R&J Prologue

Regarding R&J's sonnets.  I think a few things are going on.  First I
see the prologues heightening are awareness of the story of R&J as a
STORY.  Just as we in the audience are connecting to the characters and
the stories as "real" in act 1, here comes a prologue to shock us out of
it.  Consider the final lines: "Never was there a story of more woe,"
etc.  Consider all the book/writing imagery in the play ("you kiss by
the book").  It is, I think, part of the idealizing process of this
play: they become ART in this play ("I'll turn 'em into statues as
reminders to us all" their dads say.

Also, the sonnets remind us of Petrarchan love sonnet conventions.
Early in the play, Romeo is a walking Petrarchan cliche, sighing and
weeping over Rosaline.  Shakespeare is going to change him and our
expectations about love in this play.

Regarding who's to blame.  I blame Shakespeare.  I usually pair R&J with
"A Midsummer Night's Dream."  Why doesn't Juliet follow Romeo to
Mantua?  She says she'll follow him anywhere in the balcony scene.  Her
father says later that, if she refuses to marry Paris, she is free to
leave the house.  Why, like Hermia, doesn't she go?  If we look at the
sources, Shakespeare shortens the time of this play from weeks to days
(4 to be exact).  There is an awful lot of bad timing coincidences
(Romeo missing the friar's message, Romeo happening to encounter
Capulet's servant who can't read, etc.).  He also makes them
considerably younger.  For Juliet, it's from 16 to 13.  These kids are
too YOUNG to be making such adult decisions.  So I also blame the
friar-who should know better-whose meddling with magic potions made from
flowers (like Puck) has his good intentions foiled by a "power mightier
than" he (again, like Puck).

I don't blame Juliet, for whom marriage, up until this play starts, was
an honor she thought not on.  Romeo is to blame, I think, only as he
acts rashly.  He is, I think, a fish of Fortune's buttering: one of
Machiavelli's stooges who has given up both halves of his destiny.  But
then again, he's just a kid.  So ultimately let's also blame the
patriarchal society of Verona which equates marriage with motherhood and
sex with violence and so never gave these two kids a break.
 

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