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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: November ::
Re: MND Tops Survey
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2626  Tuesday, 20 November 2001

[1]     From:   Billy Houck <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 Nov 2001 10:58:22 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2618 Re: MND Tops Survey

[2]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 Nov 2001 08:37:01 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2618 Re: MND Tops Survey

[3]     From:   Mari Bonomi <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 Nov 2001 12:53:48 -0500
        Subj:   Re: R&J as focus of their play (was Re: MND Tops Survey)

[4]     From:   Roger Schmeeckle <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 Nov 2001 11:16:18 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2618 Re: MND Tops Survey

[5]     From:   Tom Sellari <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 20 Nov 2001 13:51:14 +0800 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2618 Re: MND Tops Survey

[6]     From:   Judy Lewis <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 Nov 2001 21:01:46 +1300
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2607 Re: MND Tops Survey


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Billy Houck <
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Date:           Monday, 19 Nov 2001 10:58:22 EST
Subject: 12.2618 Re: MND Tops Survey
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2618 Re: MND Tops Survey

Sam Small writes,

<< It is fairly obvious why R&J is not read/performed much in schools in
the US.   >>

Sam-

It is fairly obvious you haven't read the previous posts. Romeo and
Juliet IS widely taught in American High Schools. It is also widely
performed, though not as widely as MND at this time.

While I agree with you that is a play about warring families, one can
hardly blame teachers for thinking it is a play about young people,
since they are the title characters.

Billy Houck

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Monday, 19 Nov 2001 08:37:01 -0800
Subject: 12.2618 Re: MND Tops Survey
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2618 Re: MND Tops Survey

Oh, dear.

In Monday's post Mr. Small began his message:

>It is fairly obvious why R&J is not read/performed much in schools in
>the US.

Perhaps he did not carefully read Billy Houck post from Friday?

>It is quite popular, but not in the top 10 this year.  I'm doing it with
>my students this spring. It was in the top 10 for a couple of years
>following the Baz Luhrman film.

And quit knocking *You're a Good Man, Charley Brown* whoever's doing
it.  My parents took me to the long running San Francisco production
when I was very short, and I loved it!  (I permit myself one asinine,
but true, comment a day, and that was it.)

Mike Jensen

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mari Bonomi <
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Date:           Monday, 19 Nov 2001 12:53:48 -0500
Subject: 12.2618 R&J as focus of their play (was Re: MND Tops
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2618 R&J as focus of their play (was Re: MND Tops
Survey)

Sam Small opines:  "- R&J are poor victims invented for counterpoint.
In short it is a play about the evils of civil war meant to be seen by
the middle-aged."

So it may appear to you, sir.  But to others it is indeed a play about
adolescence, specifically about the virtually innate tendency of
adolescents to impetuous headlong action.

Indeed, the counterpoint between Friar Lawrence's repeated warnings
"they stumble that run fast" and the way the adults fall into the
lovers' behavioral trap of rash and thoughtless action is to many
critics AND students the center of the play.

Though playing "what if" is a heinous game in reading literature, R&J's
biggest problem to a good high school teacher is the temptation to play
that game: what if each of the characters had paused, waited, thought,
etc.

The crisis of the play occurs when Romeo, seeing Tybalt return after
killing Mercutio, throws away his "respective lenity" which had led him
to deflect all of Tybalt's attempts to draw him into a duel, choosing
instead to have "fire-eyed fury be my conduct now."  From that moment
the catastasis is about as high-velocity as in any tragedy by
Shakespeare.

I can assure the members of SHAKSPER that in 35 years of teaching Romeo
and Juliet to 15 and 16 year olds, they never once saw it as a play
about civil war among middle-aged farts... and they well understood the
significance of the Prince's explanation of the feud as "bred of an airy
word" not worthy of being recorded for posterity.

Further, the community is NOT at war with itself; the feud is only
between two families; the general community of Venice is not a part of
the strife.  Given the lack of stage directions, the shouts of the
populace, "Down with the Capulets! Down with the Montagues!" can as
easily be seen/directed as the whole of the community expressing
hostility toward the feud as seen/directed as the townspeople joining
in.  There is no place anywhere in the play where anyone other than a
member of one of the two families or one of their intimates being
involved in fighting either by word or sword.

I am not particularly enamored either of Romeo or Juliet (though she at
least attempts to "direct [her own] sail" while Romeo trusts to Fate to
do so for him).  But this play is definitely about them, their impetuous
succumbing to their adolescent emotions, and the consequences thereto as
magnified by the adolescent impetuousness of those purported elders who
should be guiding and even perhaps restraining them.

Mari Bonomi

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roger Schmeeckle <
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Date:           Monday, 19 Nov 2001 11:16:18 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 12.2618 Re: MND Tops Survey
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2618 Re: MND Tops Survey

> For what it's worth - I teach literature to 32 home educated students in
> a rural area of the northwest USA.  I run through a five-year cycle to
.............

What, no Lear?  Excellent material for teen-agers because of its
intergenerational conflict.

    Roger Schmeeckle

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Sellari <
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Date:           Tuesday, 20 Nov 2001 13:51:14 +0800 (CST)
Subject: 12.2618 Re: MND Tops Survey
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2618 Re: MND Tops Survey

On Monday, 19 Nov 2001, Sam Small wrote,

> The whole point of the play is the warring
> between the families - R&J are poor victims invented for counterpoint.
> In short it is a play about the evils of civil war meant to be seen by
> the middle-aged.

Hence the title, of course.

Tom Sellari

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judy Lewis <
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Date:           Monday, 19 Nov 2001 21:01:46 +1300
Subject: 12.2607 Re: MND Tops Survey
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2607 Re: MND Tops Survey

Stuart Manger writes,

> I have to say that I am amazed that 'R and J' is nowhere in that list of
> high school top ten dramas.
>
> Is it because it is so tragic for the young that schools will not do it
> or what? Is it lack of confidence in the play? Their own acting? It
> simply seems so perfect for a 14-18 yr old age range!

When I have directed Shakespeare in schools, I have always selected the
plays that offer the largest number of parts that can be reasonably made
available for girls to play.  Romeo and Juliet has 3 female roles only,
although Juliet is one of S's finest.

But MND has opportunities for far more - Puck, the fairies etc.  Others
I have directed are Much Ado and As You Like It, for much the same
reason.  In the latter, for example, M. Le Beau became Mme Le Beau, in a
glorious Elizabethan dress with ruff.

Judy Lewis

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