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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: April ::
Re: DC Romeo and Juliet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1069  Thursday, 18 April 2002

[1]     From:   Susan Neill <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 17 Apr 2002 08:46:31 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   DC R&J

[2]     From:   Jack Heller <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 17 Apr 2002 18:51:28 +0000 (GMT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1060 DC Romeo and Juliet

[3]     From:   David Wallace <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 17 Apr 2002 22:00:59 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1060 DC Romeo and Juliet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Susan Neill <
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Date:           Wednesday, 17 Apr 2002 08:46:31 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:        DC R&J

Regarding the Shakespeare Theatre's current production of Romeo and
Juliet: I'm not sure how anyone could review this production without
criticizing the actor that portrays Romeo. It's one of the worst
performances I've ever seen at this theatre, and I'm not the snob about
contemporary acting of Shakespeare that most of the regulars on this
listserv are. While Lady C and Mercutio aren't great, Romeo ruins the
whole thing with his repetitive and tiresome hand motions and voice
inflections. He was truly wretched.

Susan Neill

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
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Date:           Wednesday, 17 Apr 2002 18:51:28 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: 13.1060 DC Romeo and Juliet
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1060 DC Romeo and Juliet

A couple replies to Jimmy Jung's post:

1) R&J survives because of high school accessibility. Okay, if that
draws people into interest in Shakespeare, good and well. But it really
isn't worthy of a Shakespeare top ten.

2) As you'll know, "romantic" has different meanings. If you're asking
about the portrayal of couple with tender and/or erotic interest, then
my vote goes for Antony and Cleopatra. An audacious play, not discussed
enough here.

Jack Heller

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Wallace <
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Date:           Wednesday, 17 Apr 2002 22:00:59 -0700
Subject: 13.1060 DC Romeo and Juliet
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1060 DC Romeo and Juliet

Jimmy Jung writes:

>First, let me start by saying, I hate Romeo.  He's a sap.  The virtuous
>and well-govern'd youth "accidentally" kills the wrong guy, not once but
>twice (then himself for a third); gets his best friend killed as well;
>and then there is his wishy-washy heart.  Rosaline's a lucky girl; her
>cool indifference is the only rational thought in the play.

I think this little summary does Romeo an injustice. Certainly he starts
out lovesick for Rosaline but he is not the only one who does an
about-face. Juliet starts off as a thoroughly dutiful daughter ("no more
deeply will I endart mine eye/Than your consent gives strength to make
it fly"). How long does this obedience last?

If Romeo spends a couple of scenes lovesick for Rosaline, I think we can
safely surmise that the author had some design in mind - I mean besides
inviting contempt for Romeo's "wishy-washy heart". (As a teenager, I
spent some time lovesick for girls to whom I hadn't the courage to
speak. I don't think the fact that I squandered time moping to the
lyrics of bad Partridge Family songs compromises the sincerity of
feeling I eventually possessed for my first "real" lover). Romeo is
assigned some pretty dreadful verse in his first appearance - likely to
contrast with the sublime sonnet he shares with Juliet upon their first
encounter. His early verse is characterized by exaggerated notions of
extreme contrasts ("loving hate... heavy lightness... serious vanity") -
a litany which, apparently, Benvolio finds rather amusing. And rightly
so. It's pretty lame stuff, though befitting a play marked by contrasts
of love/hate, light/dark, early/late. His first exchange with Juliet is
fraught with religious imagery that suggests their match is fated - as
does a wealth of imagery before and after. A lovesick Romeo and a
dutiful Juliet are necessary if we are to appreciate that their destiny
is governed not by some character flaw but by the manipulations Fate or
God.

Romeo kills no one "accidentally". Nor is he responsible for Mercutio's
death. Romeo acquits himself with admirable patience, restraint, and
familial love in the face of Tybalt's deliberate provocation. Mercutio
is killed while Romeo is trying to break up his fight with Tybalt. I
don't think Romeo should take the blame because Tybalt uses this well
intentioned distraction to deliver a deadly thrust. Tybalt he kills in a
grief stricken rage and is immediately assigned the line "O, I am
Fortune's fool". How much clearer do we need it? Even the Prince can
find it in his heart to extend leniency to Romeo. Finally, it is Paris
who attempts to kill the "wrong guy" (Juliet's husband). Romeo literally
begs him to leave.

Hating Romeo and regarding him as a sap is fine if one insists on
treating the play like a cautionary tale. But if one wants the aesthetic
satisfactions of the tragedy of Juliet AND Romeo, it might be best to
extend some sympathy his way. Otherwise, his sappy, wish-washy heart is
an immature but murderous flaw - and we are left with Romeo the hapless
villain.

Truly, David Wallace

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