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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: April ::
Re: Romeo and Juliet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1130  Thursday, 25 April 2002

[1]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Apr 2002 17:18:07 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 13.1115 Re: Romeo and Juliet

[2]     From:   Philip Weller <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Apr 2002 10:25:34 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1115 Re: Romeo and Juliet

[3]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Apr 2002 20:26:53 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1115 Re: Romeo and Juliet

[4]     From:   David Wallace <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Apr 2002 22:46:56 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1115 Re: Romeo and Juliet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Wednesday, 24 Apr 2002 17:18:07 +0100
Subject: Re: Romeo and Juliet
Comment:        SHK 13.1115 Re: Romeo and Juliet

"They have elected to enter the world of adults by their public act of
marriage, but agree to continue in the hidden, private world of children
instead of announcing and living their adult decision."

Hear, hear.

In Britain about ten years ago there was a bit of a scandal when a
primary schoolteacher refused to take her charges to a performance of
Romeo and Juliet (ballet, I think, not play) because it was "blatantly
heterosexual".  Much derision and horror from the reigning Conservative
politicians in Commons and at Conference, who all seemed to think that
giving little kids Shakespeare was somehow necessarily a good thing.
Nobody seemed at all bothered about what the ballet, or the play upon
which it was based, was about, let alone its themes of juvenile
delinquency, children disobeying parents, drug abuse, teenage sex
(facilitated by members of the clergy and the caring professions), gang
warfare, and, yes, "blatant heterosexuality", which elevates sexual love
to such a pitch of intensity that it leaves only self-slaughter remains
as a response to the problems of growing up.

Who'd want their 10 year-old to see such filth?

m

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Philip Weller <
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Date:           Wednesday, 24 Apr 2002 10:25:34 -0700
Subject: 13.1115 Re: Romeo and Juliet
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1115 Re: Romeo and Juliet

I'd like to ask a question about L. Swilley's response to Jimmy Jung,
which follows:

>Jimmy Jung wrote,
>
>> I was looking at David Wallace's response and thinking about a paper I
>> wrote, probably back in 11th grade, where I tried to resolve if in fact
>> Romeo and Juliet are in fact "star-crossed," or to blame for their own
>> tragedy....
>
>These two are indeed to blame for their own tragedy.  They have elected
>to enter the world of adults by their public act of marriage, but agree
>to continue in the hidden, private world of children instead of
>announcing and living their adult decision.
>
>I am waiting for the production that will make that very point
>abundantly clear.
>
>L. Swilley

How do you (either of you) account for the statement that R & J's love
is star-crossed?  To me, it doesn't appear that the Chorus is presenting
it as a matter for discussion or speculation.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Wednesday, 24 Apr 2002 20:26:53 -0400
Subject: 13.1115 Re: Romeo and Juliet
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1115 Re: Romeo and Juliet

Not having access to the website, I can't search the archives, so I
don't know if it's been mentioned, but I think that Shakespeare has
played another trick on us with the pair of plays Two Gentlemen of
Verona and Romeo and Juliet. As the Italian source for the latter was
also a source for the former, he must have known what he was doing.
Proteus is obviously a double for Romeo. He loves Julia madly at first,
then true to his namesake, he tosses her over (without even a fairy love
potion for an excuse) for Silvia.  Everyone in the play roundly condemns
him for his inconstancy and, for the audience he is the villain of the
piece. Then a year or so later, Romeo enters declaring his undying love
for Rosaline, which he similarly tosses off upon a first glance at the
unparalleled beauty of Juliet. Only this time he is an archetypal hero
of romantic love. The absolute goodness of pure love that justifies all
is the unifying principle of the latter play as the absolute evil of an
inconstant heart is of former, and I think there is a certain display of
virtuosity on Shakespeare's part in showing how a different principle
can make an audience view the same character as villain or hero. Granted
that Proteus' trades in a requited love, while Romeo is driven to his
inconstancy by a cruel fair (who has sworn chastity like Isabel of MM,
also contrasted with a more pliant Juliet). On the other hand, this
consideration does not seem to enter into his fall for Juliet, and given
the cautionary tale of Two Gentleman, I can't help wondering how long
the marriage would have lasted if a romantically tragic ending had not
rendered it immortal.

Clifford

>> I was looking at David Wallace's response and thinking about a paper I
>> wrote, probably back in 11th grade, where I tried to resolve if in fact
>> Romeo and Juliet are in fact "star-crossed," or to blame for their own
>> tragedy....

>These two are indeed to blame for their own tragedy.  They have elected
>to enter the world of adults by their public act of marriage, but agree
>to continue in the hidden, private world of children instead of
>announcing and living their adult decision.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Wallace <
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Date:           Wednesday, 24 Apr 2002 22:46:56 -0700
Subject: 13.1115 Re: Romeo and Juliet
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1115 Re: Romeo and Juliet

 L. Swilley writes:

> These two are indeed to blame for their own tragedy.  They have elected
> to enter the world of adults by their public act of marriage, but agree
> to continue in the hidden, private world of children instead of
> announcing and living their adult decision.

And this is exactly the point I made to Jimmy Jung. If you entirely
ignore the Chorus, the actions of all the adult characters, the well
developed motifs offered by patterns of imagery, the character of the
verse, and the obvious theme ("My only love sprung from my only hate!" -
love thine enemy) - then, yes, this is the logical conclusion one draws
from the play. Children ought to be responsible for their actions. They
ought not to be swayed by the machinations of adults who offer bizarre
solutions such as bigamy (Nurse) or a reliance on dubious potions
(Friar). They ought to follow the example of older cousins ("I hate the
word [peace]} and obey their careful parents ("I would the fool were
married to her grave").

A couple of days ago, Graham Bradshaw remarked that most contemporary
critics discuss Shakespeare's poetic drama as if it were written in
prose. I think the problem goes much deeper. Evidently the plays are not
being read at all. We invent the plays we prefer to satisfy our own
preoccupations.

Regards. David Wallace

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