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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: April ::
Re: Romeo and Juliet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1160  Monday, 29 April 2002

[1]     From:   Jimmy Jung <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Apr 2002 10:35:25 -0400
        Subj:   More Romeo and Juliet

[2]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Apr 2002 10:22:40 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1149 Re: Romeo and Juliet

[3]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Apr 2002 11:13:20 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: Romeo and Juliet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jimmy Jung <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Apr 2002 10:35:25 -0400
Subject:        More Romeo and Juliet

 "Juliet, the dice were loaded from the start."
        -M. Knopler

Philip Weller is right, the Chorus calls R & J star-crossed and the
Chorus is not alone.  Romeo's "mind misgives some consequence yet
hanging in the stars."  Juliet's "ill-diving soul" sees Romeo in his
grave.  The Prince himself, attributes their death to Heaven finding
means to "kill their joys with love."  They meet by chance, as do Tybalt
and Mercutio, fate gives us a quarantined priest, a handy and
impoverished pharmacist and the whole tomb thing is a mess of bad timing
and bad luck.  That's how it goes with these tragedies.  If it weren't
for pirates, handkerchiefs and witches where would we be.

As I recall, Author Brooks' source story also laid the blame at the feet
of fate.  Thankfully, Shakespeare was never one to play straight with
his source material, or else what would we go on nattering about.  So,
while everyone is diving illly, they can also see that these two are
headed for a trouble of their own making.  Juliet knows their love is
"too much like the lightning ... too rash, too unadvised, too sudden"
Could the Friar have made it any clearer, "love moderately ... they
stumble that run fast."  But does our boy listen?   Nooooo!!!  Instead
he ends up killing Tybalt, and seals the tragedy with perhaps the most
lunk-headed mistake attributable to a Shakespearian "hero."  Remember
...

Tybalt was already dead.

The law would have ended the life of Tybalt; where does Romeo get off
calling himself fortune's fool.  In his final rash act, without even
checking up on the Friar, who has choreographed everything, our rash
hero ignores common sense.  He sees the crimson in her lips and in her
cheeks.  Juliet has been dead for at least a couple of days now, but
Death's pale flag has not advanced on her and, instead of taking a deep
breath and counting to ten, our boy drinks it off.  Say what you want,
but it is Romeo, "laying everybody low with a lovesong that he made."

Nevertheless, my characterization of Romeo as a sap, is primarily
intended as a comment on the character in performance and based on my
own collection of empirical evidence.  If you want to be hard nosed, you
might just as easily argue that Hamlet, Othello and Lear are all saps,
but I never feel that way about them.  For whatever reason, in
performance it is a rare occasion when an actor playing Romeo can grab
my sympathy and make me see him as the hero and not the sap.  I'm
willing to split the blame between me, the performer and even the
playwright, but that's the way it is.  So I don't ignore the Chorus, as
David and Philip suggest.  Nor can I imagine a production that treats
the play as a lesson in children behaving or not listening to their
parents (a very crude characterization of L. Swilley's critique).  I
certainly believe the material is there, if someone was so inclined, but
also suspect that the "star-crossed evidence" is there just to prevent
such a perspective.

It occurs to me that one other reason to introduce fate or the stars as
an active hand in the play might be the lack of a villain.  Using the
sap-argument, Hamlet, Othello and Lear are in tragedies of their own
making, but there are also villains on which to attribute much of the
circumstance.  Without a villain (Tybalt seems weak for the part), we
need somewhere else to shift blame.  Huh; just a thought.

One might also argue that by discounting the hand of fate in a
production, you are better positioned to justify Romeo's actions as
entirely sprung from his passion. After all, when Tony kills Bernardo,
the stars never come into play and I'm completely sympathetic.

Jimmy - who was type cast as a shark (I think that makes me a Capulet)

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Apr 2002 10:22:40 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 13.1149 Re: Romeo and Juliet
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1149 Re: Romeo and Juliet

This is an intriguing thread and everyone is posting intelligent and
well thought opinions on the topic.

I would like us to consider however how the feud DOES play into all of
this. Could Romeo and Juliet come out in the open with their marriage?
Of course they could. But what would be the consequences of such an
action? Their parents would certainly not condone the match. This is why
they conduct the marriage in private. In fact, Romeo appears to be on
the way to telling his parents about the marriage when the duel occurs.
Yes, there are significant decisions made but they are star-crossed by
fate - the long feud has acted upon them to force their love to be
hidden.  There are a combination of decisions made which are pressured
by outside influences. Of course, we can also recognize that the feud
and the continuation of the rancor (as well as the apparent end to it at
the end of the play) are decisions made, not fate. Perhaps it is a
little bit of both.

Brian Willis

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Apr 2002 11:13:20 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:        Re: Romeo and Juliet

Actually, thinking about this again, the phrase "misadventur'd piteous
overthrows" leaps out at me. It indicates our emotional connection -
"piteous" - but also the overwhelming circumstances that oppress their
attempts to overthrow hate and live in love. Certainly the two have
their faults, but they don't even approach the direct villainy of later
characters and even protagonists of Shakespeare. Because of their love's
contrast to the hate surrounding them, they stand out as rebels in a
way. I'm always perceived Romeo as being sucked back in when Mercutio is
killed.  "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in."
Certainly, it's not a character flaw of Romeo that causes Mercutio to be
killed, just bad luck, ie. fate.  The feud strikes again. What a piteous
attempt to overthrow all of the hate that surrounds them.

Brian Willis

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