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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: August ::
Re: Romeo Is Banished
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1609  Wednesday, 13 August 2003

[1]     From:   Thomas Larque <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 13 Aug 2003 13:32:47 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1605 Re: Romeo Is Banished

[2]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 13 Aug 2003 11:56:05 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1605 Re: Romeo Is Banished

[3]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 13 Aug 2003 14:14:43 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1605 Re: Romeo Is Banished

[4]     From:   Mari Bonomi <
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        Date:   Thursday, 14 Aug 2003 00:39:11 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.1605 Re: Romeo Is Banished


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
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Date:           Wednesday, 13 Aug 2003 13:32:47 +0100
Subject: 14.1605 Re: Romeo Is Banished
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1605 Re: Romeo Is Banished

Mary Miller notices that Rosaline is related to the Capulets, being
described by Lord Capulet as "my fair niece Rosaline" (1.2.70), and
suggests that "If she is also a Capulet, then she is also a dangerous
choice ...  Presumably this means he is already predisposed to forbidden
fruit".

If Rosaline really was a Capulet, then this would seem a puzzling move
on Shakespeare's part.  If Romeo was already in love with a Capulet at
the start of the play, then the shock and horror of a Capulet and a
Montague - sworn enemies - falling in love would be much reduced when
Romeo and Juliet came together, rather spoiling the suspense and
development of the play.  Furthermore just about all of Romeo's Montague
relations and allies seem to know all about his attachment to Rosaline,
and seem to accept it (although they laugh at it).  If they are so
unconcerned about Romeo falling for Rosaline Capulet, then why would his
love for Juliet Capulet be so controversial and positively dangerous? -
something that must be kept a firm and absolute secret.

The answer, I suspect, lies in the nature of Rosaline's probable
relationship to Capulet.  Assuming that she is his niece in modern terms
(and that Capulet isn't using "niece" loosely, in the way that "cousin"
was often used to describe non-blood-relations in the Renaissance) then
she was either the daughter of Lord Capulet's brother, or the daughter
of Lord Capulet's sister.  In the former case she would undoubtedly be a
full Capulet, and we can imagine that her father (shall we call him John
Capulet, for convenience?) would be a significant member of the Capulet
family and just as deeply engaged in the Capulet/Montague family feud as
his brother.  Since the implications of Romeo's love for Rosaline
Capulet daughter of John Capulet would be virtually identical to the
implications of his love for Juliet Capulet daughter of Lord Capulet,
and would thereby (as suggested above) damage the play, this probably
isn't the relationship that Shakespeare intended.

If Rosaline was the daughter of Lord Capulet's sister, however, things
would be a lot easier to explain.  Lord Capulet's sister (let's call her
Mary Capulet) would probably have married a nobleman from outside her
own family (let's call him Richard Noble), and this would have made
Rosaline not a full-blooded Capulet, but a relation by marriage -
Rosaline Noble.  As such she would have some Capulet blood, and would be
likely to be invited to the Capulet ball (so that Romeo can be lured
there to meet Juliet - probably Shakespeare's main motivation in giving
Rosaline any connection to the Capulets), but would not necessarily have
taken the Capulet side in the Capulet/Montague feud, since her own
position would be predominantly determined by her father's name and
alliances.  It is perfectly possible that Richard Noble (Rosaline's
hypothetical father), like the Duke himself, was related to and held
alliances with both Montague and Capulet families, and was neutral in
the feud.  If Rosaline's father was neutral, then Rosaline herself would
officially also be neutral - since her social position in a patriarchal
society was officially determined by her father's and not her mother's
name and position.

As an example of this sort of relationship at work, we might consider
the royal family trees of England, Scotland, and France in the
Renaissance period.  Henry VIII's sister, Margaret Tudor, was married to
the King of the Scots.  Her children, despite the fact that they
retained a claim to the Tudor throne if other branches died out, were
not Tudors but Stuarts.  Margaret's son, James V, was not only neutral
towards his Tudor relatives but actually went to war against them,
having been given his own position and pattern of duties and alliances
from his father not his mother.
Margaret's (in)famous granddaughter Mary Stuart married the King of
France
(another of England's traditional enemies), and was so much at discord
with
her Tudor relations that she was imprisoned by them and eventually
executed
by her first cousin Elizabeth Tudor.

Shakespeare touches on the difficulties caused by split-loyalties
between marital relations and blood relations in several of his plays, I
seem to remember, but the instance that comes immediately to mind is
Octavius's sister in "Antony and Cleopatra" who is desperately trying to
arrange a peace between her brother Octavius and her husband Antony.  As
it turns out, Antony solves the problem for her by abandoning her and
returning to Cleopatra, but had he not done so her loyalty to her
husband would officially have overridden her loyalty to her blood family
(hence the ceremony of a father "giving away" his daughter) if their
interests conflicted, and she would have been expected to take the side
of her husband and live with him during the conflict.  Of course, in
real life some people did not behave as tradition suggested that they
should, but tradition remained strong nevertheless.

A Rosaline who was daughter to Capulet's sister, therefore, need not
have been a Capulet herself, and might well have been neutral in the
feud, but still friendly enough with her mother's relatives to be
invited to their ball.  Since this solves all the difficulties that
Rosaline's relationship with Capulet sets up within the play, it seems
to me the most likely explanation for this relationship (if Shakespeare
went so far as to think all this out at all).

Thomas Larque.
"Shakespeare and His Critics"
http://shakespearean.org.uk

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Wednesday, 13 Aug 2003 11:56:05 -0400
Subject: 14.1605 Re: Romeo Is Banished
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1605 Re: Romeo Is Banished

Mary Jane Miller writes:

>I never noticed that Rosaline is related to the
>Capulets: " my fair niece" I ii 70, is  juxtaposed with the line
>preceding " Mine uncle Capulet" in case we are losing track of who is
>who. If she is also  a Capulet, then she is also a dangerous choice, but
>Romeo never mentions the relationship. Presumably, this means he is
>already predisposed to forbidden fruit?

I tried unsuccessfully to argue for a villainous Romeo on the basis of
the intertextual links with 2 Gentlemen, arguing essentially that Romeo
and Proteus are tragic and comic aspects of the same "protean"
character. Romeo is made an icon of Western romantic love despite
dropping Rosaline for Juliet, while Proteus is roundly condemned for the
same inconstancy toward Julia vis a vis Silvia. It would have helped my
case for the relationship between the two plays had I noticed that
Mercutio has a brother named Valentine.

Clifford Stetner
CUNY
http://phoenixandturtle.net

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Wednesday, 13 Aug 2003 14:14:43 -0500
Subject: 14.1605 Re: Romeo Is Banished
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1605 Re: Romeo Is Banished

Mary Jane Miller writes

>The discussion on R and J and censorship coincided with a probably dumb
>question arising from reading the play right now. In all the times I
>have taught it, I never noticed that Rosaline is related to the
>Capulets: " my fair niece" I ii 70, is  juxtaposed with the line
>preceding " Mine uncle Capulet" in case we are losing track of who is
>who. If she is also  a Capulet, then she is also a dangerous choice, but
>Romeo never mentions the relationship. Presumably, this means he is
>already predisposed to forbidden fruit?

No, the question isn't dumb at all, but the fact doesn't have to mean
that Romeo was already courting disaster in the form of a Capulet. He
doesn't comment on her family when he talks to Benvolio at the end of
I,1, nor does Friar Laurence when he (apparently) jumps to the
conclusion that Romeo has come to confess to fornication near the
beginning of II, 3. There might, for example, be two Rosalines. More
likely, Rosaline is to be thought of as a niece on the other side, an
earlier wife's niece, or some such. There were more families in Verona
(we assume) than simply the Montagues, the Capulets, and the prince's
kin. Rosaline could be related to Capulet and not belong to the family,
and thus to the feud. Of course, WS might simply have not cared.

Cheers,
don

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mari Bonomi <
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Date:           Thursday, 14 Aug 2003 00:39:11 -0400
Subject: 14.1605 Re: Romeo Is Banished
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.1605 Re: Romeo Is Banished

Mary Jane Miller writes:

>I never noticed that Rosaline is related to the
>Capulets: " my fair niece" I ii 70, is  juxtaposed with the line
>preceding " Mine uncle Capulet" in case we are losing track of who is
>who. If she is also  a Capulet, then she is also a dangerous choice, but
>Romeo never mentions the relationship. Presumably, this means he is
>already predisposed to forbidden fruit?

I'd suggest rather that he's predisposed to what he believes is the
Courtly Love tradition, absorbed in his fascination w/ his own enjoyment
of being in love with the Unattainable, and never truly expects to
succeed.  Much like Petrarch about his Laura, Romeo's true love is his
own posture of despair.

Remember he's sent her mash notes ("seige of loving terms"), eyed her
lewdly ("encounter of assailing eyes") and tried to solicit her sexual
favors with money/pricy gifts ("ope her lap with saint-seducing gold").

As I used to ask my students over the 35 years or so I taught the play,
"what do you call a woman who opes her lap for gold?" and "How might
Rosaline respond to someone attacking her (citing "seige" and
"assailing" as terminology indicating his assault) in the way Romeo
does?"

Students usually saw Romeo for what he is-- a posturing schoolboy-- even
before we delved into these questions in any depth.  In fact, many of my
students, female as well as male, didn't much like Romeo by the end--
even post-DeCaprio.

Mari Bonomi

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