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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: June ::
Measured Response
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1367  Wednesday, 30 June 2004

[1]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 29 Jun 2004 11:19:28 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.1363 Measured Response

[2]     From:   Stuart Manger <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 29 Jun 2004 19:06:04 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1363 Measured Response

[3]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 29 Jun 2004 20:35:03 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1363 Measured Response

[4]     From:   Geralyn Horton <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 29 Jun 2004 16:01:05 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1363 Measured Response


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Tuesday, 29 Jun 2004 11:19:28 -0500
Subject: 15.1363 Measured Response
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.1363 Measured Response

Abigail Quart on Juliet's end:

 >"At the end, all Laurence has to offer this vibrant girl is a nunnery???
 >Which had the slang meaning of brothel and the audience knew it? Because
 >what has he done to her?  He secretly connived at a marriage NEITHER
 >family would sanction.  (Marriages among the wealthy included paperwork
 >with settlements and dower rights. Juliet does not have a dime.) Juliet
 >has nowhere to go for protection except the brothel or the nunnery (and
 >nunneries preferred rich girls to bring a few bucks). Now she can't
 >marry where her family wishes because she already is. And she's not a
 >virgin anymore so they'd find out.  Friar Laurence has harmed Juliet
 >beyond all help."

To be honest I get a little weary of the nunnery/brothel gloss. Whatever
sniggers the word might get from the knowing in the audience (and I run
into a fair amount of that in my more immature students), in the context
he probably just means a convent.

Moreover, Juliet's poverty is hardly determinative: she has a claim of
relationship and friendship on her late husband's family; she could
plead with her father for forgiveness; even if he didn't take her back,
he would probably put up the bread to get her nicely ensconced in a
convent appropriate to her station. I don't see why her not being a
virgin makes the slightest difference, especially as she's a widow (and
thus not married any more).

That Friar Laurence is unlucky in his efforts to help the youngsters and
resolve the dispute cannot be disputed. He may be unwise. He may even be
immoral, if you believe in compulsory arranged marriage. But he is
hardly malicious.

Cheers,
don

P.S. The main reason she can't marry where her family wishes is that the
prospective groom is dead, not because she is no longer a virgin.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Manger <
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Date:           Tuesday, 29 Jun 2004 19:06:04 +0100
Subject: 15.1363 Measured Response
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1363 Measured Response

Ref Romeo and Juliet and Friar Lawrence

Now, just hold a little cotton-picking minute there. NEITHER R nor J
fall in love under Friar L's recipe. Passion rules.  BOTH R and J
threaten to commit suicide on the spot - suicide as mortal sin
forfeiting paradise, both his confesses - so what is he supposed to do,
but [a] try to give them the trad catholic line on fortitude etcetc, and
THEN his inherent humanity kicks in and he realises that some ting
rather more immediately pragmatic and immediate is called for, hence the
secret marriage, the elopement, the false suicide. Both he and the Nurse
have an earthy practicality based on the reality of adolescent love, and
years of practice with both kids.

He offers Juliet a nunnery, which is pretty damn good advice: there she
will be out of the reach of her vengeful, intemperate father ( families
carrying out honour killings against recalcitrant daughters in strongly
patriarchal / religious societies???), and pathetically compliant
mother.  The advice he gives to R is shrewd: stay out of the city, I
will see you're OK, and then we can spirit Juliet away so the two of you
can get together, and THEN we'll see if we can talk the families round.
The Montagues are a BIG family, not as big a catch a Paris, BUT even
Capulet compliments Romeo and restrains Tybalt from smacking him up in
the ball scene. It's a decent bet that in time, Friar L might well talk
the Capulets round to Romeo, as he promises: he is highly respected by
the Capulets.

I will not hear a word against Fr L: his final speech is a STINGING,
angry rebuke to the families: 'then comes she to ME' - i.e. you're her
mummy and daddy, but in her desperation, she comes to ME, you people?
Got it? ME. I stopped this kid of yours committing suicide, right?? It
is also torn by self-reproach. We forget that NONE of the live people on
the stage have the slightest inkling of what Friar L's 'brief' tale is
going to be. Hence its length.

I have just directed this play, and we made Friar L round on the two
families, cast caution to the winds and really give them a mouthful.
He's had pious platitudes up to here, and I think he gives it to them
both barrels. The Prince Escalus takes HIS cue from Friar L, and gets
his pennyworth in as well. And Friar L is instrumental in bringing into
the play that greatest of all virtues that ahs been in very very short
supply in the play - forgiveness of one's enemies. HE is the one left
grieving alone over the precious (to him) boy and the precious (to him)
girl at the end, while the families go off to seal up the public
monument deal - a piece of public guilt and exculpatin if ever there was
one. Friar L is left to weep over the might have been. he struggles
against the very fate yhat R bemoans all the way through, as a good
priest should.

Come on! Let's hear it for Friar L, people!

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Bridgman <
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Date:           Tuesday, 29 Jun 2004 20:35:03 +0100
Subject: 15.1363 Measured Response
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1363 Measured Response

Abigail Quart writes ...

 >Isabella's name means "consecrated to God" except that Bel isn't a
 >Christian god.

I don't know what name Isabella has in the source stories but couldn't
WS have named his novice nun after his relative Isabella Shakespeare,
the prioress of Wroxhall?

 >Lucio ... basically counsels Isabella to give Angelo a blow job to free
 >her brother.

You must have the schools edition!

 >Angelo, Isabella,
 >and Vincentio are three people with the same flaw: they all believe
 >their sh** don't stink. And Shakespeare takes them down.

I wish that was true, but he doesn't take them all down.  The Judge has
abused his position in order to force the sister of a condemned man into
having sex.  The Duke is at the very least a smug and insensitive
meddler. At worst he is a blasphemer who pretends to absolve condemned
prisoners before their deaths.  Does Shakespeare take either man down?
Of course not; it's a comedy and we need a happy ending.  So the smug
Duke retakes the reins of power and the Judge keeps his job and gains a
loving wife.  Instead of realising that their "sh** stinks", the rulers
of Vienna survive the plot with their ordure surprisingly fragrant.

It is Isabella who Shakespeare takes down.  Having finally won her
sexual harassment case against the Judge, the harassment starts again
from the Duke!  And all the poor woman wanted was a life of
contemplation and study (unless a girl in late medieval England was born
into the nobility, the only route to an education was in becoming a nun).

 >Shakespeare's Catholics tend to spout
 >wonderful speeches of good wise things that turn out to be wrong in the
 >context of the play. Friar Laurence counsels children to disobey their
 >families, give in to their passions, AND HE GETS THEM KILLED. DEAD.
 >That's what following Catholic advice does for Romeo and Juliet.

"Shakespeare's Catholics"?  I assume you mean characters who are members
of religious orders, since all the inhabitants of Verona are presumably
Catholics.  In MfM, the repeated description of Angelo as 'precise'
means he is a Puritan, but all the other characters in Vienna are
presumably Catholics too.

As for members of religious orders in the plays, the cardinals and
bishops tend to be hypocrites (fair enough) while the lower ranks of the
clergy - the priests, monks and nuns - are generally kindly characters
and are usually treated sympathetically.

Which was remarked upon at the time, as most playwrights - like Marlowe,
Dekker, Webster, Middleton - were following government directions in
writing virulently anti-Catholic plays.  In 1611 John Speed described
chief Jesuit Robert Parsons and WS as "the Papist and his poet".

You might find this intriguing ....

In 'Theatre and Religion' (Manchester Uni Press, 2003) Arthur Marotti
suggests that the final onstage image in MfM, of the Duke (in monk's
habit) inviting Isabella (in nun's habit) to become his wife, may be a
sly reference to Martin Luther.  Luther, an ex-Augustinian monk, married
Catherine von Bora, an ex-Barnardine nun.

Peter Bridgman


[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Geralyn Horton <
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Date:           Tuesday, 29 Jun 2004 16:01:05 -0400
Subject: 15.1363 Measured Response
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1363 Measured Response

For what it's worth, my playwright friend Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro told
me that the NT M4M was the best thing she's seen all season, and one of
the best WS productions she's seen in the last decade.   (She sees at
least 60 shows a year, about equally divided between London, NYC, and
Boston MA.)

I'm enjoying this discussion, and the challenge of imagining the NT
production through the comments of those who describe it.  M4M is one of
my favorites, but seems to be difficult to realize.  Most of the
productions I've seen do part of it well and sort of rattle past
whatever doesn't fit the concept or the casting.

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