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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: September ::
Chorus in R&J
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0759  Friday, 1 September 2006

[1] 	From: 	Hugh Grady <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 31 Aug 2006 12:48:09 -0400
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0751 Chorus in R&J

[2] 	From: 	Brad Berens <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 31 Aug 2006 11:20:17 -0700
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0751 Chorus in R&J

[3] 	From: 	Larry Weiss <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 31 Aug 2006 15:07:27 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0751 Chorus in R&J

[4] 	From: 	Janet Costa <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 31 Aug 2006 18:38:31 -0700 (PDT)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0751 Chorus in R&J

[5] 	From: 	John W. Kennedy <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 31 Aug 2006 22:24:08 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0751 Chorus in R&J


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Hugh Grady <
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Date: 		Thursday, 31 Aug 2006 12:48:09 -0400
Subject: 17.0751 Chorus in R&J
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0751 Chorus in R&J

I have recently been working with the text of R & J and found myself 
surprised that there is a chorus opening the second act besides the more 
memorable Prologue. I just didn't remember noticing it before. It's a 
sonnet as well. I ended up quoting from it because it contains lines 
bringing attention to the gender role differences between the two lovers:

		And she as much in love, her means much less
                 To meet her now beloved anywhere.

It strikes me as akin to the Chorus of Henry V-narrating and 
evaluating-more "epic" that "dramatic" really, not much like the chorus 
of an Attic tragedy or comedy, if only because so much shorter.

Hugh Grady

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Brad Berens <
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Date: 		Thursday, 31 Aug 2006 11:20:17 -0700
Subject: 17.0751 Chorus in R&J
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0751 Chorus in R&J

For Susan St. John...

Susan, I'm not sure if I agree with it, but Susan Snyder's "The Comic 
Matrix of Shakespeare's Tragedies:  Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, 
and King Lear" (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1979) 
has some good stuff on what Shakespeare is doing with the Chorus in R&J. 
  And this paragraph from Maureen Quilligan's " The Language of 
Allegory: Defining the Genre" (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1979) 
also might prove useful:

"Romeo and Juliet. . . has a perfectly traditional comic plot until 
Mercutio's death, at which point the play does a stunning generic 
turnaround.  In the first fray no one is killed so that the scene could 
be played as cartoon; if Capulet and Montague are old enough, their 
standoff could be seen comically.  Mercutio at least thinks he inhabits 
a comic world, until, of course, he is mortally wounded.  He, along with 
the romantic business between Romeo and Juliet, has been the main source 
of comic signals.  It is possible that Shakespeare was forced into 
providing the Prologue to warn the audience of this impending reversal 
of genre; without it there would be only weak signals for the audience 
to place themselves in the context of tragedy, and Mercutio's death 
might have come as a too-sudden reversal of generic context.  That most 
of Shakespeare's other prologues also address breaches of dramatic 
decorum in one form or another suggests the true purpose of the one in 
Romeo and Juliet."  (17)

As for the Henriad, it might also be worth exploring how Rumor in 
2HenryIV differs from the Chorus in Henry 5.

Hope this helps.

All best,
Brad Berens

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Larry Weiss <
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Date: 		Thursday, 31 Aug 2006 15:07:27 -0400
Subject: 17.0751 Chorus in R&J
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0751 Chorus in R&J

I would have thought that Gower in Pericles is a closer analogue to the 
classical Greek chorus than even the chorus in HenV.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Janet Costa <
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Date: 		Thursday, 31 Aug 2006 18:38:31 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 17.0751 Chorus in R&J
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0751 Chorus in R&J

Susan St. John writes:

"I realize that wikipedia is not the most prestigious or reliable of 
resources, but the idea confused and intrigued me.  The only thing I can 
find that they could possibly mean is the Prologue speech."

There is a "Chorus" sonnet that opens Act 2: "Now old desire doth in his 
deathbed lie..."

In my work on the play, I theorized that the Chorus was there to cover 
some stage business as the scene changes from the Capulet party to 
Romeo's scaling the garden walls and the subsequent love scene. In a 
sense, it could have served as a traditional Greek chorus.

Janet Costa

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John W. Kennedy <
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Date: 		Thursday, 31 Aug 2006 22:24:08 -0400
Subject: 17.0751 Chorus in R&J
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0751 Chorus in R&J

Susan St. John <
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 >I have run across a wikipedia.com article about the Greek Chorus that
 >states "Use of the chorus can be seen not only in ancient Greek 
tragedies,
 >but also in more recent works such as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet,
 >the musical/film Little Shop of Horrors and Leonard Bernstein's one-act
 >opera Trouble in Tahiti."
 >
 >I realize that wikipedia is not the most prestigious or reliable of 
resources,
 >but the idea confused and intrigued me.  The only thing I can find that
 >they could possibly mean is the Prologue speech.

Don't forget the I-II interstitial.

 >I am wondering if anyone here would agree that that speech serves a 
similar
 >purpose to the chorus in a Greek tragedy.  I would have thought the 
chorus
 >in Henry V would have been a more appropriate example.  As I teach both
 >Greek and Shakespeare plays in my theatre program, as well as musical
 >theatre, I would love to draw some correlations, but the R&J link had
 >never occurred to me.

Shakespeare /calls/ it a Chorus, and I cannot really see any great 
difference between R&J's Chorus and H5's Chorus, or, for that matter, 
H4II's Rumour or WT's Time. (Pericles' Gower and 2NK's Prologue/Epilogue 
act more in the way of the Prologue and Epilogue of the Restoration.) 
They all lack participation in the action, which somewhat limits their 
resemblance to the Greek model. A similar problem affects the "Greek 
Choruses" in Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Allegro" and the episode "All 
the Old Familiar Faces" of the old TV series "The Name of the Game".

Better modern examples would be the character of M'Donald in Dunlap's 
"Andr

 

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