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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: March ::
Romeo and Juliet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0258  Friday, 30 March 2007

[1] 	From: 	Bruce Young <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 27 Mar 2007 10:52:33 -0600
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 18.0218 Romeo and Juliet

[2] 	From: 	Laura Pyle <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 27 Mar 2007 12:53:17 -0400 (EDT)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0218 Romeo and Juliet

[3] 	From: 	Larry Weiss <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 27 Mar 2007 14:16:03 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0218 Romeo and Juliet

[4] 	From: 	L. Swilley <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 27 Mar 2007 15:00:40 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0218 Romeo and Juliet

[5] 	From: 	Richard Regan <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 27 Mar 2007 20:44:24 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0218 Romeo and Juliet

[6] 	From: 	Mari Bonomi <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 28 Mar 2007 00:38:32 -0400
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 18.0218 Romeo and Juliet

[7] 	From: 	Colin Cox <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 27 Mar 2007 22:52:51 -0700
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0218 Romeo and Juliet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Bruce Young <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 27 Mar 2007 10:52:33 -0600
Subject: 18.0218 Romeo and Juliet
Comment: 	RE: SHK 18.0218 Romeo and Juliet

It seems there was a time when Romeo and Juliet were idealized and 
viewed with undiluted sympathy.  Someone ought to do the work to figure 
out if there ever was such a time and when exactly it was.

But recently I've noticed that many YOUNG people, like the teenager 
cited from MySpace, are put off by the story.  I first distinctly 
noticed that phenomenon when my own daughter-as a teenager about 10 
years ago-described R&J as stupid and immature.

Yet another ten years earlier (the late 80s) I called for a balanced 
response.  My call was made in an article I'll cite later.  But first I 
want to make clear I realize we're NOT talking about a "real" pair of 
teenagers.  It's just a play.  Still, I believe that writing and going 
to plays has something to do with (on the audience's part) being open to 
responding to the characters and events on the stage in something like 
the way we would respond to real people and events and (on the writer's 
part) using the various tools of dramatic composition and production to 
call forth certain responses from the audience.  In that encounter 
between play and audience, of course, lots of unpredictable and 
contradictory things end up happening that are not entirely in anybody's 
control.

Here are a couple of bits of what I wrote about 20 years ago:

"These images of haste and wildness and of their disastrous results 
influence our sense of time in the play-our sense that events are moving 
too fast-and also help shape our impression of Romeo and Juliet as 
characters who, though sympathetic and affecting, are also dangerously 
young and impulsive, without control and judgment that might come with 
more time and experience. Knowing that they are marrying at an age much 
earlier than the norm clarifies and reinforces that impression. On the 
other hand, the misconception that they are marrying at a usual age 
actually contradicts the bent of the play and, if stubbornly clung to, 
can blunt the effect of the play's events, images, and emotions. 
Historical scholarship can benefit the reader and playgoer by helping 
remove that misconception.

...

"In dealing with this and related issues, I believe that Shakespeare is 
calling forth from audiences a complex response, one suited by its inner 
contrasts and tensions for drama and one adequate (as simple responses 
will not be) to the complexities of life, whether in the Renaissance or 
in any period. The play's references to haste and wildness make it hard 
to imagine that Shakespeare is simply celebrating a young couple's 
violation of social norms. On the other hand, he portrays the pathos of 
their situation and the beauty of their love so effectively as to make 
it impossible to think of him as simply condemning them. What adds 
further to the complexity of response the play elicits is that the 
issues of age and consent end up counting for Romeo and Juliet as well 
as against them."

If you're interested in my full argument (based in part on the fact that 
the average age of marriage in Shakespeare's time was 25 or 26 for women 
and 27 or 28 for men), you'll find it in "Haste, Consent, and Age at 
Marriage: Some Implications of Social History for Romeo and Juliet," 
Iowa State Journal of Research 62 (1987-1988): 459-74.

Bruce Young

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Laura Pyle <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 27 Mar 2007 12:53:17 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 18.0218 Romeo and Juliet
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0218 Romeo and Juliet

This is from a paper I gave a couple of years ago, which addressed 
Gough's question in part.  The citations (and the rest of the paper) are 
at http://lrrrp.blogspot.com/2005/11/gender-sex-romeo-and-juliet.html.

Romeo and Juliet holds a central place in the Western literary canon, 
and popular literary critic Harold Bloom calls it "the largest and most 
persuasive celebration of romantic love in Western literature" (90). Is 
it such a celebration, however? To read the text as written in the 
sixteenth century rather than as received in the twenty-first is to find 
the most dick jokes of any Shakespeare play, a fatal conflation of 
swords and penises, and the repeated equation of sex and death. Romeo 
and Juliet suggests, rather than a celebration of romance, a critique of 
hormonal love, and specifically of testosterone. Romeo's name has come 
to mean, according to a survey respondent at James Madison University, 
"the type of girl all guys dream of. Almost an idea of a man that is too 
good to be true." He enters Act 1, however, in love not with Juliet but 
with Rosaline, and to a greater extent in love with the idea of being in 
love and with its language. He expresses himself in "ay me's" and 
overblown oxymorons. Neither Mercutio nor Romeo has a very admirable 
attitude toward love; one will die for an ideal of macho honor and the 
other for a tragic-romantic ideal of love, both unnecessarily. These 
immature and hormonal characters' words tell the story that Shakespeare 
wrote.

Romeo and Juliet is not simply a condemnation of foolish boys, though. 
As the sentimental Romeo's aesthetic redeemer, Juliet does deserve a 
celebration of romantic love, but her constancy and good sense are 
overtaken by the fathers' feud and the boys' street-fights, where women 
have no place. Jean E. Howard and Phyllis Rackin observe that the 
connections and contradictions between "aggressive masculinity, and 
closeted womanhood . . . are present in Shakespeare's text, marking it 
with a modernity that bears investigation" (10). This investigation is 
one that the play's first, early modern, audience would have made 
automatically in going to hear a new play. But it is a difficult 
investigation for today's audience to make, not only because Romeo and 
Juliet is culturally iconic but also because audiences today, unlike the 
Elizabethans, go to see plays. We have become used to spectacle, through 
lighting, special effects and the cinema. This dependence on our eyes 
joins with Romeo and Juliet's cultural baggage to effectively deafen us 
to the play's critical take on teenage love and eye-for-an-eye patriarchy.

   -Laura Pyle

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Larry Weiss <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 27 Mar 2007 14:16:03 -0500
Subject: 18.0218 Romeo and Juliet
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0218 Romeo and Juliet

I think this young lady has it spot on.  Romeo and Juliet did not know 
each other long enough to develop a profound romantic attachment.  This 
was a case of pubescent hormones run amok.  In fact, I suspect that 
Romeo did not really have "Th' exchange of thy love's faithful vow for 
mine" in mind when he complained that Juliet was leaving him 
"unsatisfied."  It was his quick thinking in response to Juliet's 
shocked "What satisfaction canst thou have tonight?" that led to the 
ensuing complications.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		L. Swilley <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 27 Mar 2007 15:00:40 -0500
Subject: 18.0218 Romeo and Juliet
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0218 Romeo and Juliet

Tanya Gough wrote,

 >While poking around in the MySpace Shakespeare group 
 >(http://groups.myspace.com/shakespeare), I came across a
 >posting from a 17 year old girl as follows:
 >
 >>Whilst reading Romeo & Juliet the other week I found that,
 >>to me, the story was more about teenage stupidity than
 >>epic romance.
 >>
 >>Did I just miss the point?
 >
 >This got me thinking.  Obviously, the question contains an assumption
 >that the play is either/or, and it's a remarkably over-simplified 
question
 >that begs any one of many complex answers.  The general consensus
 >on the MySpace list (mostly high school and college students, actors,
 >the occasional teacher, and generalists), is that the girl is spot on.

[No, she's spot off.  The play is principally Juliet's story; she is a 
young woman who has deliberately entered the adult world (the marriage), 
then doesn't accept the responsibility and attempts to hide it. ]

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Richard Regan <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 27 Mar 2007 20:44:24 -0400
Subject: 18.0218 Romeo and Juliet
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0218 Romeo and Juliet

Are they reacting to the Luhrmann film? My students seem to connect with 
Danes and DiCaprio.

Richard Regan
Fairfield University

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Mari Bonomi <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 28 Mar 2007 00:38:32 -0400
Subject: 18.0218 Romeo and Juliet
Comment: 	RE: SHK 18.0218 Romeo and Juliet

Having spent 35 years intimately connected with the play and its impact 
on 14-16 year olds, I frankly never thought it was "epic romance"!

Nor it is teenaged "stupidity."

First of all "Teenaged" is not a concept that I think Shakespeare had 
much if any grasp on.

Secondly, to me the play has always been much about two things: the 
subversion of the "star-crossed" statement and the demonstration that 
old and young are equally guilty of impetuousness, action without 
forethought, careless and incomplete creation and fulfillment of plans.

"Wisely and slow, they stumble that run fast" is repeatedly and 
excessively disobeyed by all and sundry.

I could go on for pages but will stop there... (which is most definitely 
not "stop[ping] in my tale against the hair" as Mercutio would have it).

Mari Bonomi

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Colin Cox <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 27 Mar 2007 22:52:51 -0700
Subject: 18.0218 Romeo and Juliet
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0218 Romeo and Juliet

Having directed the play five times and having played every part from 
Mercutio to the Nurse to the Prince, Paris and the good Lawrence, I 
think the girl is spot on! Still love it though.

Colin Cox

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