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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: November ::
All-Male Romeo and Juliet at the Shakespeare Theatre
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0638  Sunday, 9 November 2008

From:       Steve Roth <
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Date:       Saturday, 8 Nov 2008 09:59:57 -0700
Subject: 19.0580 All-Male Romeo and Juliet at the Shakespeare Theatre
Comment:    Re: SHK 19.0580 All-Male Romeo and Juliet at the Shakespeare Theatre

Hardy: "_Rom._ is not a psychological treatise or a record of real people in 
real situations but a play"

G. Wilson Knight's old argument has a fundamental flaw: it ignores the use of 
psychological plausibility (and lack of same) as a dramatic, theatrical, 
literary, and narrative tool.

Human beings have a "theory of mind" through which they evaluate other people's 
words and actions, seeking to deduce what's going on inside their heads. This 
facility is not switched off when watching or reading about fictional 
characters--quite the contrary. Shakespeare makes uses of that human reality 
quite constantly.

If a character's words or actions are implausible or inscrutable, it foregrounds 
those words and actions, casting colored light across the play. If Lady Macbeth 
has "given suck"--had one or more children--we must surmise a different "mind" 
within her, and interpret her other words and actions differently.

So Juliet's failure to abscond with Romeo--an obvious possibility that must 
arise and lurk in many readers'/auditors' minds--causes us to see Juliet's mind 
and motivations in a certain way. It illuminates her character, her position in 
her society, and that society itself. Pretending that this possibility does not 
exist, is not obvious, or is immaterial, ignores the way humans (in this case, 
readers and auditors) interpret the human world they're perceiving. It likewise 
ignores Shakespeare's fiendish manipulation of that human penchant for mind-reading.

There's no doubt Shakespeare in some cases simply punts--sacrifices 
psychological plausibility for some other narrative, literary, or dramatic ends 
(or--dare I suggest it?--out of sheer laziness). But I would suggest that the 
default interpretive position should be that he is using psychological 
(im)plausibility explicitly *for* those ends.

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