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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: October ::
All-Male Romeo and Juliet at the Shakespeare Theatre
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The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0585  Tuesday, 7 October 2008

[1] From:   L. Swilley <
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     Date:   Saturday, 4 Oct 2008 15:40:57 -0500
     Subt:   Re: SHK 19.0580 All-Male Romeo and Juliet at the Shakespeare Theatre

[2] From:   David Evett <
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     Date:   Sunday, 05 Oct 2008 14:52:12 -0400
     Subt:   Re: SHK 19.0580 All-Male Romeo and Juliet at the Shakespeare Theatre


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       L. Swilley <
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Date:       Saturday, 4 Oct 2008 15:40:57 -0500
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

 >[Editor's Note: For one thing, _Rom._ is not a psychological treatise
 >or a record of real people in real situations but a play,

The director of a character in a play must account for the character's actions 
as though the character were a real person. The character's failure to make a 
decision available to the situation in which he acts is as much a part of the 
character as any decision he makes and carries through with. In "Macbeth," 
Banquo makes in clear in II, i, 6-9 that he fears Macbeth may harm Duncan; then 
again in III, i, 1-2 that he believes Macbeth has killed Duncan. Then in the 
latter scene, he is questioned three times by Macbeth about his (Banquo's) 
intention to go out for a ride, and whether or not Fleance will be with him. 
Granting Banquo's earlier thoughts about Macbeth, does it not seem that, if he 
does take a ride around the castle before returning for dinner, he will at take 
least 8,275 guards with him? Doesn't his failure to take precautions establish 
something about his character? Just so with R & J. The director and actor who 
fail to see these things miss an opportunity to examine and shape other parts of 
the character's presentation.

 >and to my tastes not a
 >terribly good one. As a play, it seems not to be able to make up its mind
 >as to whether its theme is about the operation of fate or about the impulsivity
 >of young people.

R.and J. is about Juliet, a girl who has taken a step into the adult world but 
fails to follow through with that step, choosing rather to disguise what she has 
done, to play a game, to be childlike.

 >From another perspective, doing as you suggest would result in the
 >play's not being an inventive fusion of a tragic ending onto the comedic
 >expectation of a Plautus-like plot.

The play is what it is, as it now stands. The director's problem is to find some 
way to convey a character, otherwise described in the play, whose failure to act 
sensibly is shown to be in character.

 >Apologies if this response comes off as too
 >snarky -- there is too much of that going around these days.

I, too, have had my urges to "snark". No problem.

L. Swilley

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       David Evett <
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 >
Date:       Sunday, 05 Oct 2008 14:52:12 -0400
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

 >I have always wondered: if Romeo is able to leave town and survive
 >elsewhere, why doesn't he take Juliet with him? Why doesn't Juliet
 >suggest that? Juliet is the "decider" throughout -- her fear or reluctance
 >to carry through with the public/adult decision to marry, instead taking
 >refuge in private trickery is her disastrous "flaw" -- and she has made
 >a very wrong decision.

L. Swilley's question comes up often in class discussion of the play. Part of 
the answer does lie in its highly complex (and highly artificial, in the root 
sense of the word) structure, which involves not only turning a traditional 
Plautine boy-gets-girl comedy into a traditional Senecan tragedy, as Susan 
Snyder taught us, but running the scenes of the first half backward in the 
second, so that the scene of the lovers' parting mirrors the balcony scene not 
only in that it its tone is melancholy rather than festive but that it begins 
with the two of them coupled and ends with their separation.

There are unstated practical reasons as well, however, arising from the more 
urgent question, which is why none of the four people who know about the 
marriage is ready to reveal it to anybody else. There's nothing in the play to 
suggest that Romeo has private means; he seems to be economically dependent on 
his father, and I see no reason to suppose that Montague would have been readier 
than Capulet to ally his only child and heir to his hated enemy. Balthazar, 
Romeo's private servant as the Nurse is Juliet's, owes his own primary 
allegiance to Montague, to whom he would be in duty bound to reveal information 
as important as that his master was living with a Capulet girl. Neither of the 
two youngsters has lived in a world in which they could imagine just renting a 
room in Mantua and doing their own shopping and cooking and housekeeping: the 
lifestyle they know requires domestic servants, and as another Shakespearean 
father notes, "Not in my house, Lucentio, for as you know, / Pitchers have ears, 
and I have many servants" (Shr 4.4.51-52)--a common anxiety of Elizabethan 
householders was that their servants would reveal family secrets.

David Evett

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