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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: May ::
Playing Capulet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0221  Friday, 8 May 2009

[1] From:   Felix de Villiers <
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     Date:   Thursday, 7 May 2009 07:55:00 +0200
     Subj:   Playing Capulet

[2] From:   Lynn Brenner <
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     Date:   Thursday, 7 May 2009 08:39:58 EDT
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0214 Playing Capulet

[3] From:   John Wall <
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     Date:   Thursday, 07 May 2009 11:07:52 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0214 Playing Capulet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Felix de Villiers <
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Date:       Thursday, 7 May 2009 07:55:00 +0200
Subject:    Playing Capulet

I am surprised at the measure of sympathy accorded to Capulet by Mari 
Bonomi. He tries to force his daughter to marry a man she does not want. 
He doesn't know about Romeo, so all he knows is that Juliet is 
absolutely averse to the imposed suitor. He covers her with abuse and 
threats of the most disgusting and filthy kind. He doesn't have to be 
classified as a villain, but just as a man who, in tune with the 
conventions of his time, becomes a nasty piece of work

Felix

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Lynn Brenner <
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Date:       Thursday, 7 May 2009 08:39:58 EDT
Subject: 20.0214 Playing Capulet
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0214 Playing Capulet

 >I have always liked Capulet. He has always seemed to me a man who would
 >have accepted his daughter's announcement that she's married to Romeo
 >had she been able to make it without the complications of 3.1. It is
 >Capulet who offers his hand first to Montague in 5.3.

I'm abashed by your comments on Capulet's behalf.

Everything you say of him is true.

The reason I feel no sympathy for him is that all my sympathy is for Juliet.

I've looked at Capulet in this scene through her eyes.

Surely this has some bearing on how we see 'villains' -- Iago, Richard 
III, Edmund.

I think we've influenced not only by the charm of the actor (I can 
imagine how delightful Ian Richardson must have been as Edmund!) but 
also by how we feel about their fellow characters.

Richard III towers over everyone else in his play. He's much smarter, 
braver, and more honest (with us and with himself) than his victims, and 
much, much wittier.

He sees his victims as expendable dupes; as his de facto 
co-conspirators, we do too. This is made easier by the fact that they 
aren't drawn with nearly as much loving care as he is.

Richard III is a comic melodrama.

But Othello, Desdemona, and Cassio are fully believable, complex, and 
sympathetic people. That's what makes the play so powerful. Iago can 
only see them as gullible fools; but if we share his view, it's a much 
less moving play.

Certainly, he has to seem trustworthy and likable to the other 
characters. But charming? Who in the play finds him charming? They all 
see him as a good blunt fellow -- 'honest' in that he always speaks his 
mind -- a bit unpolished, perhaps, not very subtle, but full of shrewd 
worldly wisdom, and good-hearted and loyal to a fault. He's good old 
honest Iago and you can always depend on him.

The dissonance between our knowledge and their ignorance can elicit 
ripples of what I'd call deliciously nervous laughter in the audience.

But Iago himself isn't funny. He doesn't make us laugh, as Richard III 
does.

He is brilliant, riveting, fascinating. He understands his victims 
without feeling anything for them. But we both understand and feel for 
them. One doesn't root for Iago, as one invariably does for Richard, 
unless there's something seriously wrong with the production.

And to circle back to my original point: I disagree with the notion that 
a villain who isn't played for sympathy becomes a not very interesting 
two-dimensional character.

I find Iago complex and very believably human without being at all likable.

Lynn Brenner

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       John Wall <
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Date:       Thursday, 07 May 2009 11:07:52 -0400
Subject: 20.0214 Playing Capulet
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0214 Playing Capulet

There is some evidence in the contemporary literature (specific 
reference not accessible to me at this moment) that the terms of 
arranged marriages at this time included a two-way understanding. Good 
daughters should go along with their father's choices for them, but at 
the same time a good father should take his daughter's feelings into 
account. So Capulet would seem to be fitting precisely into this model 
when he provides an opportunity for Juliet to meet Paris and form an 
opinion of him before he agrees to her match with Paris. If the original 
audience for R&J had this model in mind, they would of course see Juliet 
as disregarding her responsibilities to her father when she agrees to 
marry Romeo. But they would also see Capulet as departing from his 
responsibilities to Juliet when he makes her marriage to Paris a test of 
her loyalty to him.

By the way, has anyone in the Shakespeare community ever remarked on the 
fact that while the Capulet party was set up to allow Juliet and Paris 
to meet there seems to be little if any reference in the play to whether 
or not they actually met that night?

John N Wall
Professor of English
NC State university
Raleigh, NC 27695

[Editor's Note: I am not sure if John is referring to Lawrence Stone's 
controversial and disputable but certainly worth considering _The Family 
Sex and Marriage in England, 1500-1800_ (Harper & Row, 1977). For one 
critique see Lynda Boose "The Family in Shakespeare Studies; or-Studies 
in the Family of Shakespeareans; or-The Politics of Politics," 
_Renaissance Quarterly_ (RenQ) 1987 Winter; 40 (4): 707-42. -HMC]

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