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The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0265 Monday, 3 June 2013
Date: May 30, 2013 3:36:09 PM EDT
In Q2 of Romeo and Juliet (1599), at what modern editors would number 3.1.90, occurs a line of type, centered and reading “Away Tybalt.” It looks like a stage direction, and is so taken by most editors. But in 1960, George Walton Williams wrote an article claiming that this is in fact a line of dialogue. The Q2 compositor doesn’t use “Away” to mean “Exit,” speech prefixes for minor characters are often omitted, and there is a neat parallel later in the scene with Benvolio’s “Away, Romeo.”
Williams has a plausible argument, and, in any case, he is by common consent irreproachable. (As with Sara Lee, nobody doesn’t love GWW.) But his claim has put a sting in Rene Weis, with which he might do mischief in his Arden3 edition of the play. Since Weis accepts “Away, Tybalt” as speech, he needs a speaker. And where a less adventurous editor might settle for “Another Capulet” or “Tybalt’s follower,” Weis decides that the line is spoken by “Petruchio.” [!!!]
Now there is a Petruchio in the play: he is one of the three young men, including Romeo, whom Juliet asks the Nurse to identify for her toward the end of the ball scene. “Young Petruchio” is therefore currently present in Verona, as well as sufficiently friendly to the Capulets to be invited to the ball, sufficiently young to go looking for trouble in the streets, and of sufficient social rank to address Tybalt as “Tybalt” rather than “sir.”
The other young man has of course the same credentials and might be thought to be marginally more likely for being more familiar: the Nurse identifies him immediately, but only thinks the other to be young Petruchio. Still, “The son and heir of Old Tiberio” would be an ungainly prefix for a two-word speech. Petruchio is the better choice.
Shakespeare may in fact have been having a little intertextual fun here, because we hear earlier in the scene that Old Capulet and his cousin last masked some thirty odd years ago at “the nuptial of Lucentio,” which sounds like the last scene of Shrew. Admitttedly, we don’t hear of any masking or dancing at Lucentio’s “banquet,” but maybe that happened after we left, and in any case, old men tend to remember with advantages.
If the Capulet cousins were in the audience for Kate’s submission speech, one expects they were deceived into taking it at face value. But more important, if his brother-in-law’s wedding was thirty years ago, the Tamer himself must now be (by Our Lady) inclining to threescore, and clearly not the Petruchio of the Capulet ball. This might be his son, with something of his old man’s truculence, or even—eheu fugaces—his grandson.
Probably neither, however, is Tybalt’s companion. The key to solving that problem is the fact that when Petruchio—the real Petruchio—first appears on stage, he calls himself “a gentleman of Verona.” This immediately recalls the two titular gentlemen, and –sure enough—we find one of them on Capulet’s guest list: “Signor Valentio and his cousin Tybalt.” Tybalt’s cousin!
Of course, “Valentio” isn’t exactly “Valentine,” but Shakespeare may have felt the need for a variant to distinguish him from Mercutio’s brother, Valentine. “Signor” might sound like someone too mature for gang-banging, but Valentine may have earned the honorific for his legendary captaincy of supremely high-minded outlaws, and, in any case, he is (like Fredinand) the son-in-law of the Duke of Milan. Since he has a record for armed robbery, he would appeal to Tybalt as a formidable back-up, yet Valentine has a sense of moderation as well—he forbade his footpads to do violence to silly women or poor passengers. This is just the man to say, “That’s enough, Tybalt. Let’s go.” (His outlaws’ enthusiasm for Valentine’s linguistic skills was a recognition that he could holler “Stand and deliver” in whatever language was appropriate to the victim.)
Weis’s “Petruchio” opens a fertile field of investigation if one may shop the canon to give names to the anonymous inhabiting the locale. I thought of Dromio for the illiterate servant with the guest-list, but since slavery is probably illegal in Verona, I settled for Launcelot Gobbo, who, after getting in trouble in Belmont over inseminating the Moor, might well have looked for a new job. The anonymous Nurse—(forget the Angelica business)—could well be Nell Quickly. The Capulets, like many Italian aristocrats, often employ English servants, and Mrs Q has already, flouting her employer’s wishes, helped Anne Page to run off and marry the man she loves. For the apothecary, who has seen better times, is very short of money and has learned that “the world’s law” is no friend of his, who else but Shylock?
Other and probably better discoveries will surely follow. Hopefully, they will observe the maxim that resonance trumps probability.
Or it might just be a stage direction.