The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0409 Friday, 12 October 2012
Date: October 11, 2012 2:01:30 AM EDT
Subject: Juliet is the Sun
I would like to announce that an article I wrote called “’Juliet is the sun’: the Secret Anti-coal play in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and the Cosmic Heliocentrism of Giordano Bruno” has been published this past spring in the Area Studies Journal of Tsukuba University. Here is the link;
I first became aware of the sun-coal dichotomy in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ a few years ago, when I began investigating images of fossil fuels in fiction as my research project when I was a professor at Tsukuba University in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan.
But more fundamentally I think I’ve been influenced in my thinking by learning about a ceremony at the Grand Shrine at Ise (a major Shinto shrine in Japan) which excludes fossil fuels from the process of the ceremonial rebuilding of the shrine, a ceremony which occurs every twenty years. Power saws to cut the wood, or trucks, and so forth are all not allowed to be used for the wood used for the shrine.
No doubt, recent modern concerns relating to energy and renewable fuels have also influenced my ideas. Exposed to the idea that there is an economic process that can exclude fossil fuels, I began to wonder if Shakespeare had similarly wished to point to this fossil fuel/solar dichotomy with the line “Juliet is the sun”.
Researching about coal use in Elizabethan London was pretty exciting, actually, because the data confirmed my hunch: coal use and production soared in the late 1500s and “before the end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, in 1603, coal had become the main source of fuel for the nation, though not without complaint”, (from ‘Coal: A Human History’, by Barbara Freese, page 33). Mainly the complaints seem to have centered around the smoke, of course.
In addition, for 20 years, ever since graduate school, I had wondered why the scenes in “Romeo and Juliet” with the two lovers together exclude others from interacting with the couple. We are left with the Party Scene (where they meet), the Balcony Scene, the Good-bye Scene, and the Tomb Scene. Finally I decided that these scenes were special and provided an allegory for Mankind and the Sun, where the Sun is a source of energetic inputs into Mankind’s economy. Just as England “left” the sun to use primarily coal during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, so Romeo must leave Juliet (He says, “I must be gone and live, or stay and die”). That is to say, at a certain point, structural dependence on fossil fuels necessitates “leaving the sun” economy.
A friend, a professor of Art History told me “your idea is radical!” I must admit that he is correct. Nevertheless, I find it convincing, and for a reason that supersedes Shakespeare’s dramatic opus: to read Shakespeare’s Sonnets is to become aware of how allegory was this playwright’s most natural mode of thought or artistic expression.
I think my interpretation may open up exciting possibilities to see in Shakespeare’s other works “sun” dramas with Man’s place and role in the universe expressed in neatly done Renaissance cosmic allegories.
My article is not behind a paywall, and though the university publishing the article is in Japan, my article is in English.
As luck would have it (I guess it’s almost too ironic that this happened to someone studying solar energy!) I left Ibaraki Prefecture and my job there after the Fukushima Nuclear accident and I now live in a small town in a mountainous region of Western Japan.