Saturday, May 3, 2014

Shakespeare Study: The Tragedy Of Romeo And Juliet (revisited)

In my initial three-and-a-half-year Shakespeare study, I read one play a month, and watched film adaptations and read books of critical essays on each play. I hadn’t yet finished my three and a half years of Shakespeare study when I decided that I would be revisiting key plays. Basically, what I decided is that whenever I acquired more Shakespeare DVDs, I would re-read the play or plays in question. I first returned to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, then to The Taming Of The Shrew.  And now I’m returning to The Tragedy Of Romeo And Juliet.

This time around I read the Signet Classic edition, edited by J. A. Bryant, Jr. This was first published in 1964, and an updated edition was published in 1986. I read the First Signet Classic Printing (Second Revised Edition), which was published in May of 1998, and includes new and updated critical essays and a revised bibliography.
The book contains an overview at the beginning. “Alvin Kernan, in Shakespeare, the King’s Playwright: Theater in the Stuart Court 1603-1613 (1995) points out that ‘several of [Shakespeare’s] plays contain brief theatrical performances, set always in a court or some noble house. When Shakespeare portrayed a theater, he did not, except for the choruses in Henry V, imagine a public theater’” (p. xxxiii). Then, in the introduction, regarding the date of Romeo And Juliet, Bryant writes: “The preferred date seems to be 1595, which is also the preferred date for Richard II and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The reason usually given for putting these plays in the same year is that the same intense lyricism characterizes all three, but it has also been suggested that A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in its special concern with the difficulties of young love, reveals itself to be a product of the same mood or preoccupation that caused Shakespeare to write Romeo And Juliet” (pp. lxviii-lxix). Later in the introduction, regarding the speeches of Juliet and Romeo, Bryant writes: “Her best lines are those in which she draws upon language to invent for her the images of death which she must confront before Romeo can be permanently hers (4.3.14-58); yet when she wakes to find Romeo lifeless, she can muster no language capable of helping her in such an extremity and quickly joins her lover in death. By contrast, Romeo’s best speech is perhaps the one he delivers in the tomb; with it he gives dignity, meaning and finality to the one act he plans and executes, however unwisely, without the help of friends, Friar or Juliet. His language here, like the deed, is his own, as the courtly conventions and fashionable euphuism of many of his earlier scenes were not. His paradoxes, his puns, even his lamentations in the Friar’s cell, are borrowed things, as his mature friends know; yet Romeo’s ‘misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms’ is catalyzed into inchoate poetry whenever Juliet comes upon the scene, and in the end he achieves in her presence a man’s power to act if not a man’s gift of discretion” (p. lxxii). About the nurse, Bryant writes: “From the beginning, she is garrulous, corruptible and insensitive; and as long as nothing requires her to be otherwise, she can also be amusing. At her crisis, when Juliet asks her to be wise, the Nurse can only suggest bigamy, a course quite in keeping with the values she herself is made of. Here the Nurse is no longer funny, but she has not changed. It is Juliet who has done that. The other characters in this group do not change either. They may be said to represent the abiding conditions of human intercourse in any representative community” (p. lxxiv). Near the end of the introduction, Bryant writes: “Time runs out for both principals in this play, but it is Juliet who makes the race exciting. Her five-day maturation is a miracle which only a Shakespeare could have made credible; yet at the end she is still a fourteen-year-old girl, and she succumbs to an adolescent’s despair. Mercutio might have helped had he been available, but Mercutio is dead. All the others have deserted her – parents, Nurse, the Friar, who takes fright at the crucial moment, and Romeo, who lies dead at her feet. She simply has not lived long enough in her wisdom to stand entirely alone. This is really the source of pathos in Romeo And Juliet” (p. lxxviii).
The book is annotated as well. Regarding Juliet’s line “You kiss by th’ book,” Bryant notes, “i.e., you take my words literally to get more kisses” (p. 31). In this edition, Juliet says the “Parting is such sweet sorrow” lines. Regarding the “Prince of Cats” line, Bryant notes, “Tybalt’s name, or some variant of it, as given to the cat in medieval stories of Reynard the Fox” (p. 47).
In a short chapter on the play’s sources, regarding Shakespeare’s changes to the story, Bryant writes: “In bringing Tybalt to the ball and making him the discoverer of Romeo’s presence there, he gave real point to the disastrous street fight in Act 3; he also enlarged Paris’ part in the story and ennobled his character, and he created Mercutio. More important, he made all three of these serve as foils to a Romeo who develops and matures in response to the challenges they present and who, before the end, has ironically become responsible for the deaths of all three. Shakespeare’s real miracle, however, was Juliet, transformed from an adolescent arrogantly eager to outdo her elders to an appealing child-woman, barely fourteen, who learns to mix courage with her innocence, yet falls victim to a world that only briefly and unintentionally but fatally treats her as a plaything” (p. 130).
There are critical essays at the end of the book. H.B. Charlton writes: “To choose such folk as these for tragic heroes was aesthetically well-nigh an anarchist’s gesture; and the dramatist provided a sort of program-prologue to prompt the audience to see the play from the right point of view. In this playbill the dramatist draws special attention to two features of his story. First, Verona was being torn by a terrible, bloodthirsty feud which no human endeavor had been able to settle; this was the direct cause of the death of the lovers, and but for those deaths it never would have been healed. Second, the course of the young lovers’ lives is from the outset governed by a malignant destiny; fatal, star-crossed, death-marked, they are doomed to piteous destruction” (pp. 146-147). Later in that same essay, regarding Rosaline, Charlton writes: “Stranger still, so is Romeo’s cruel lady, Rosaline, who in the invitation is addressed as Capulet’s cousin. It is odd that Romeo’s love for her, since she was a Capulet, had given him no qualms on the score of the feud” (p. 153). Michael Goldman writes, regarding the line “Wherefore art thou Romeo”: “The question is really why he must have a name at all. Romeo And Juliet is a tragedy of naming, a tragedy in which at times Romeo’s name seems to be the villain” (p. 162). Later in that same piece, Goldman writes: “It is not fanciful to see their last scene in the tomb as suggestive of sexual union and of the sexual act. A battle takes place at the door, it is torn open – and on stage the barrier is finally only a curtain that gives easily enough after some bloodshed. It is also almost certainly the same inner stage or pavilion where Juliet has gone to bed on the eve of her wedding to Paris, and so it must remind the audience of that innocent  chamber” (p. 167). Marianne Novy writes: “The extreme youth of the lovers emphasizes their innocence and inexperience. Anyone who has lived longer than Romeo and Juliet – anyone who has given up a first love – has made more compromises than they have. It is their extreme purity that gives their love its special tragedy. The play expresses both the appeal and the danger of a love in which two people become the whole world to each other” (p. 197).

Related Books:

- Understanding Romeo And Juliet  by Thomas Thrasher  -  This is a volume in the Understanding Great Literature series, which is aimed at young readers. It includes a short biography of William Shakespeare; a history of Romeo And Juliet; a breakdown of the plot of Romeo And Juliet, scene by scene; descriptions of the characters; and an analysis of the play. In the chapter on Shakespeare, Thrasher writes, “Some critics suggest that the inspiration for Romeo and Juliet springs from Shakespeare’s hasty marriage to Anne and that the play expresses Shakespeare’s disapproval of young love and marriage” (p. 16). Later in that chapter, regarding Shakespeare’s coat of arms, Thrasher writes: “This had been Shakespeare’s life-long dream, and it allowed him to legally sign himself ‘Gentleman.’ A gentleman had two primary advantages over a commoner: One, it confirmed class status as a member of the gentry, and two, a gentleman could testify and bring suit in court without taking an oath” (p. 24). Of course, we can’t really know if it had been a life-long dream, but that’s okay. In the chapter on the history of the play, Thrasher writes: “The final reason that scholars believe that Romeo and Juliet was written during the plague years is the sonnets that are found throughout the play. This has led critics to believe that Romeo and Juliet was written at about the same time that Shakespeare was composing his Sonnets for Henry Wriothesley, earl of Southampton. The play might be viewed as the embodiment of the world of the love sonnet: a passionate but fragile state that collapses under the weight of reality” (p. 35). Later in that chapter he writes: “The play also shares language and images with the Sonnets. For instance, in several poems the narrator of the Sonnets speaks of his unrequited love for a Dark Lady. When Romeo first appears on the stage, he is unhappy about his love affair with the dark-haired Rosaline, and he laments his luck in language typical of courtly lovers” (p. 39). Then in the chapter on the characters, Thrasher writes, regarding Capulet: “Capulet’s sudden temper is evident in the first scene of the play when a brawl erupts and Capulet, despite his age, demands a weapon. Capulet is a character that can be very reasonable one moment, then become violent the next” (p. 64). In the literary analysis of the play, Thrasher writes: “Romeo does not speak of Juliet as unattainable and cruel but as attainable and kind. The change of language is meant to represent how true love has transformed Romeo from a lovesick boy into a man in love” (pp. 72-73). This book was published in 2001.



- Understanding Romeo And Juliet: A Student Casebook To Issues, Sources, And Historical Documents  by Alan Hager  -  This is a volume in The Greenwood Press “Literature In Context” Series, and includes an analysis of the play, as well as lots of information on related material.  In the analysis, Alan Hager writes, “Shakespeare’s conclusions about vendetta seem to be that rivalry weakens one’s humanity and leads to brutal action (of the sort that Juliet’s cousin Tybalt revels in)” (pp. 3-4). Regarding the Nurse, Hager writes: “Even though there is tremendous contrast between the Nurse and her charge, Juliet, they have in common a relative rush to sexual experience. The Nurse’s first words in the play constitute an oath: ‘Now, by my maidenhead at twelve year old’ (1.3.2). Because she has not sworn on a later version, we can assume the Nurse lost her virginity at age twelve. Rosaline was, however, ‘in strong proof of chastity well armed’ (1.1.210) and had sworn off love of any sort” (p. 9). Later in that chapter, Hager writes: “In his diatribe, Friar Laurence accuses Romeo of infidelity and weakness. He adds that all Romeo seems to care about is what he sees in a woman, not what he understands or feels for her in his heart. For Elizabethans, the seat of the emotions was thought to be the liver, not the heart. The heart was reserved symbolically as the seat of intuitive knowledge, fidelity, and courage (from coeur, French for ‘heart’)” (p. 11). Also in the analysis, Hager writes, “A personified lover, Death (and its flies), not Paris, slowly emerges in the poetry as Romeo’s foil, or erotic rival” (p. 15). In the chapter on the lyrical source of the play, Hager writes: “The play’s last two lines – a couplet, of course – seem to parody the pat endings of many Elizabethan sonnets: ‘For never was a story of more woe/Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.’ These two lines perform the witty corking of a rather complex play. As soon as the audience hears ‘woe,’ it can expect a rhyme on ‘Romeo,’ reversing the sequence of – and thereby emphasizing – the names of the tragic principals, ‘Juliet and her Romeo.’ This couplet is more than a reminder of the importance of the heroine and hero. The audience recalls, among other things, that these willful and mismanaged teenage lovers died at their own hands, as Mercutio, Tybalt, Paris, and many citizens of both the Capulet and Montague clans – including Romeo’s mother – did not. Furthermore, the play as a whole is about Verona and vendetta and contrariety and the dangers of the white magic of miracle drug and poison and rush, as well as about the love of Juliet and her Romeo. Thus, as in a good Elizabethan sonnet, the very ending leaves us scratching our heads in wonder. But the clue contained in the abrupt couplet is that Romeo and his Juliet brought about much of the good and, through their egoistic idealism, much of the havoc” (pp. 94-95). In the chapter on the performance history of the play, Hager writes: “Moreover, there has been a recent tradition, culminating in the Baz Luhrmann movie of 1996, to present Mercutio as both black and, if not bisexual, at least as a humorous cross-dresser and female impersonator. The notion of a gay Mercutio is not directly contradicted by the play. He does make fun of sexual desire for women, but it seems Shakespeare’s mercurial one is trying, through typical male taunting, to keep the gang of young men together by dissuading them from becoming involved with the opposite sex. Supposedly Mercutio has no scars whatsoever. That is, he seems mainly interested in bonding together a voluntary (and unstable) band of young men for purposes of friendship rather than honor (unlike the closely knit Capulet gang). Involvements and families would certainly negate Mercutio’s ‘locker room’ ideal” (p. 139). There is one error that I noticed in the book: In the timeline it gives 1617 as the year of Shakespeare’s death, when actually it was 1616 (p. 116). This book was published in 1999.



- The Most Excellent And Lamentable Tragedy Of Romeo And Juliet  adapted and illustrated by Gareth Hinds  -  This is a graphic novel version of Romeo And Juliet. The author includes a note at the beginning: “I chose to cast my retelling of Romeo & Juliet with multiracial characters in order to reflect how universal this story is. It is not a statement about racism or racial conflict.” The Montagues are black, and the Capulets Indian.
The prologue is told over a pleasant illustration of a graveyard in the foreground, with the city in the distance.
Act I:
In the opening scene, the Capulets are in red, the Montagues in blue. Tybalt arrives shirtless and with tattoos. The Nurse’s long speech from Scene iii is completely cut, as is her joking reference to women getting pregnant. The Queen Mab speech is illustrated, with a drawing of the carriage Mercutio describes. The first line at the party is Romeo’s to the servingman. Romeo dances with Juliet, and guides her out of the main room so they may talk.
Act II:
The Chorus is cut. In the balcony scene, Romeo’s speech that begins “She speaks” is cut. This version uses “a rose by any other name” rather than the preferred “by any other word.” Romeo climbs a tree to be closer to Juliet. Juliet says the “Parting is such sweet sorrow” line. A great deal of Act II is cut. After Mercutio demonstrates the fencing moves, it goes straight to the wedding of Romeo and Juliet. So gone is Romeo talking with Mercutio and Benvolio, the teasing of the Nurse, Juliet waiting for word, and the great dialogue between Juliet and the Nurse.
Act III:
Romeo embraces Tybalt after Tybalt calls him a villain, surprising Tybalt. Romeo’s sword breaks during his fight with Tybalt, so Benvolio tosses him Mercutio’s sword, and it is with that that Romeo kills Tybalt. The Nurse is cut from Scene iii. Added are illustrations of Romeo climbing into Juliet’s chamber and sleeping with her.
Act IV:
Paris is cut from the first scene of Act IV. It goes right from the Friar giving Juliet the vial to Juliet alone in her chamber. So cut is the dialogue between Juliet and Capulet, as well as that between Juliet and Lady Capulet. And most of Juliet’s long speech is cut. The Nurse immediately believes Juliet is dead. The scene with the musicians is of course cut.
Act V:
Romeo wakes in the grass at the side of a body of water. Paris’ Page is cut. So who calls the watch? It’s unclear. Romeo’s “Thus with a kiss I die” is cut. The dialogue between Friar and Balthasar is cut. Montague’s wife does not die in this version and is present at the end of the play.
This book was published in 2013.



- Prince Of Cats written and illustrated by Ron Wimberly  -  This is a graphic novel that moves the story of Romeo And Juliet to modern Brooklyn. In the opening speech, done as a rap, the Chorus begins with, “Remember back in the day,/Niggas wore waves,/Gazell-e Shades, corn braids, dueled aplenty/But never ended deadly.” The speech ends with a reference to the Langston Hughes poem: “To redeem American dreams deferred.” This version begins before the events of Romeo And Juliet. As the book’s title might lead you to guess, the focus of this adaptation is on Tybalt, and he is the first character introduced. One of his friends takes speed, and they go up on the rooftops of the city, only to meet up with the Montagues. Though it’s a modern scene, Tybalt has a sword. The language is a mix of modern slang with lines like “Wherefore must thou always tempt calamity?” So you get lines like, “There’s naught of which to speak, it’s whack, thoroughly!” An underground newspaper called the Duel-List rates the opponents. Juliet wears large star earrings and when we meet her, she is smoking a joint with friends in the girls’ bathroom. Apparently, it’s the last day of school before summer vacation. Juliet is enrolled in summer school, and Tybalt is in a private school. Juliet wins a necklace at a carnival game. There seems to be an incestuous attraction between Juliet and Tybalt. Mercutio is interviewed and photographed for The Duel-List. Meanwhile Rosalyn (not Rosaline) is hanging photographs she’s developed. She gets a message on her machine that her name is on the list. There is a brawl at the dance. Then approximately halfway through the book, we begin getting dialogue from the play. The first scene we get is from Act II, when Mercutio and Benvolio talk about the challenge that Tybalt issued. Mercutio gives his “blind bow-boy’s butt-shaft” speech, which of course leads to his comment that Tybalt is “More than Prince of Cats.” Interestingly, the fencing terms Mercutio uses are different in this adaptation. We have a scene with Romeo under Rosalyn’s balcony, calling up to her. A neighbor tells him to shut up. Romeo responds, “Fuck thee, it ain’t past ten.” Oh boy. Plus, this certainly takes away some of the romance of the balcony scene with Juliet, since this is a pattern now with Romeo. But Rosalyn tells him to come back tomorrow. Meanwhile she has sex with Tybalt. So more incest. Rosalyn then tells Romeo she’s not interested, that she’s chaste (obviously a lie). And then later we get the first scene of the play, beginning with the dialogue between Sampson and Gregory, with the plays on collier/choler/collar, and the joke about maidenheads. The scene continues and includes the biting of the thumbs. That scene ends with Tybalt attacking Benvolio. The Prince’s speech is done as a newspaper article (written by Edward de Vere – a joke, I’m assuming, on the whole Oxfordian belief). This graphic novel is divided into acts, and at this point begins Act 6 (yes, 6). By the way, in an illustration there is a magazine titled Tame Shrew. Then we go to Act 7, with Tybalt going back to Rosalyn. And there’s more of that first scene from the play, with Tybalt telling Benvolio he hates “hell, all Montagues, and thee.” (I wonder if that page was simply incorrectly placed in the book.) Then we get the party at the Capulet home, where Romeo sees Juliet. It’s an outdoor costume party, and Juliet is dressed as Wonder Woman. This adaptation includes none of their dialogue, however. The next day Tybalt has a conversation with Juliet, then goes seeking Romeo. When Romeo shows up, he says his lines about loving the name Capulet. Yet we didn’t have the marriage scene, so it makes less sense. After Mercutio is hurt, he says only a couple of his lines. Tybalt then goes looking for Juliet, and gets confirmation from the Friar that she and Romeo were married. Romeo follows Tybalt to the Friar’s cell (rather than Tybalt returning to continue the fray), and they fight. Romeo kills Tybalt, and that’s where this adaptation ends.
This book was published in 2012.



- Romeo & Juliet: A Guide  by Alistair McCallum  -  This book is a volume in The Shakespeare Handbooks. It goes through the play, scene by scene, with an explanation of the action, as well as some short quoted passages from other works. There is also a short introduction, in which Alistair McCallum writes: “Although the play was based on a well-known story, the first performances of Romeo and Juliet seem to have caused something of a sensation. This was the first time that a full-scale tragedy had dealt with love. Traditionally, tragedies had taken the downfall of kings and emperors as their theme; love, particularly between young people, was regarded as the subject-matter of comedy. The play’s setting, too, was recognisably modern, as opposed to the classical world in which tragedies were normally set” (p. 3). Regarding the party scene, McCallum writes: “Capulet gives the masked strangers a warm welcome, and urges all the girls to dance with the new arrivals. Masquing – the tradition of making an uninvited appearance at a party, in disguise, and joining the dancing – was something he himself enjoyed in his youth” (p. 32).
This book was published in 2001.



- Romeo And Juliet  edited by R.S. White  -  This is a volume in the New Casebooks series, and is a collection of essays on Romeo And Juliet. In the introduction, R.S. White writes: “Those who cling to the mythologies of high romance, like Othello, Romeo, and Juliet, come to grief for one reason or another” (p. 9). White then continues: “At the least, all the evidence suggests that Shakespeare agreed on, and perhaps helped to naturalise, the idea that love is plural, contradictory and paradoxical, many things rather than one. Romeo and Juliet raises and builds into its vision the free-floating diversity of the word ‘love’ and of language in general. If we compare the surrealism of Mercutio on love as fantasy, the Nurse on marriage as including bawdy physicality, Juliet’s parents on love as something that will grow within an arranged marriage, and the Friar who cautions against acting on ephemeral emotional states, we find even within one play a surprising range of incompatible attitudes” (p. 10). Later in the introduction, White writes: “Brecht may have taken the germ of the idea from a teasingly ambiguous statement by one of the ‘servants’ in Shakespeare’s play, Gregory’s ‘The quarrel is between our masters and us their men’ (I.i.18-22). Gregory’s comment could mean that the Montague masters and men stand together against the Capulet masters and men, but it could equally mean that the masters stand together against the men, in the sense that the servants become hapless tools” (p. 17).
Lloyd Davis writes: “Unlike contemporary sonnet sequences, which portray the poet by stifling the woman’s voice (just as Romeo invokes and silences Rosaline), the play is marked by the lovers’ dialogues. This reciprocity is epitomised by the sonnet they co-construct and seal with a kiss at their first meeting (I.v.92-105)” (p. 39).
Catherine Belsey writes: “Even though his name is no part of the man Juliet loves, the play at once draws attention to the impossibility of discarding the name which differentiates him. Hearing in the darkness a voice reply to her musings, the shocked Juliet demands, ‘What man art thou?’ (I.52), and how else can Romeo indicate who he is but by reference to a name which precisely cannot be specified without identifying an opponent of all Capulets” (pp. 56-57).
Dympna C. Callaghan writes, “Had it not been aimed at sexual access rather than escape with Juliet, Romeo’s rope-ladder scheme might have avoided the tragic conclusion” (p. 106).
Kiernan Ryan writes, “As the balcony scene attests, Romeo’s love for Juliet has begun to transmute his language into a mode of expression which is much more direct, personal and resolute” (p. 122). A little later in that same essay, Ryan writes, “The question is not whether their fate might have been averted if only their luck had held, but why they should have been driven to the point where their lives are at the mercy of mere luck at all” (p. 124).
Barbara Everett, regarding the purpose of the Nurse and Mercutio, writes: “Romeo and Juliet are two romantic children, but we take them – or should take them – absolutely straight; and we might fail to do so if it were not for the obliquity, or folly, that characterises their constant companions. That is to say, from the beginning what the Nurse has is more than personality: it is function; and by function she is a ‘natural’” (p. 155).
Regarding the relationship between Mercutio’s conjuring of Romeo and the balcony scene, there is this interesting footnote to Joseph A. Porter’s piece: “The balcony scene answers the mock conjuration in ways beyond that already noted. The discussion of what to swear by (II.ii.107-16) answers Mercutio’s talk of conjuring by parts of Rosaline. And, as George Walton Williams has drawn to my attention, Mercutio’s mocking ‘Cry but Ay me!’ (II.i.10) is answered by the first words Romeo hears Juliet speak from the balcony, ‘Ay me’ (II.ii.25)” (p. 191).
Jonathan Goldberg writes: “When Juliet delivers her speech about Romeo and the name of the rose, she inserts him into the series in which she already participates as Romeo’s substitute love, a new Rosaline with a different name (it is worth noting that the Rosaline figure in Shakespeare’s source has no name)” (p. 199).
This book was published in 2001.

- Romeow & Drooliet  by Nina Laden  -  The two warring families in this children’s book are the Felinis, who are cat owners, and the Barkers, who own dogs. Romeo is Romeow, a cat owned by the Felini family. Juliet becomes Drooliet, a dog owned by the Barkers. Benvolio becomes Benny. Mercutio becomes Marky, here one of Romeow’s brothers rather than a kinsmen of the prince. Marky wants to go looking for trouble, while Romeow wants to look for love. Tybalt is Turbo in this adaptation (by the way, even in this version he wears red). Romeow, Benny and Marky go to the Barkers’ costume party. As in Baz Luhrmann’s film, Drooliet is dressed as an angel. However, it is Marky who is dressed as a knight. Romeow and Drooliet dance, until Turbo interrupts them. We do have the balcony scene, which begins with Drooliet saying, “Oh, Romeow, where is that fur-faced Romeow?” So apparently this is yet one more adaptation that believes “wherefore” means “where.” Drooliet says, “If you were a creature of any other name,/It would still make my tail wag.” They decide to get married. The Friar is played by a mouse in this version. When Turbo goes looking to fight Romeow, Romeow is with Drooliet, not Benny and Marky. Romeow says, “Let’s not fight.” He adds, “We are family,” something Romeo never tells Tybalt. Benny and Marky do soon show up, and Turbo and Marky fight. Romeow then fights Turbo, but neither Marky nor Turbo is killed. The Prince is a human in this story – Officer Prince, the animal control warden – and he grabs Romeow and puts him in the back of his truck. Drooliet goes chasing after Romeow, and in the process gets hit by a car. Romeow goes to her side and licks her, and she revives. Officer Prince lets Romeow go, and everyone becomes friends.
This book was published in 2005.



- Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet  by Michael Rosen and Jane Ray  -  This is a children’s book written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Jane Ray. It mentions straight away that the story has been told many times, in different languages, and that “Shakespeare told it in a London theatre in the 1590s.” The book then describes London at that time, before going into the actual story of Romeo And Juliet. This book also includes short notes in the margins, definitions of words children might not know. It’s interesting that it includes part of the Chorus’ speech, but also talks about the speech. This book shortens the opening brawl to a description and a couple of Tybalt’s lines. The whole biting of the thumbs is cut. This version has Romeo tell Benvolio “He was in love with a woman called Rosaline.” There are some really wonderful illustrations of the Queen Mab speech. A good deal of the balcony scene is left intact, and uses the Q2 reading of “a rose by any other word.” The first scene with the Friar and Romeo is shortened to just one descriptive paragraph, and the great scene where Juliet waits for word from the Nurse regarding Romeo’s decision is shortened to just two sentences. Interestingly, considering it’s a children’s book, it includes some of the speech where Juliet is longing to have sex with Romeo, and even introduces that speech with this line: “She thought about her new situation as a married woman who hadn’t yet slept with her husband.” And then in the morning the book describes the scene: “Later, Romeo and Juliet were in bed together. Their night of lovemaking was nearly over.” And we get the speeches about the lark. Paris is included in the scene where Juliet goes to the Friar. In the scene when Juliet’s body is discovered, there is an added comment in the line: “Like the good Christian that he was, the friar tried to calm everyone by reassuring them that Juliet was now in heaven.” The illustration of the apothecary makes him seem more well off than described in the play. Paris’ Page is cut from the tomb scene, so it’s unclear who called the watch (or the police, as is said in this version). Interestingly, because of Juliet’s “cup” line, the book includes this: “Then he poured out the poison into a little cup, raised the cup, and offered Juliet a toast.” At the end of the book, the authors urge young readers to go see the play.
This book was published in 2004.
 


- Shakespeare’s R & J  adapted by Joe Calarco  -  This play features four male students who perform Romeo And Juliet. Interestingly, it begins with a bit of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a play that has several things in common with Romeo And Juliet. Student 1 reads from Puck’s penultimate speech: “Now is the time of night/That the graves, all gaping wide,/Every one lets forth his sprite…” (p. 13). The other students join in, but actually read the lines that precede those: “Now the hungry lion roars,/And the wolf behowls the moon.” Student 1, who takes on the role of Romeo, starts Romeo And Juliet with his “I dreamt a dream tonight.” He then goes on to read the Chorus’ opening speech. All the students do the Prince’s lines when he arrives after the opening brawl. Capulet’s lines about when he wore a visor come before the Queen Mab speech. And Romeo does repeat his “I dreamt a dream line” in its proper place. There is some re-ordering of scenes in this adaptation. Juliet’s first scene, Act I Scene iii, comes after Act I Scene iv. This adaptation uses the Q2 reading of “a rose by any other word.” At one point, Student 3 tears a page of the play to pieces, and Student 1 and Student 2 recite Sonnet 18 (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”). And then all the students recite Sonnet 116 (“Let me not to the marriage of true minds”). When Juliet is upset by the news of her impending marriage to Paris, the dialogue between her and Capulet is cut, so that Capulet is immediately angry. Students 1, 3 and 4 take Capulet’s lines. Paris is cut from the Friar scene, and is also cut from the tomb scene. After the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, the students return to their regular lessons. Student 1 then reads again Puck’s penultimate speech from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Student 2 then reads Puck’s final speech from that play, before they all then read the Prince’s final lines from Romeo And Juliet. This adaptation ends with Student 1 again saying the “I dreamt a dream tonight” line.
This book was published in 1999. The play was originally produced in 1997.




- Approaches To Teaching Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet  edited by Maurice Hunt  -  This is a volume in The Modern Language Association Of America’s series, Approaches To Teaching World Literature. Ivo Kamps writes: “In fact, if it were not for the Friar and Nurse, Juliet and Romeo would have been dead before the beginning of the fifth act (see 3.3.106-07, 4.1.53-54). Teetering on the brink of suicide, contemplating death at the slightest provocation, Romeo and Juliet are so overwhelmed by their passion that they are profoundly helpless and altogether unable to function on their own” (p. 43). A little later Kamps writes: “Romeo, on drinking the poison, says, ‘Thy drugs are quick’ (5.3.120). If we take ‘quick’ to mean ‘life,’ then Romeo’s equating poison with life is consistent with Juliet’s calling the same poison a ‘restorative’ when she kisses Romeo’s lips (5.3.166). Stephen Greenblatt suggests that ‘restorative’ refers to ‘both the kiss, which is healing, and the poison, which restores them to each other’” (p. 44). Kamps then writes, “Nowhere in the play do Romeo and Juliet view their love as a means of bringing the families together” (p. 46).
Jennifer Low writes, “Although the adults in the play perceive time dynastically, moving through years or generations, the lovers see time subjectively – it slows or quickens according to their feelings” (p. 73).
Cynthia Marshall writes, “Students are usually quick to realize that Juliet protests too much that Romeo’s name is insignificant; they hear in her focus on ‘Montague’ an indication that she is attracted to the forbidden object” (p. 104).
Sara Munson Deats writes: “Although Juliet makes her debut flanked by her mother and her nurse, Lady Capulet’s reluctance to discuss intimate matters of sex and marriage with her virgin daughter without the moral support of the Nurse suggests the strained relationship between mother and child, a relationship foiled by the warm, convivial rapport between Juliet and the earthy Nurse” (p. 109). Later, regarding the failures of communication in the play, Sara Munson Deats writes: “In a crucial epistle to Romeo, Friar Laurence outlines his harebrained scheme to give Juliet a potion that will simulate her death. This plan goes awry because Friar Laurence makes two major errors. First, he forgets his promise to entrust the letter to Romeo’s servant Balthasar; and, second, he neglects to explain the importance of the missive to his surrogate messenger, Friar John. Thus Friar John meanders to a plague-ridden area in search of a companion for his journey, becomes quarantined, and never delivers the letter, whereas Balthasar, the expected messenger, rushes to Mantua with false information concerning Juliet’s death. Through these many episodes of short-circuited communication, the play consistently reminds the audience that the calamitous deaths of five young people – Tybalt, Mercutio, Paris, Romeo, and Juliet – could all have been prevented had the citizens of Verona been able to talk candidly to one another” (p. 112).
James Hirsh writes, regarding Capulet’s sudden, strong desire to have Juliet wed Paris: “The feud has flared up again, and this time Mercutio, a kinsman of the Prince, has been killed by Tybalt, a member of the Capulet faction. In 1.1 the Prince told the patriarchs of the feuding families, ‘If ever you disturb our streets again/Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace’ (96-97). The Prince did not seem to be kidding around. In 3.4 Capulet has reason to believe his life is in danger. But it is possible the Prince will be placated if Capulet’s daughter is quickly wed to Paris, another kinsman of the Prince. Capulet’s rough treatment of Juliet may be the result of his shame at having to save his own life at the expense of his daughter’s freedom of choice” (p. 168).
This book was published in 2000.



- Romeo And Juliet  edited and with an introduction by Harold Bloom  -  This is a volume in the Bloom’s Shakespeare Through The Ages series. Janyce Marson is the volume editor. William Hazlitt, in a piece from 1817, writes, “The only evil that even in apprehension befalls the two lovers is the loss of the greatest possible felicity; yet this loss is fatal to both, for they had rather part with life than bear the thought of surviving all that had made life dear to them” (p. 56).
Edward Dowden, in 1872, writes, regarding the moment Juliet drinks the potion: “Suddenly in her disordered vision the figure of the murdered Tybalt rises, and is manifestly in pursuit of some one. Of whom? Not of Juliet, but of her lover who had slain him. A moment before Juliet had shrunk with horror from the thought of confronting Tybalt in the vault of the Capulets. But now Romeo is in danger. All fear deserts her. To stand by Romeo’s side is her one necessity. With a confused sense that this draught will somehow place her close to the murderous Tybalt, and close to Romeo whom she would save, calling aloud to Tybalt to delay one moment, - ‘Stay, Tybalt, stay!’ – she drains the phial, not ‘in a fit of fright,’ but with the words ‘Romeo! I come; this do I drink to thee’” (pages 93-94).
Frederick S. Boas, in 1896, writes, regarding Nurse’s advice to Juliet at that important moment: “But the sensuous element in the Nurse’s affection for her young mistress betrays her at the critical moment; the thought of a second marriage with a lovely gentleman, to whom Romeo is a ‘dishclout,’ has an irresistible fascination for her; the first husband dead or useless, it is the very height of luck to get another. The Nurse has indeed given Juliet marvellous much comfort: the gross proposal teaches her the secret strength of her own stainless love, and with a solemn ‘Amen’ she isolates herself from the whole Capulet household for ever. At a single shock the girl is transformed into the heroic woman” (p. 125).
Harold C. Goddard, in 1951, writes, about the Queen Mab speech: “Finally, how characteristic of Mercutio that he should make Queen Mab a midwife and blemish his description of her by turning her into a ‘hag’ whose function is to bring an end to maidenhood. Is this another link between Mercutio and the Nurse? Is Shakespeare here preparing the way for his intimation that she would be quite capable of assisting in Juliet’s corruption? It might well be” (page 158-159). Later in that same piece, he writes, regarding the fight between Mercutio and Tybalt: “If Romeo had only let those two firebrands fight it out, both might have lost blood with a cooling effect on their heated tempers, or, if it had gone to a finish, both might have been killed, as they ultimately were anyway, or, more likely, Mercutio would have killed Tybalt. (‘An there were two such, we should have none shortly, for one would kill the other.’) In any of these events, the feud between the two houses would not have been involved” (p. 165). And then still later, he writes: “Back in Friar Laurence’s cell, the stunned Romeo is like a drunken man vaguely coming to himself after a debauch. When he draws his sword to make away with himself, the Friar restrains him not by his hand, as Romeo had once sought to restrain Mercutio at a similarly critical moment, but by the force of his words: ‘Hold thy desperate hand! Art thou a man?’” (p. 170).
James H. Seward, in 1973, writes: “But the Renaissance, as we have seen, tended to view even mild forms of passion with suspicion. An Elizabethan audience would have been keenly aware that the love with which Juliet sports so innocently, her passion for Romeo, though still only shallow enough to cause her to ripple with impatience, is nevertheless capable of engulfing her. And the more they are moved by her beauty, the more they would be disturbed, especially so, since now they can detect no echo of virtue in her speech” (p. 236).
Northrop Frye, in 1986, writes: “By entering the brawl, they’ve sanctioned it, because they’re the heads of the two houses, and so they’re directly responsible for everything that follows. The younger people seem to care very little about the feud: the only one keen on it is Tybalt, and Tybalt, we may notice, is not a Capulet by blood at all; he’s expressly said to be a cousin of Lady Capulet” (p. 240).
Maynard Mack, in 1993, writes, regarding Romeo’s early speeches to Benvolio about Rosaline, “What Shakespeare shows us in such speeches is a young man more interested in parading his symptoms than in the cure of his disease” (p. 277).

(Note: I reviewed the Romeo And Juliet DVDs in separate blog entries. I've posted a list of the DVD reviews, with links, here.)

No comments:

Post a Comment