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05 September 2013 @ 10:56 am
and in the interest of completeness  
I wrote this a while ago, and then couldn't get LJ to let me post it; I just found it again in my files:

I'd more or less forgotten that I took notes on that ASC production of Romeo and Juliet, in a cafe in Staunton between conference panels. So I'd completely forgotten that I wrote this: "I want to find a way, someday, to really stress the stakes for Juliet especially. I think we have a stubborn cultural amnesia about the fact that Romeo and Juliet aren't just boyfriend and girlfriend; they are husband and wife."

Because we do have an annoying tendency to talk about the leads as though they were just going to "break up" in a few weeks if they hadn't died - and that completely belittles the actual commitment they've made to each other. And Juliet, especially, is placing that tie above her old kinship ties: when the Nurse is appalled that she can speak well of Romeo, who killed her cousin, her immediate reply - and it's so important that this is a moment of isocolon, that the lines echo each other almost exactly - is "Shall I speak ill of him that is my husband?" She takes that absolutely seriously, her chosen duty as a wife. Which is the whole *problem*, I don't really understand why people are so quick to be dismissive about this - the whole problem is that Juliet is already married when her father decides she should marry Paris; Juliet is desperate, in her own words, to "live an unstained wife" to her new husband. This isn't just some fit of teenage overreaction; she's trying not to forswear herself. And Shakespeare pretty much punches us in the face with the word "husband" after Tybalt's death, but somehow people just act like this doesn't matter, because she's just a stupid melodramatic teenager, right?

And, like, what are Juliet's options after Romeo kills himself? The Friar wants to hide her away in a convent, and she's already learned that her parents are ready to throw her out onto the streets the moment she does anything to displease them, so apparently their love and care are conditional - but she's already married the son of her family's greatest enemy, she can't take that back even though he's dead, and they were ready to disown her for less; is it any wonder that she doesn't exactly feel like she's got a future to live for?

And Romeo...he's *killed* someone (the ASC made this great decision to have Romeo flinch bodily away from the Friar, weeping, every time the Friar said the name "Tybalt": he was completely unable to cope, to face what he'd done, and there's the Friar telling him to be a man, when the awful, wrenching *point* is that he's a child), and his best friend is fatally wounded in his arms, because of him, and he's banished from the only home he's ever known -so basically the only thing he has left is Juliet, and the possibility that they might be together in the future (that bit where he says that all their woes "shall serve for sweet discourses in our time to come" just shatters my heart, when it's done right - because he's still imagining that future, the one that might turn all of this nightmare into something good) - and then, nope, sorry, Juliet's dead, as far as he knows. So he gives up - and that's terrible, but it isn't *stupid*.

[Oh, this play. It's not my favorite Shakespeare play - probably fourth or fifth - but it's the one I love that I most constantly want/need to defend. Even if people personally don't like Hamlet, they're usually like, "eh, I hear it's pretty good, though." (And most people I meet have no opinion about Twelfth Night.) But people think R&J is a bad play, often because they've had such bad experiences with it, and partly because culturally we now think rhetoric is bad (one of the things I loved about the ASC production I just saw was that they *got* it, how that rhetoric is often the vibrant play and one-upsmanship of teens - although the couple seated next to me was of the opinion that this was all wrong, that Benvolio's name meant "good will" and he should be serious, "the Horatio to Romeo's Hamlet," and I *may* have thought uncharitably that it's the fault of people like you two that people don't like this play?), but also because we as a culture habitually dismiss the actions and emotions of teenagers as stupid and unimportant.

Also, Juliet is the best, okay. Still upset that Mariah Gale wasn't in a better production, because I'd love to see a really good Juliet in a production that could match her.]
litlover12 on September 5th, 2013 03:09 pm (UTC)
See, this is EXACTLY why you need to be teaching this play as soon as possible. :-) You're so good at bringing out what other people miss!
tempestsarekindtempestsarekind on September 5th, 2013 03:21 pm (UTC)
Aw, thanks. :) The problem is that I need to figure out how to turn my stompy ranting into actual teaching!
La Reine Noire: Elizabethlareinenoire on September 6th, 2013 02:47 pm (UTC)
tempestsarekindtempestsarekind on September 6th, 2013 02:48 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :)