Tuesday, January 23, 2007

RE: Romeo and Juliet - Moms and Dads

Wow. I want to clarify that I should probably have used the phrase "surrogate father" for Fr. Lawrence rather than "actual father." Fr. Lawrence advises Romeo in love and life. He reprimands Romeo for his rashness; he is the person to whom Romeo turns not just because he has the power to perform the marriage ceremony but because he seems to be the authority figure who can bring quickest resolution to Romeo's problems.

The issue with the phrase "actual father" is that it implies that Lady Montague might have had a fling with the good friar and that is not what I meant. Now Lady Capulet might have had a fling with the good friar, if I read Gil's deconstruction of the parents right. But are you also suggesting that Lady Capulet's early pregnancy resulted in her inability to have further children? Capulet describes women in general as "too soon marred are those so early made," but if he's speaking from personal experience his next line -- "Earth hath swallowed all my hopes but [Juliet]" -- points to probable subsequent miscarriages and/or infant deaths.

There is a slipperiness, or moral relevancy, at work in Romeo and Juliet that intrgues me: the Nurse's overlooking the sin of bigamy in her advice to Juliet, the Friar's marriage of Romeo and Juliet without their parents' consent, the ease of procuring illegal poisons, the willingness to engage in fighting/dueling/brawling despite the Prince's prohibitions. Reading Kyd and Marlowe, I am struck by how different Shakespeare's characters are. Where the other (good) playwrights characters tend to be more flat or absolute, good or bad, or if good and bad shifted by external influence rather than internal rationalization, Shakespeare's characters seem to turn on a more individual compass.

Capulet impresses me a lot in this way. His violence toward Juliet, which Gil succinctly puts in a larger context, is so different from his earlier magnanimity, yet one can still see the connection, the character trait that illuminates how he could go from one extreme to the other realistically (concern for social standing).

In fact, I would argue that there is only one true flat character in the play: Tybalt.


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