Sunday, February 25, 2007

Two Gentlemen of Verona - Water Conceit


We have another water conceit for you, to go into your drop in the ocean collection from Comedy of Errors. The speakers are Julia and her maid Lucetta:

I do not seek to quench your love’s hot fire,
But qualify the fire’s extreme rage,
Lest it should burn above the bounds of reason.

The more thou dam’st it up, the more it burns:
The current that with gentle murmur glides,
Thou know’st, being stopp’d, impatiently doth rage;
But when his fair course is not hindered,
He makes sweet music with th’ enamell’d stones,
Giving a gentle kiss to every sedge
He overtaketh in his pilgrimage;
And so by many winding nooks he strays
With willing sport to the wild ocean.
Then let me go, and hinder not my course:
I’ll be as patient as a gentle stream,
And make a pastime of each weary step,
Till the last step have brought me to my love
And there I’ll rest, as after much turmoil
A blessed soul doth in Elysium. (II.vii.21-38)


Two Gentlemen of Verona - Rambling


I don’t have much affinity with The Two Gentlemen from Verona. I finished it by the discussion start date, but I have not focused any sort of ideas about it. I have had tickets for three productions. Pretty much all I remember from the first two is Crab, once a well-wrangled mutt and the other time a metal dog sculpture on wheels, guided by a stiff leash. There was one memorable Launce moment that I will save for later. Before the third production, open air at Ashland, Oregon, they raised the flag and blew the trumpet, followed by a torrential downpour canceling the performance, a rare occurrence at Ashland. (We once saw Richard II in Ashland and, in the fifth act, with Richard’s body laid out on a bier, falling rain filled his eye sockets. The dead Richard never twitched a muscle. What an actor!)

I’ll pass on some of my running notes, then, I promise, I’ll address Randall’s opening prompts and Ernst’s two redeeming posts. I realize a couple of the following repeat some of Ernst’s observations.

The play opens with the debate between “home-keeping youth” and travel to see the “wonders of the world abroad.” Can we engage a theory of education? Did Shakespeare’s age already have the Grand Tour, happ’ly to see some rare noteworthy object in one’s travels, which I associate with the 19th century, and even then I think of it as affluent young Englishmen traveling to Italy not as much to see magnificent culture as to see color and art in good light. In Shrew, Lucentio “Pisa left/ And am to Padua come, as he that leaves/ A shallow plash to plunge him in the deep” (Taming of the Shrew, I.i.21-23), theoretically to study, but as his servant Tranio points out, there are other broadening values in such travel, “No profit grows where is no pleasure ta’en.” (Taming of the Shrew, I.i.30).

And of course, as with Valentine and later Proteus, “broadening” alludes to the second definition in the South Pacific lyric: “And she was broad where a broad should be broad.” Also traveling to Padua (happiness is Verona in the rear view mirror? doesn’t anyone except Juliet stay in Verona?) is Petruchio. Horatio asks “what happy gale/ Blows you to Padua here from old Verona? and Petruchio replies “Such wind as scatters young men through the world/ To seek their fortunes farther than at home,/ Where small experience grows” (Taming of the Shrew, I ii. 48-52) and only later does he add his intent “to wive it wealthily.” Of course, the withdrawal into cloistered study in Loves Labor’s Lost is the antithesis, but remember this academic aestheticism only lasts for the blink of an eye. Proteus is, of course, staying at home for the love of Julia, while the case for travel is overwhelming: “home-keeping youth have ever homely wits,” or “living dully sluggardiz’e at home/ Wear out thy youth with shapeless idleness” (Two Gentlemen of Verona, I.i.1, 7-8).

Proteus’s father Antonio hears the same education argument from his servant Panthino (hands up, all who remember Panthino) who reports that Antonio’s brother “wond’red that you lordship/ Would suffer [Proteus] to spend his youth at home,/ …let him spend his time no more at home,/ Which would be great impeachment to his age,/ In having known no travel in his youth.” (I.iii.4-5, 14-16), to which Antonio articulates the moral of the education argument: “He cannot be a perfect man,/Not being tried and tutor’d in the world;/ Experience is by industry achiev’d,/ And perfected by the swift course of time” (I.iii.20-23). Proteus then lies about a letter from Julia which he claims is from Valentine, importuning him to join at Mantua, so Proteus is hoist on his own petard, as someone once said.

OK, so this is more plot device to get the boys out of town, but there is a certain irony that such an attractive case is made for the enrichment of travel, yet both young gentlemen are ensnared in lies, betrayal, deceit, and piteous erosion of character by journeying into the unfamiliar. I might have liked him better had Proteus sluggardized at home. Me? I traveled so muc h as a youth, I thought travel was “home.” No wonder I turned out to be a slug.

As we come back to Two Gentlemen of Verona from Romeo and Juliet, one notices starts of scenes or issues from later plays. Take, for instance, Petrarchan conventions. In the first scene Valentine twits Proteus about swearing on some shallow story of deep love such as Leander crossing the Hellespont, and I thought of how deliciously and maliciously Mercutio ridicules Romeo’s undying live for Rosaline. And in II.i, Speed similarly mocks Valentine’s inane behaviors of romantic love, cataloging wreathing of arms, relishing love songs, sighing, weeping, being metamorphos’d into a puling lover, reminding me of Mercutio again, cynical and antiromantic, conjuring up Romeo with sighs and trite rhymes, not to mention Rosaline’s bright eyes and quivering thighs. Romeo and Proteus abandon their eternal loves with similar alacrity.

Sylvia has the perfect foil for an addled Petrarchan lover. She commands Valentine to ghostwrite a love letter for her addressed to an anonymous lover. Surely Valentine must temper the excesses of Petrarchan hyperbole, especially in that he loves Sylvia himself. When he composes it to her, she signs it and gives it back to Valentine, occasion for Speed’s “O jest unseen, inscrutable, invisible” (II.i.135), my favorite bit in this play, a great woman’s jest, perfectly addressing the potential for Valentine’s decayed Petrarchanism.

Meanwhile, Julia has made a journey, disguised in breeches, to follow Proteus to Milan, “a true-devoted pilgrim is not weary/ To measure kingdoms with his feeble steps;/ Much less shall she that hath Love’s wing’s to fly,/And when the flight is made to one so dear,/ Of such divine perfection, as Sir Proteus” (II.vii.9-13). Romeo and Juliet’s sonnet on the dance floor will also use the pilgrim image, but I don’t see Julia’s conventions of romantic love in this scene quite as excessive as Romeo mooning over Rosaline. Thus, I think by Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare is more sure-handed in his parody and put-down of the conventions of romantic love, freeing him to create the soaring lyricism of Juliet’s “The clock struck nine when I did send the nurse” and “Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds” and Romeo’s “Heaven is here/ Where Juliet lives, and every cat and dog/ And little mouse, every unworthy thing,/ Live here in heaven” or the classical aubade, “Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day./ It was the nightingale and not the lark,/ That pierc’d the fearful hollow of thine ear.”

Earlier, Julia and Lucetta review a list of suitors, just as Portia and Nerissa do at Belmont, but without the cutting energy of the later play. Proteus and Julia exchange rings and seal the bargain with a holy kiss in II.ii, a troth as binding as Romeo and Juliet in Friar Lawrence’s cell. In Romeo and Juliet this exchange could be the moment of tragedy (though I opt for a different point) and creates the crushing dramatic irony when Juliet’s Nurse advises bigamy (who would know?). But in Two Gentlemen of Verona, Proteus just kisses the spousal pledges off, no tragedy, but not very comic either.

When Proteus rats out his great friend Valentine’s plot to elope with Sylvia to her father, the Duke’s rage, “she is peevish, sullen, forward,/ Proud, disobedient, stubborn, lacking duty,/ Neither regarding that she is my child,/ Nor fearing me as if I we hr father,” is worthy of Baptista’s “affection” for his daughter Kate in Shrew. The Duke then vows vengeance on his daughter’s disaffection: “And may I say to thee, this pride of hers/ (Upon advice) hath drawn my love from her, / And where I thought the remnant of mine age/ Should have been cherish’d by her child-like duty…” foreshadows Lear’s initial response to Cordelia’ refusal to indulge his ego. The Duke rages on, “I now am full resolv’d to take a wife,/ And turn her out to who will take her in:/ Then let her beauty be her wedding-dow’r” and locks his daughter in a tower. More Rapunzel than Romeo and Juliet’s balcony scene, though a rope ladder is introduced. Here we have Capulet’s rage. Tragedy should follow, but instead Sylvia escapes into the woods until all is forgiven.

Before that happens, Valentine is banished. “And why not death, rather than living torment?/ To die is to be banish’d from my self/ And Sylvia is myself,: banish’d from myself,/ Is self from self, a deadly banishment.” Romeo again, but we also had this from Suffolk in 2 Henry VI, torn from his illicit affair with Queen Margaret (“If I depart from thee, I cannot live,/ And in thy sight to die, what were it else/ But like a pleasant slumber in thy lap?” 2 Henry VI, III.ii.388-90). Suffolk’s banishment is cut short [sic] when he is beheaded by pirates, whereas Valentine merely goes off to the green world to become King of the Outlaws, because he alleges he is a killer, he has a nice bod, and he is polylingual (one never knows when a little Portuguese or Swahili might come in handy among a band of outlaws; want to guess which I think is the silliest scene in Shakespeare?

Proteus sends Julia/Sebastian as messenger to Sylvia, a prefigue of Orsino sending Viola/Cesario to Olivia, but Two Gents fails to develop any of the multi-dimensional irony and passion of Twelfth Night. And lastly there is business with pledged rings, similar, but underdeveloped, to Merchant of Venice. But enough (too much?). I’ll be back on coy courtship and direct discussion of Ernst’s last post. Any takers on language? And why the two women are vastly superior creatures to the two men?


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Two Gentlemen of Verona - An Hypothesis

A Reading of Two Gentlemen of Verona:

Let us say that Two Gentlemen is a play within a play. The “outer” and richer play is the story of the love between Julia and Proteus. Julia, a delightful character, shows wit, sympathy, tractability, and grace. Proteus is not unattractive himself, being very humble in courting Julia and showing himself as a reflective character who balances skepticism and romantic idealism. At the end of the first act, they declare their love for one another, trade tokens of affection, and kiss.

But of course, Proteus must be tested and, much like Othello and Orlando, etc., must move off to a pastoral “other world” to probe his mettle to some depth. In this other world, he fails miserably, although understandably. He is alone in another country; Valentine oppresses him with his over-the-top love-talk, and awkward circumstances drive him to fall for the reigning beauty of Milan, a “falling off” he laments but seems unable to repair. We have all been there, I suppose—at least I have.

What Proteus needs, of course, is Julia, who travels to the island herself, assesses and involves herself (in male disguise, natch) in recovering Proteus to his former self and, along the way, giving Sylvia helpful sympathy and helping clear the way for the Sylvia-Valentine match to go forward.

Then, at this play’s end, Proteus is redeemed and forgiven through Julia’s grace, the disguised are revealed, and we look forward to a couple of marriages.

The “inner” and less rich play involves the romantic Valentine, who sails off to his own personal “Belmont,” where he courts Sylvia (who is, however, no PORTIA, but, rather, the play’s secondary love-interest). Valentine also is beset by problems involving a rival (dullard of a) suitor, a jealous father, and a duplicitous friend who reveals his (dangerous/foolish) plan to carry Sylvia down his rope ladder and off to who knows where.

However, once again, Grace, in the form of Julia, arrives along with a gang of fantastical aristocratic bandits, and the competitor for Sylvia’ hand is revealed as a shallow fool. All works out; Proteus repents, the Duke ceases his opposition to Valentine, and, again, we look forward to a couple of marriages.

One of the things that threw me about the play at first reading was that Sylvia, the beauty queen of Milan, was NOT the center of the play, but, merely, a secondary character. Shakespeare, who may have anticipated my confusion, drives this home in the clever painting scene (4.4), where Julia looks carefully at both Sylvia-in-the-flesh and Sylvia-in-the-painting and deduces (I see no reason to doubt her evaluation) that the painter prettied up the portrait, and that Sylvia is, indeed, less beautiful than she (auburn hair is inferior to blond hair; short stature is inferior to tall [Elizabethan] stature, etc.). As I suggest above, the set-up in The Merchant of Venice, to which we are more used, is different.

So there’s a reading to run up the flagpole. And for those of you who don’t have time, consider starting with my reading and:

1. Saying whether or not it makes sense or, at least, clarifies the way the play goes.

2. Saying whether you think the play is about friendship (its generally accepted theme) or (as I would suggest) about love.

3. Which of the two male lovers is the more believable, realistic?

4. Which of the two “comedians” (Flash and Launce) is funnier? How are these two characters similar and/or dissimilar? Who are their descendants in later plays you know?

5. What does the play have to SAY about love?

6. What does it have to SAY about friendship?

7. Which character grows/changes the most?

8. How would you stage the play to keep the audience from seeing it as an inferior mish-mash?It’s amazing how losing a prostate sharpens (or dulls?) one’s mind.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Two Gentlemen of Verona - Some Early Thoughts

Ladies and Gentlepods,

What follows is a bit of a random collection of semi-organized thoughts,which may or may not help forward our discussion.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona, often dated earlier in the order of Shakespeare’s plays and sometimes referred to as Shakespeare’s “worst play,” strikes me as a very simple re-telling of a story Shakespeare’s audience must have known (The History of Felix and Philiomena, acted 3 January, 1585). It feels very much to me as if Shakespeare was experimenting in some ways and embellishing his tale less for increased character or thematic depth than for a shallowly literate audience, possibly the Court and certainly the law Students who seemed attracted to the Bard from the earliest days.

None of the characters really gains much of our sympathy. Sure, the women are by far the most interesting characters and have to put up with the various male stupidities of the men who surround them, but there’s not much new there—except to see that Julia, not Sylvia would appear to be the favored, quasi-Elizabeth tall blond (Helena, etc.), while the famous Sylvia turns out to be short and dark (Hermia, etc.), which may simply show the power the “Who is Sylvia?” song (and Schubert’s breathlessly beautiful setting thereof) have had on our collective imagination. (In the play, Sylvia scorns the song much as she scorns Proteus and Thurio, who have set her up to hear it.)

Of course, Proteus is the stinker here, but when you think of a couple of the ways he is treated, his behavior seems more “after the convention” than anything we should worry about. First, he is in the process of falling in love with Julia, when his father yanks him away from home and sends him off to Milan to join Valentine. Then there is the really quite uncomfortable interchange between the two young men, when Valentine runs Proteus over the coals by comparing their two sweethearts and slamming Proteus for Julia’s inferiority to Sylvia (2.4.126-82—just try reading aloud line 180 and stressing the “my” in the phrase “my happiness,” and you’ll get a sense of Valentine’s shallowness). Proteus enters this scene as a skeptic and accuses Valentine of “braggardism,” but it is too late and his annoyance at Valentine’s shallowness may well be a factor in his falling for Sylvia. This, and the love-at-first-sight conventions somewhat mitigate Proteus’ failures in my eyes. Proteus’ soliloquy in 2.6 has some greater depth to it—at least as a study of one man’s thinking of all the reasons not to do something in order that he may do it (Macbeth).

After listening to the play, as I did, I decided that the ever-weeping clown (probably played by Will Kemp) was not a very good idea. There is only so much humor that can be got out of maudlin weeping-humor, and I’m glad Shakespeare never took this route again.

Small Notes: Like other early plays, this one raises the question of exactly how a well-to-do young man gets “finished”—stay at home, learn courtly ways at another court, become the leader of a desperate band of former “gentlemen” (a trick Gilbert and Sullivan used quite often)?

2.1.18—Here is an early (and good) Shakespearean description of the voguish “malcontent” (“malcontents” being the subject of my dissertation). Thus, one could argue, Proteus is a very early precursor of Hamlet.

2.1.91ff. It’s hard not to like Sylvia (and Julia), when one sees her practical skepticism and witty repartee. I think a careful comparison of the two women may be one of this play’s most productive reader-activities.

2.5.43—Jews get dumped on at least three times in this play; it’s uncomfortable.

One of my sources lists some of the similarities between this play and others:

1) Valentine's attempt at rescuing Silvia from her controlling father, and his subsequent banishment, is distantly reminiscent of what happens to Romeo in Romeo and Juliet.

2) Shakespeare returned to the subject of close friends fighting over a woman at the very end of his career, in The Two Noble Kinsmen.

3) Valentine's and Silvia's plan to elope in the night and their interactions with Proteus and Julia in the forest, are reminiscent of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

4) This could very well be the first play where Shakespeare utilized the plot device of having a female disguise herself as a male, later used in such plays as As You Like It and Twelfth Night.

5) Launce is noted to have many similarities with the character Launcelot Gobbo, from The Merchant of Venice. Not only are their names similar but also their manners of speech, their occupations, and their similar dramatic functions in their respective plays.

Finally, David Bevington tries valiantly in the introduction to my version of the play to make us feel more at ease with it. He seems to maintain the notion that it is primarily about trust, that it “is in part a comedy of forgiveness, anticipating later plays in which the romantic protagonist is equally culpable and yet equally forgiven: Much Ado, Measure for Measure, All’s Well, Cymbeline.” I, however, have some trouble taking the two male lovers all that seriously, so I am not sure. He also refers to the resolution in the woods as taking place in the first of Shakespeare’s “green worlds,” which I accept, AND asserts that “the buffoonish comedy of Launce and Speed performs a function similar to that of romantic improbability of undercutting the Petrarchan seriousness of the love story.” This last rests a little less easily with me, as I found it hard to be serious about the love story at all.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Two Gentlemen of Verona - Opening Remarks

Ladies and gentlemen (not of Verona),

Here we go! Two Gentlemen of Verona is a story of love and friendship, and the conflicts that nearly tear both apart for two men. Reading this play so soon after Romeo and Juliet, we might discuss how Two Gentlemen anticipates and provides a foil for the later play (if not As You Like It or Twelfth Night).

So often Shakespeare offers us pairs for comparison. Here we have Proteus, the inconstant (yes, that's a synonym for "protean") lover vs. Valentine (from the Latin for "strong") the true, faithful lover; and Julia, who sticks by her wayward man vs. Sylvia, who is kept away from her faithful man. What is revealed by these juxtapositions?

For me Two Gentlemen also has a number of disturbing elements for the contemporary reader. I'll ask about two:

First, I am frustrated by Julia's pursuit of Proteus, despite his cruelty. Helena, in Midsummer, has a similar turn, pursuing the scornful Demetrius: "What worser place can I beg in your love," she asks him, "Than to be used as you use your dog?" Yipes. Get thee to a therapist!

Julia's sad codependency is amplified by this play's persistent drumbeat of anti-woman slurs. Lucetta tells us, "I have no other [reason] but a woman's reason: / I think him so because I think him so" (1.2.23-24). Ah, yes. Women's intuition. Who needs all that reasoning stuff; leave that to men.

More shocking is Julia's statement that "maids in modesty say 'no' to that / Which they would have the profferer construe 'ay'!" (1.2.58-59). This is Shakespeare the frat boy, contending that women say 'no' when they mean 'yes.' Valentine reiterates this point later when he says "A woman sometime scorns what best contents her" (3.1.93). Perhaps it is the political correctness in me, but I find these moments jarring, not because I believe they no longer happen (they do), but because the misogyny I hear in them comes primarily from the women. Shakespeare uses their own words against them.

It's not like the men don't get a chance too. We get unadorned misogyny lite when Lance describes his future wife: "To be slow in words is a woman's only virtue" (3.1.335). Would that Lance were as virtuous. My question is this: In this play about betrayal and faithfulness, the women are blameless. Yet the portrayal of Julia and the sexist comments cut against the purity of their constancy. What is Shakespeare up to here?

Second, the ending. (Spoiler alert for those of you still finishing the play!) I count five abrupt "conversions," moments where a character changes and does the opposite of what would be consistent with normal human reaction. First, after attempting to rape Sylvia and having Valentine declaim his treachery and betrayals, Proteus about faces and apologizes ("forgive me"). Second, Valentine, despite the great wrongs done him, not by an enemy but by his closest friend, relents and accepts Proteus' apology ("I am paid"). Third, after jilting Julia and pursuing Sylvia full force despite her persistent rejections, Proteus tosses her over for Julia(!) in two lines ("What is in Sylvia's face but I may spy / More fresh in Julia's"). Fourth, Thurio, having vied for Sylvia's love longer than anyone else in the play, disposes of her immediately when faced with a threat from Valentine ("I care not for her"). And fifth, even though he has castigated Valentine for his improprietous love of Sylvia and banished him and finds him living with bandits, the Duke treats him like a prodigal son ("Thou art a gentleman, and well derived").

The time it takes for all these sudden shifts? 110 lines. Now, really. The success of a play, although it ought to be due to the writin' or the actin', is more frequently in its ability to establish a willing suspension of disbelief and maintain it, so that theater-goers can leave the imaginative space of the theater and say to themselves 'I have been in the presence of truth.' Act 5, scene 4 tears through the tissue of that belief like hob-nailed boots through rice paper.

How, I ask, do you stage this? How do you choreograph these characters so that the resolution does not seem like a 6-year-old's version of deus ex machina? Want a final challenge? After the fifth conversion, you only have 15 lines of play left. Ouch.


Tuesday, February 6, 2007

RE: Romeo and Juliet - Final Babblings


Ernst's comments make a fine concluding summary to our Romeo and Juliet discussion. So I will forbear (loud huzzahs ensue), some. I really had little else to say, except ... that I think Romeo never escapes his Petrarchan roots, such that he's still dividing love's corporeal form into adored parts as he prepares for death:

"Eyes, look your last!
Arms, take your last embrace! and, lips, O you
The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing death!" (5.3)

What does this suggest? It would be hyperbole to say that Romeo never truly loved Juliet, that Shakespeare's young lover is incapable of seeing Juliet as she is because he is so engrossed in the dialectic of love. Unfair? Perhaps.

In Twelfth Night, Orsino tells Viola (disguised as the boyish Cesario) that men,

"…however we do praise ourselves,
Our fancies are more giddy and unfirm,
More longing, wavering, sooner lost and worn,
Than women's are." (Twelfth Night, 2.4)

Romeo is in this same passionate mode, more giddy and unfirm than Juliet. His death seems to me a narcissistic act (a product of his upper class entitlement, Ernst?), as he sacrifices himself not because he cannot have Juliet but because it is what is expected of the deprived lover. Luhrmann, in his Romeo and Juliet film adaptation, William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, emphasizes this, moving a key line in the final scene so that Juliet awakes before Romeo dies. My students groan as Romeo plows through his final speech unaware while Juliet's fingers move, her eyelids flicker, her lips part, her eyes open, and she reaches up and touches his cheek, just as he downs the poison. Doh!

What the students are reacting to is the intense melodrama of it all. Happily ever after is so, so close. But I think his obtuseness, in this production, is also remarkable. If he were just a bit more aware of Juliet, as a partner in this relationship, as not the object of his Love, but the subject of it, then perhaps he would not have been so quick to take the apothecary's quick drugs.


Monday, February 5, 2007

Romeo and Juliet - Final Babblings

A few brief comments:

We saw a wonderful production of one of my favorite plays, Measure for Measure, put on by NYU's Drama Graduate School last Friday. Angelo dressed in a long white caftan and short round cap like an Islamic cleric; Isabella wore a full white nun's outfit covering everything but her face. It was played so that the relationship between Duke Vincentio and Isabella developed in ways that led to there being no big hesitation when he asks her to accept his proposal toward the play's end. In addition, Vincentio was played by an India Indian, which softened him to a certain extent—perhaps by adding a sense of somewhat easy-going eastern wisdom to his general carriage. I wonder if there is a current trend to back away from the simplification of some Shakespeare productions into the realm of sexual/racial politics. See, for example, today’s Times review of The Merchant of Venice currently on the boards (along with The Jew of Malta) in New York.

Of course, there is a “friar” running around in Romeo and Juliet as well, and I feel guilty for not adding more to the delightful Findlay duet regarding that play.

Despite Gilbert’s efforts to humanize characters like the friar, I still find myself wondering about the extent Shakespeare is following a story-line and conventional treatment of characters like the Friar, and to what extent he really IS developing them as richly introspective characters who fully emanate from the deeper parts of the play’s world.

It was just FDR’s birthday, and his grandson Christopher was on the radio, recalling FDR’s version of “Be plain, good son, and homely in thy drift”: “Be sincere; be brief, and be seated.”

I realize that Romeo is one of a number of Shakespearian “heroes” who come from the upper classes and are confronted with a number of choices as to how they live their lives, and also with a number of young people like them who have chosen how to order their lives. Orlando, for example, is surrounded by his brother Oliver, Jaques (whom I take to be youthful), Duke Senior’s courtiers (well, that’s a stretch), and a raft of different kinds of male lovers. Hamlet is such a character in spades—surrounded by Young Osric, Horatio, Laertes, Fortinbras and the phony and conventional “malcontent” disguise he puts on so he can spy without being noticed. (Can you imagine today’s teen-ager dressing as a Goth so he/she can find out what dirty business his/her step-father and mother are up to?) Young men facedwith such decisions (especially younger sons and law-students) apparently loved and flocked to Shakespeare's plays.

Randall talks considerably about threes and twos, among the latter: two girlfriends, two boyfriends, light and dark, etc. Then, with Gil’s help, the discussion moves on to Romeo’s seeming to vacillate between almost opposite ways of being, to which Gilbert adds a discussion of Romeo’s “return to himself,” including the suggestion that, were it not for the Nurse’s interruption, Romeo might forget his Juliet and take off in another direction. But perhaps the point is that Romeo has grown to a point where he can acknowledge and comprehend several selves, that that is the kind of growth we see here. Is this way of thinking about tragedy Renaissance-new in any way?

This sort of thing is most clearly set forth in Macbeth’s character, where we see both the Macbeth who can explain to himself why he should not do something and then proceeds to do it (much like the person who has to list all the reasons he should not buy that fancy little car before he goes on to buy it). Perhaps, in some way, the growth of a tragic character, especially a male one, has to do with his or her recognizing (along with William Blake, SØren Kierkegaard, and Roger Sale [On Writing]), that he/she has several “selves,” not the single self most people find handy to believe in. Once you are at ease with your several selves, you are ready to face the world—even though you may also be dead. In short, there may be no “notRomeo.”

(1) “Tradegy in Minnetonka” reminds me of the equally crude newspaper write-up of a “sad tragedy” about a boy losing his hand to a saw that prompted Frost’s “Out, Out…”
(2) Ah, Jim Agee—one of the several people who held me in his arms when I was a child. He was my father’s best friend in college. He never took care of his teeth…or anything else--except his words.
(3) Gilbert’s Paean, “Here we are, 425 years later, awed by their innocence,” may say it all. Now we see even more clearly why Keats, who kept trying to eternize youthful love (“Awake forever in a sweet unrest”) so loved Shakespeare.