*Shakespeare – “Romeo and Juliet”*

“Romeo and Juliet” Written around 1595 (disputed date; one of his earlier plays).Romeo and Juliet are companion pieces.A large audience for it; made a lot of money on it.”Love across the barricades,” “star-crossed lovers.”
Themes in R&J love and night, love and madness, parents and children, religion, words
Where did Shakespeare get the idea? 1562 – Arthur Brooke, “The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet”1476 – Masuccio Salernitano (in both, R&J are older, together longer)
Shakespeare’s version Juliet is 13, Romeo is around 16, and their relationship lasts 3 days
R&J setting Verona, Italy
Montagues and Capulets Before Italy became a state in the 19th century, cities were ruled by wealthy families.”Della scala” (ladder) -> family of mercenaries in Verona.Division between two such families in the play: Capulets and Montagues.
The play asks what is more important: family/ancestors, or your own personal love for other people
Chorus/Prologue of Act 1 substantially shorter than those in “Henry V”a Shakespearean sonnetsonnets are used to talk about love, but this one talks about death
Relationship between themes in R&J Words (shape) Love (physical), Death/violence Night
Act 1, Scene 1 wordplay (the language of violence and the language of physical love are juxtaposed); love and death, sex and violence
Who is Romeo pining over? a girl called Rosaline – an artificial love1.1.124, 154 – Montague and Benvolio, Romeo’s cousin, worry about himhe has different feelings at the same time – “brawling love,” not healthy; and Rosaline doesn’t want anything to do with himto the audience, this love would have seemed old-fashioned and contrived (his rhymes echo that of Petrarch’s (1304-1374))
What makes the idea of love good? loving someone who doesn’t love you back
Act 1, Scenes 2 and 3 introduces Juliet, extraordinarily youngin these first scenes, she says almost nothingset to be married to the County Paris1.3.18, Juliet’s wet nurse – themes of sex and death in her speech
Act 1, Scene 4 Romeo’s friends bring him to a masked ball to cheer him up (Mercutio, Benvolio, and others)
Mercutio one of the 3 major male characters (Tybalt and Romeo), best with words
Themes and respective characters in R&J Words (Mercutio) -> Physical love (Romeo), Death and violence (Tybalt) Night
Romeo vs. Mercutio For Romeo, love = a dream.For Mercutio, love = sex; dreams = lies, nothings, mere thoughts.Mercutio is Romeo’s unromantic foil.2.1 – Mercutio thinks Romeo is out having sex.
1.5.90 – Romeo’s expression of happiness/love very religious; notion of a separate religion of loveanother sonnet in lines 90-103; Rosaline is completely forgotten about; “old desire” to “young affection” (2.0)everything is happening very quickly
Change in Juliet Juliet starts taking the initiative; asks her nurse to find out who Romeo is
Chorus of Act 2 = another sonnet
Night in Act 2 2.1.45 – consistent, reiterated language of night (lines 181-183)What is real?Juliet is the one shining speck in the darkness of night to Romeo.
“Ex Oriente Lux” the light from the East (2.1.44-45)from the East comes wisdom, light, religionthe light of civilization, of religion = what Juliet means to RomeoJuliet refers to Romeo as “the god of my idolatry”lines 155-156
The issue of names Why is he Romeo?Platonic Nominalism – the way that people interpret words; why are words those words?Romeo is defined by his name (we still do this today) – is there a way he can break out of that?
What are names to R&J? Juliet says he’s “Romeo” only because of convention; names are just concepts that keep them apart
Names in the Middle Ages/Classical Period people believed that you could only ever call a table a “table” (language came from God)to Shakespeare, names mean nothing
2.2.65 – Romeo goes to Friar Lawrence the friar is another unromantic foil to Romeo; R already wants to marry JIs their love real?”The two-day marriage of two children that ends in mutual suicide,” or “the greatest love story ever told”?What do people do when they fall in love? -> they get married2.3 – love or lust?
Act 3 – R&J are just married constantly talking about killing themselves (death and love)
What is the comedic version of Romeo and Juliet? “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Where will R&J be together forever? in the night of death, not the night of love
Act 2, Scene 3 Mercutio again plays upon the meaning of words
By the end of Act 2, Scene 5… R&J are married
Mercutio’s place in the play he is a kinsman of the Prince, not related to the Capulets or the Montagues – a disinterested 3rd party (3.1)
What sets Mercutio off? a misunderstanding of Tybalt’s inquiry about him being a “consort” of Romeo
What is Tybalt actually asking? “Do you hang out with Romeo?”
How does Mercutio interpret it? takes it like he’s a musician; no one in the audience would have thought this
Why is Mercutio offended? he thinks Tybalt is accusing him of sleeping with Romeo – is Mercutio gay?
Mercutio’s downfall his ability to take a word and throw it back with another meaning now works against him; he sees an insult where there is noneMercutio is the one who started the fight, yet he still blames everyone else while on his deathbed
Act 3, Scene 2 – Juliet finds out about Tybalt’s death she must now make a choice (line 73)she first curses Romeo with opposites (“fiend angelical,” “honourable villain”), but then quickly sides with him (Capulet -> Montague)
Why doesn’t Juliet just run away with Romeo? (3.2.142-143) she’s still attached to her parents; only 13 years old; she’s afraid
The problem with R&J’s relationship they are not willing to fight for their love; all of this tragedy could have been avoidedhowever, they are willing to die for it
3.3.102, 3.5, 4.1… an enormous amount of talk about suicidewhy? – death is simple, fighting for their relationship is notIs suicide a cop-out, a giving in to their powerlessness? It gives them agency in a situation in which they don’t want to fight for agency.
What does Shakespeare point out time and time again? how young they are
3.5 – the last farewell Romeo must go away to Mantua; their love cannot exist during the daytime, so they always meet at night
Juliet’s father he blows up when she refuses to marry the County Paris
What is Juliet’s plan? she fakes her own death with the help of Friar Lawrence; sleeps for 3 days(Romeo will not find out in time that it’s only a potion, and this leads to his suicide)
4.3 – things start getting strange why Juliet ends up actually drinking the potion -> thinks she sees Tybalt’s ghost; she does not drink it for Romeo
Seeing ghosts = a particular state of mind; hysterical fear; an intimation of madnessHow much of this is madness?
Why does Romeo never find out about the potion in time? the message that Friar Lawrence sent to Romeo never reaches him
5.1 – Romeo’s dream he is dead and Juliet kisses him, revives him; he thinks it means something good
What happens next? Romeo finds out that Juliet is dead, goes to an apothecary and gets poison, goes to Juliet’s tomb
The County Paris Why doesn’t Juliet like him?He is described as a sweet kind of guy (5.3)He’s the one her parents like; Juliet is rebellious.
5.3.74 Romeo kills Paris; doesn’t really know why he did it
The deaths of R&J Juliet’s death is very symbolic; Romeo’s as wellThe cup Romeo drinks from = symbolic of women (“Cup-ulet”); “Montague” = sharp, pointy mountain.Juliet’s death = highly sexualized, “sheath.”They die, quite literally, of each other.
How does the play end? on a strange note – the families agree to build gold statues of their children one thinks of idols; the golden calfa religious act in the religion of lovebut, a false idol(once again, the possibility that this is not real)
How are we supposed to interpret this play? Are you a romantic Romeo, or a realistic Mercutio?Will you choose to read it as a love story, or an unfortunate affair?
Read all of the mentioned lines and scenes, as well as important quotations. *

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