[LMB] Rom and Jules, was When World-Views Collide, books
john.c.lennard at gmail.com
Mon Jan 10 15:17:08 GMT 2022
Sylvia: > And then he sees Juliet and throws over Rosaline before he even
Markus: yes - 14 year olds ... both of them ..
and like any teenager in that age, drama queens to the nth power
John: Quite right about teenage drama queens, but there is no evidence that
Romeo is 14. We know Juliet is -- her mother tells us so (and that she is
herself 28, having had Juliet when she was 14) -- but while Romeo is
clearly also adolescent anything between 14 and 19 is possible, and I'd
tend to think 16-17 probable. Tony Tanner (drawing on a remark by
Coleridge) said the play is characterised by "precipitate immoderation",
which is whang in the gold.
Side note: as a tragedy of bourgeois teenagers (both Capulets and Montagues
are mercantile, not noble), R&J is a much more radical play than tends to
be realised, and after *Arden of Feversham* (c.1590/91), in which Shax has
now been shown to have had a central hand, the second earliest example of
what is now called 'domestic tragedy', denying Aristotle's definition of
tragedy as applying to the great and affairs of state to reclaim it for all
(or at least for the middle-class plus). But *Arden* is based on a real
case of the 1550s, and many later domestic tragedies also cleave to the
real -- *A Yorkshire Tragedy* (1605/6), *The Miseries of Enforced
Marriage*(1607), *The Witch of Edmonton*(1621) -- whereas R&J much more
unexpectedly comes from a poem retelling an Italian novella by Bandello ;
radical fellow, sometimes, St Bill (his next excursion into domestic
tragedy was *Othello*).
That shock of the tragedy's domesticity is then greatly compounded by:
a) the first 2.5 acts behaving like comedy ; and
b) the plot devices that drive the tragedy in the later acts being comedic
-- paternally demanded unwelcome marriage, a letter going stray &c. ; so
c) it is almost a tragedy by accident --
all of which would give Aristotle and any self-respecting neo-classicist
even bigger hives than a bourgeois tragedy.
If you really want a splendid retelling of R&J, btw, try Diana Wynne Jones,
*The Magicians of Caprona*.
John Lennard, MA DPhil. (Oxon.), MA (WU)
Associate Member, Hughes Hall, Cambridge
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