Romeo and Juliet Romeo and Juliet discussion

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message 1: by Sherry (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:17PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sherry This discussion is to start on the 1st of March, 2008.

message 2: by Barbara (last edited Mar 01, 2008 12:28PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barbara Harold Bloom calls this Shakespeare's first authentic tragedy and says that it paved the way for his five great tragedies, beginning with Hamlet. It has been highly praised by literary critics for its language and dramatic effect. It was among Shakespeare's most popular plays in his lifetime and, along with Hamlet, is one of his most frequently performed plays.

The above is what I said when I nominated this play. In Harold Bloom's book Shakespeare, The Invention of the Human, he lists this play in his "The Apprentice Tragedies" section. I'm wondering if you all find it to be a bit simpler than what he calls "The Great Tragedies" which are Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra. I know that any mention of Harold Bloom will bring a hailstorm of his detractors. But, he always makes me think and gives great jumping off points for discussions.

I'm about halfway through the play, having been distracted by another book that is due back to the library. However, I am loving the romance of it and find myself furiously underlining great passages. Of course, it is ridiculous that Romeo and Juliet fall desperately in love after one night at a party, but who cares? But, then, of course, we have the wise lines from Friar Lawrence:

These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which, as they kiss, consume. The sweetest honey
is loathsome in his own deliciousness
And in the taste confounds the appetite.
Therefore love moderately. Long love doth so.
Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow.

message 3: by Sherry (last edited Mar 01, 2008 07:38AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sherry A couple of days ago I finished the balcony scene, as I've heard it called. Even though it seemed entirely improbable, it was one of the most engaging pieces of literature I've read (and listened to). I didn't once glance at the Folger's Notes, and the actors in my audio version are very good. I don't know who they are because I already sent the cd back to the library. The play is now on my iPod. I should get some more of it done today.

Misty And that foreshadowing continues to show up...Roemo has a premonition before going into the party that fate holds a terrible course for him that will begin that night; Juliet sees him outside her balcony as if he is at the bottom of a tomb; the nurse's reference to "Rosemary and Romeo both begin with a letter." Rosemary symbolizes remembrance and is placed on Juliet's corpse later in the play; and of course, the dramatic irony in the prologue where the reader is told they will die; so many others, so little time!
- Misty

Misty I also love the irony in Juliet's lines in Act III, v. She tells her mother,
"God pardon him. I do with all my heart.
And yet no man like he doth grieve my heart."

"Indeed I never shall be satisfied
With Romeo, till I behold him - dead -
Is my poor heart so for a kinsman vexed."

My heart breaks everytime I read those lines!
- Misty

Barbara I agree with you about the balcony scene, Sherry. As I was reading it, I kept thinking how perfectly Shakespeare did romantic lines, that I need to read more of his romance and less of his violence. He does them both so well, but I'd rather be transported by the romance. And, yet, as you point out Misty, we never are allowed to think that they are going to live happily ever after.

Donna And yet, despite the fact that I know the two "star-crossed" lovers will be cheated by fate and never have a chance at a happy ending, I still wish for one every time I read the play.

Romeo is such a romantic and dull-witted about it at times. He loves a compliment and doesn't have the same introspection that Juliet does. Her line "an yet no man like he doth grieve my heart" shows a very adult understanding of her relationship for one so young. (I may be off with this as I've not finished my reread of the play-but I'll venture it just the same)

Sherry I finished this two days ago. I read the Folger's edition and listened to The Arkangel Complete Shakespeare recording, that had Joseph Fiennes as Romeo. It was wonderful, with ambient sounds and original music.

I highly recommend experiencing Shakespeare's plays this way. I heightens my understanding and is very engaging. Donna, I also kept hoping that maybe this time the letter would get to Romeo in time. Boy, those kids sure were unlucky.

message 9: by Mary Ellen (new)

Mary Ellen Just finished yesterday. Was anyone else yelling, "No, no!" at Friar Lawrence? (To say nothing of Romeo. And Juliet.) How is it that, despite the creaky plot devices and exhibitions of split personality (what did you say, Mr. Capulet?), as well as the fact that we ALL know what happens in the end before we even start to read, the play remains compelling? Just terrific.

That said, some quibbles of my own. Thirteen y.o. Juliet seems far and away the most mature person in the play. I found the constant punning of Romeo and his buddies SO annoying, that I was sort of, well, not sad to see Mercutio met his sad end. And Mrs. Capulet, who said she was only 13 when Juliet was born, is otherwise moaning about her advanced age throughout the play.

Here's my weird take on the play: if not for the sad intervention of poison, daggers and the implacable hatred of the Montagues and Capulets, I think Romeo & Juliet would not have lasted more than a couple of months. Romeo is just too changeable and impulsive. He is wholly governed by his emotions. Shakespeare captured "love at first sight" and youthful passion perfectly. But these ill-fated kids don't know anything about each other except how good they look in the moonlight.

Mary Ellen

Sherry I know just what you mean, Mary Ellen. Sometimes I think Shakespeare just toys with us. I've never known anyone to speak as poetically as Juliet. Our species must be devolving if that's how articulate they were back then, any of them, not just the children. Romeo was pining pining pining for Rosaline, then- bam- Juliet appears and he forgets who Rosaline is. Shakespeare must be making some kind of comment on the constancy of people, and the feud must be some comment on the how ridiculous people are.

Shakespeare set everything up to thwart the "lovers." The arranged marriage, the day being changed for the arranged marriage, the note undelivered. How much bad luck is possible? Every time something like that happened, I said to myself, "That Shakespeare really doesn't like these two." But you notice I still gave it five stars. It's like a fantasy world, arranged around two beautiful youths who were never meant to live.

Summer Reading this play is like visiting with an old friend. Probably like others here, it was my introduction to Shakespeare. It is no longer my favorite by the bard, but I still find it entertaining. Of course, reading it again nearly 20 years after my first read, the wordplay leaps off the page much more. That nurse…she’s a kneeslapper. My favorite dialog in the play is that between Juliet and Friar Lawrence in Act IV Scene 1:
“O, shut the door! and when thou hast done so,
Come weep with me- past hope, past cure, past help!”
That is exactly the degree of desperation one feels on the cusp of womanhood. All emotions are heightened and yet one lacks the wisdom to temper them with reason. The root of the tragedy is that no one sought to offer better guidance to these two young people. Because of that “All are punished.”

message 12: by Mary Ellen (new)

Mary Ellen Sherry: Exactly. I can nitpick when I am "outside" the experience, but while I am in it, I am carried away by the blissful language.

(Although I still have not gotten over being assigned the part of the Apothecary when we read the play in 6th grade. Ouch.)

Mary Ellen

Misty Ouch indeed, Mary Ellen!

About the language...I saw a speaker at a GT conference who discussed the poetics of R&J. Although I think I've marked every literary device in the book, I thought it would be interesting to see what he had to say. I was amazed! He discussed the sounds of the words more than anything - assonance, alliteration, consonance. I really liked the way he pointed out the hard/stopped consonants in Tybalt's lines and the soft vowels in Juliet's lines. Quite interesting; if you decide to do a repeat reading, keep your eye on it. It's almost as if you can get the "hot-headedness" of Tybalt by listening to the way the words sound in addition to what he says.
- Misty

Misty Summer, I agree that the nurse is a newslapper! There are several points in the play where I allow my students to read right past somewhat inappropriate, if not downright vulgar (although funny) lines. Call me a prude or old-fashioned, but I can't bring myself to discuss maidenheads with 9th graders!

You mentioned your favorite lines. I think my favorite soliloquy is when Juliet is preparing to drink the potion and she worries...about the Friar's intentions (it could possibly be poison because he is ashamed of his part in the marriage), about waking up too soon and "tickling the fingers of dead relatives" (paraphrase there), or bashing in her head with the bone of a dead relative, etc. Her fear shines through, doesn't it?
- Misty

message 15: by Barbara (last edited Mar 12, 2008 04:43PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barbara I finished this last night. I'm not sure why it went so slow, probably because I kept waiting for the times when I could really concentrate. I'll answer my own question that I posed in the opening note. I agree with Harold Bloom that Romeo and Juliet is a simpler play than what he calls the "great tragedies." In fact, he categorizes it with Titus Andronicus (which I haven't read) and Julius Caesar as the "Apprentice Tragedies". The plot in this is more straightforward, not as many minor characters and subplots. The balcony scene was truly the highpoint for me and the rest of the play didn't draw me in as much. The language throughout did seem more musical and poetic, however, which I liked. I want to listen to this performed, as Sherry did.

Did anyone else have the Folder edition and read the Modern Perspective essay by Gail Kern Paster? I liked her thoughts about the play being a "narrative that expresses an historical conflict between old forms of identity and new modes of desire, between authority and freedom, between parental will and romantic individualism."

Donna I enjoyed reading Paster's comments in your post Barbara. So much was happening politically, socially, and economically in Shakespeare's time that a discussion of a new way of seeing and experiencing the world makes a lot of sense. I'm not quite done with the play, so can only speak to the parts I've finished so far, but I wonder just what kind of a comment we can consider the play to be. Shakespeare wrote a block buster to make money, fill seats, and entertain an audience. With the changes in his time it certainly makes sense to also see the play as social/political commentary.

As author, Shakespeare did everything to thwart the lovers---and also had the characters say a lot about obedience, control, looking to love, loving to look, being held by the power of love and having no control, and the power of fate. Do you think the play ends as it does and is structured as it is because it is a comment on the role of fate in our lives as a counterpoint to any assumption of individualism we might make? Romeo and Juliet don't fall in love because they are hardy invidiuals, but because they are astonished by the influence of cupid, of looking, of scent even. They are "bewitched by the charm of looks." What do you think?

Barbara I wonder if Shakespeare thought that the tragic ending would appeal to his audiences because the lovers moved outside accepted practice by choosing their own partners through sexual attraction rather than marrying someone who would be good for their families. Obviously, I'm being influenced by Paster's comments. Shakespeare had it both ways. Their independence comes to no good, but the families are also punished for the stupidity of their long standing feud.

Misty Let's talk some more about fate vesus freewill. Of course, we are told in the beginning the lovers will die, but how much of that outcome is due to fate (after all, it is written in the stars) and how much is freewill (beginning with Juliet's response to how she feels about marriage).

Many of you know that I teach this in the 9th grade; this is one theme that I wanted to discuss, but my students didn't seem to get it. I'm looking forward to talking it out.

Also, I look at this thread everyday...please keep it going!


Barbara Misty, I need to look through the play again to say anything specific about what the play says about fate vs. free will (and I will!). I am wondering if Shakespeare meant to imply fate, in that the deaths were fated because they defied the wishes of their families. My initial response to the question is that the whole last part feels like a comedy of errors with a tragic result. If the message from Friar Lawrence had been received by Romeo, what would have happened? If any of R and J's last actions had happened a minute or two earlier or later at the end, what would have been avoided? But, in a sense, isn't that what happens with a good deal of life? And, is that fate or is it just the great mass of coincidence that surrounds us?

Donna We can look from outside of the play and discuss the way the characters make choices with tragic concequences, but the charcters themselves continually make reference to their loss of power over their choices--they are driven to act as they do. I'm still not done with this reread as I've been distracted by the need to finish my taxes. But now that project is done, I can spend more time finishing the play. I'm really intrigued by the notion of fate vs freewill this time around....

What do you students say about the play? What do they focus on?

Misty Donna,
The students seem to focus more on individual versus society. They really love to question the actions and motives of the characters and make connections to their own lives. We have to keep revisiting the culture of the time period to help them understand...why doesn't Juliet run away with Romeo when he is banishes? Why does Capulet think he can tell his daughter she must marry Paris? It gets really interesting and heated at times.

We also focus on the literary devices found within the play, and it's nice to hear them chuckle when they hear (and GET) the puns. We have a great reader that has the original language on the left and modern text on the right. They are starting to get used to the language, so we only read the original text for the most part, now. I will sometimes tell them to feel free to go back in, after our reading, and read the right hand side. If they see me blush as we read, you should see them dive back in to find out what was said! For example, Act III, scene ii, Juliet is waiting for,oh,my is that girl ready for her honeymoon!
- Misty

Dottie Not to throw the discussion a total curve but what about film versions in teaching this in the classroom? Do you utilize any of them at some point during your teaching of the play? And if so, which, and why? Yes, I'm thinking of a film but I really think we should take that conversation out of the discussion here -- where? Up in the conference on movies, theatre and art and music sound okay?

Misty Already posted for ya'! Can you feel the heat from my maidenly blush...
- Misty

message 24: by Gail (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gail Just finished my reread of R&J. It's an enjoyable play, but not, imo, one of his very best. We saw it performed live in Boston when we were in 9th grade...quite a thrill. The live performance really enhances the experience. As Mary Ellen said (I think) way up thread, the continuous wordplay at the beginning of the play became tedious for me.
Have any of you looked into W.S.'s sources for this play? There was a poem on the same subject by one Arthur Brooke. It contains many of the same elements as Shakespeare's version. But a quick reading of that poem will soon convince the reader of Shakespeare's genius. The play completely transforms the ideas into something worth reading 400 years later. Amazing!

message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

I am not amused.
Scratch that. I AM amused, just not impressed. I despise this play and everything it stands for. (What DOES it stand for, anyway - teenage stupidity?) Also, I'm not a fan of teens dying. (They had their whole lives ahead of them! Where's the JUSTICE?!) :'( I hate Shakespeare, period.

message 26: by Gina (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gina Do you guys thing that Romeo and Juliet was caused by fate or by free will?

message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

Gina wrote: "Do you guys thing that Romeo and Juliet was caused by fate or by free will?"
Fate? What does fate have to do with anything? Of COURSE it was free will.

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