Loose Ends

March 14, 2010 at 4:16 pm (Analysis and Discussion, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , , , , )

I’m winding down on my thoughts about Romeo and Juliet (for now). I have a couple more film versions in my Netflix queue that I will watch soon, but I think I’ve covered what I want (for now). I think with this blog, as I read through more plays, I may feel the need to revisit plays as I see things in a new context. So, I reserve the right to return to Romeo and Juliet!

And I would love if any readers come back to Romeo and Juliet at any time! Please feel free to rifle through old posts and comment on anything at any time. I’ll be happy for the input and eager to return to this play for more discussion.

Today marks one month since I started posting about Romeo and Juliet on Valentine’s Day. I really have no plan regarding how long I will spend on each play or how many posts I’ll make about each one. It’s kind of random and I have no idea if I’ll spend a month on future plays or want to move on faster (or spend even more time on each!). Stick around with me to see!

Anyhow, as my thoughts wind down on Romeo and Juliet, there are a few things I want to put out there before I move on to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

More on Mercutio
First, I want to thank blog reader Ted. When I commented early on that I thought new readers might want to “yada yada” through Mercutio… he pointed out that he could never ignore Mercutio, who he found a fascinating character. That comment made me re-think Mercutio, and you can see I found quite a few things to post about him the last week or so.

It’s this kind of input that I am so excited to get from this blog. Because if I were just reading on my own, I might really have done more yada-yadaing than I should have. I find reading Mercutio’s parts very challenging. The puns are constant and complex, but I do think he’s a fascinating character if you let him under your skin.

One thing about Mercutio that I find really interesting… he is related to the Prince (and possibly to Paris, who is also related to the Prince). This seems so unnecessary to the plot. Why give him this connection? When I started this blog by watching the Zeffirelli version, I actually thought Mercutio was a Montague—maybe a cousin of Romeo’s; I didn’t give the relationship much thought. But as I read the text, I realized he was the Prince’s kinsman.

Another thing—Mercutio was invited to the Capulet feast! That’s so interesting to me, because doesn’t it seem like he could have easily snuck his buddies in, since he was invited? Yet they’re all worried about how to get in, and he plays right along as if he’s one of the party crashers.

Further on that note, Count Paris seems like such a “catch” for Juliet because he’s an aristocrat. Yet I wonder if Mercutio isn’t just as high in rank and stature. He certainly doesn’t give off any royal airs, does he? He’s one of the guys. Not at all the feeling I get from Paris, although we never see Paris in a casual setting with his buds.

Rosaline was a Capulet!
Rosaline was also on the invitation list to the Capulet feast! See, it’s interesting to me, because Shakespeare never needed to share with us the actual invites to the party—that’s a level of detail that would never be missed in a play. Yet, there’s a whole scene set aside for Romeo to read through the entire list! So, it seems somehow important that we learn that Mercutio is invited and also Rosaline (of course, that gives Romeo the idea to crash the party, but we didn’t need to hear the whole list for that idea to get in his head).

Rosaline is Capulet’s niece, and therefore Juliet’s cousin. I find this detail interesting, because later when Romeo realizes that Juliet is a Capulet, it takes on such weighty meaning to him.

                          Is she a Capulet?
O dear account! my life is my foe’s debt.
(I.5.118-119)

Why is it a big deal? He was already doting on a Capulet (Rosaline) before this and her family connections didn’t seem to concern him a bit!

The Nurse
Lastly, I want to mention a couple things about Juliet’s nurse. She is a really interesting character to me. As I’ve said in earlier posts, she is stupid/savvy. Capulet treats her with great disrespect when he is angry with Juliet.

Nurse 
God in heaven bless her!
You are to blame, my lord, to rate her so.

CAPULET 
And why, my lady wisdom? hold your tongue,
Good prudence; smatter with your gossips, go.

Nurse 
I speak no treason.

CAPULET 
O, God ye god-den.

Nurse 
May not one speak?

CAPULET 
Peace, you mumbling fool!
Utter your gravity o’er a gossip’s bowl;
For here we need it not.
(III.5.169-176)

Wow, what a nice guy! He has such a bad temper and is so rude to the Nurse here. She does not back down. She talks right back! (“May not one speak?”) She holds her own with the Lord and Lady of the manor. I never note subservience in her tone around them. Interesting!

And her love for Juliet is obvious. Juliet, to her ultimate ruin, loves and trusts the Nurse with her whole heart. I mentioned in an earlier post how the Nurse’s switcharoo from singing the praises of Romeo to singing the praises of Paris causes the tragic switcharoo in Juliet that sends her to the Friar and starts in motion the events that lead to the tragic ending.

The nurse is a pivotal character. It’s interesting, because it would be easy to dismiss her as a fool, as Capulet does. You could mistake her for a somewhat small character. She is not. She is central to the plot. She enables Juliet to pursue the relationship with Romeo. She serves as messenger to set up the wedding and doorguard so they can consummate their marriage. Then her switch to Paris pushes Juliet out the door toward her death. The plot revolves around the nurse!

Parallels: Nurse and Friar
So, in addition to holding her own as a character (in every sense of the word!) and being central to the plot, I find interesting parallels between the nurse and two other characters. She serves as friend and trusted confidant to Juliet in the same way the Friar does to Romeo. Both the nurse and the Friar are enablers of the Romeo/Juliet relationship and marriage. Both should know better! These kids are dumb and acting in a hormone-induced haze—if either the Friar or the nurse had put the kibosh on it at any step of the way, things might have ended differently.

Parallels: Nurse and Mercutio
I find parallels between the nurse and Mercutio, as well. Both are windy, tending to get carried away with themselves and run on at the mouth. Both are pretty hilarious and prone to dirty jokes and puns. And each serves as a best friend. We are aware of no friend other than the nurse in Juliet’s life. She appears to exist within the walls of the Capulet house and have little human contact other than her parents and the nurse. Romeo is out and about in the world and has friends, and Mercutio stands out as his closest friend, willing in the end to fight for and die for that friendship.

And that concludes my thoughts (for now) on reading Romeo and Juliet! Let me know what you think, and stay tuned for A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

© All Content, Copyright 2010 by Blog Author, Or What You Will. All Rights Reserved.

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2 Comments

  1. Ted Leach said,

    This was fun! And now we’re on to MND. It’s been a few years, but I’ll pull out my copy…

    • orwhatyouwill said,

      Great! It will take me a few days to get to… I’m getting lost in a ballet version of R&J. It is really beautiful and I’m going to watch it again today before posting. And I am waiting for 2 more R&J DVDs to arrive in the mail. So… it will be next week before I start MND. Glad you will join me in reading! 🙂

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