Monday, March 10, 2008

Burn, Baby, BURN!

Have we taken the tragedy out of Romeo and Juliet?

Modern audiences believe ‘it is a beautiful thing to die for love’ – deep sighs all around. They are following in that nasty Romantic ‘suicide is beautiful’ nonsense.

The focus is on the wonderful resolution at the end of the story – the united families, the golden statue, the Happy Prince!


What Happy Prince? He’s pretty unhappy and threatening dire consequences as well as begrudging pardon (possibly enforced by separate laws for the clergy).

And hold on – not just a statue, but a golden one? Do I get an echo of ‘Golden Idols’ here? Earthly treasure brings no reward in heaven.

And here is the bit where the tragedy has gone through the window – they go to hell! The two silly children commit suicide and are consequently condemned to eternal damnation.

Romeo and Juliet BURN!

There is the tragedy – that is what we, following the Romantic reinterpretation, have lost – not a beautiful pagan ‘cut out in stars’ ending, swelling strings and a beautiful death – cacophony, devils, eternal pain!

Bring back the Shakespeare!


Ian Thal said...

That's part of what is so brilliant about Romeo and Juliet, plotwise, it starts off very much like a commedia dell'arte scenario and then Mercutio is killed and all the conventions that normally lead to a happy resolution only lead to greater calamity-- so that the only way out is damnation.

It must have been shocking to 16th century audiences, who must have assumed they were watching a romantic comedy.

Alan K.Farrar said...

Depends if they read the Playbill!

If it was publicised as 'The Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet' - then they would be wanting to know why it was so 'Romantic!'

Which is a nice link to the post above.

Ian Thal said...

Depends if they could read!

Alan K.Farrar said...

Literacy rates were high then - including many women who could read but were not able to write (Germaine Greer makes the point about Ann Hathaway in 'Shakespeare's Wife').

In fact, it was only after the introduction of compulsory education (late in the 19th/early 20th century) for all that literacy reached the same level again.

Funny old world isn't it.

Ian Thal said...

Interesting. So the comic routine with the illiterate Capulet servant was not at the expense of the groundlings in attendance.

Now what was the cause of the decline in literacy? Was it related to the Protectorate?

Alan K.Farrar said...

There certainly were illiterate groundlings - but not as many as that (I actually taught in a school in England before I left the country that had been founded in Mary's time - it was in the state sector and had a history of over 450 years - and had been started in quite a small town).

Industrial Revolution, social upheaval and population explosion all had a lot to do with the decline.

Gedaly said...

Yes yes yes! i fully agree with you. I don't like how romanticized the ending of the play is in most productions. It's NOT beautiful. It's a complete tragedy. The resolution at the end is not wonderful! The families' children had to DIE a horrible before their parents realize their feud was wrong.

I want to see Romeo take poison and gag and vomit and Juliet stab herself and see her horrible pain and bleed all over Romeo. Maybe then people will see the tragedy of the piece.