Romeo and Juliet (Vol. 65)
Romeo and Juliet
See also Romeo and Juliet Criticism (Volume 51) and Romeo and Juliet Criticism (Volume 87).
Romeo and Juliet, which ranks among Shakespeare's most popular and well-known plays, is considered by some critics to be the first and greatest example of romantic tragedy written during the Renaissance. The play centers on two youths from feuding families who, upon falling in love, attempt to defy social custom, patriarchal power, and destiny. Their efforts meet with disastrous results, including the deaths of Tybalt and Mercutio, as well as the tragic demise of Romeo and Juliet. Contemporary critics, like their predecessors, often focus on the titular characters, searching for flaws that may be said to have contributed to their tragedy, or, in contrast, defending the lovers against such attacks. Mercutio's character is also the subject of critical analyses, as some critics feel that his death marks a turning point in the play from comedy to tragedy. Other areas of critical scholarship include examinations of patriarchal power, as well as the language, imagery, and structure of the play. Just as these issues are examined by critics in print, directors also explore issues of characterization and language in performance and film. Numerous reviewers have commented on such contemporary productions of Romeo and Juliet as Baz Luhrmann's 1996 film, William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, as well as various live performances.
Romeo and Juliet have been accused by some critics of being self-centered and immature. While some may agree, others, including critics such as Elmer Edgar Stoll (see Further Reading), contest the idea that Romeo and Juliet possess flaws that contribute to their fate; Stoll finds that love, destiny, and the feud between the families brings about the deaths of the lovers. Carolyn E. Brown (1996) observes a shift in the critical opinion of Juliet, noting that modern critics have increasingly credited Juliet with being “self-willed,” rather than a passive “victim” of her circumstances and fate. Exploring Juliet's depth of character and emerging selfhood, Brown concentrates on Juliet's language in two scenes typically thought of as romantic (Act II, scene ii, the so-called balcony scene, and Act III, scene v, the morning after the consummation), and finds in these scenes and in the falconry imagery they contain an effort on Juliet's part to control Romeo. As Romeo's closest male companion, Mercutio plays a vital role in Romeo and Juliet. Joseph A. Porter (1988) focuses on Mercutio’s relationship with Romeo, stressing that in both criticism and in performance, Mercutio's statements about the value of friendship are often underemphasized. Porter locates strains of homosexuality in Mercutio's phallic language, and in the “warmth and urgency” of his friendship with Romeo, and further analyzes how these homosexual suggestions may reflect Shakespeare's response to Christopher Marlowe's subversive homosexuality. Like Porter, Joan Ozark Holmer (1991) is interested in the relationship between Romeo and Mercutio. Holmer argues that Shakespeare used Mercutio to deepen the intensity of our reactions to the play, noting for example that in Shakespeare's sources, Romeo's duel arose out of self-defense, but the duel in Shakespeare's play stems from Romeo's passionate desire to avenge Mercutio's death.
The translation of Shakespeare's play to film involves numerous challenges for directors. Baz Luhrmann's 1996 version of the play, William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, although popularly successful, was often disparaged by critics. Jim Welsh (1997) criticizes the way many of the actors were unable to convincingly deliver Shakespeare's dialogue and notes as well that the “bizarre” visuals of the film called into question its “fidelity” to Shakespeare's text. Leah Guenther (see Further Reading) notes that many reviewers condemned Luhrmann's film and suggests that Shakespeare purists were disdainful of Luhrmann's attempt to create a “Shakespearean vernacular.” After comparing the film to Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 version of the play, Guenther praises Luhrmann's effort to “reincarnate” Shakespeare for the 1990s. Similarly, Elsie Walker (2000) claims that the film should be seen as a “revolutionary” Shakespeare film. Walker focuses primarily on the film's intertexuality and setting, and the way in which these elements encourage an active response from the audience. Jack Jorgens (1977) reviews Zeffirelli's film, noting that it was critically deprecated. While Jorgens praises the film's “nontheatrical” acting and favorably assesses the way Zeffirelli used visual effects to compensate for the excised dialogue, the critic nevertheless comments that the film as a whole is a “less mature” effort than Shakespeare's play. Other reviewers focus on modern live performances of Romeo and Juliet. Russell Jackson (1996) discusses the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production directed by Adrian Noble, noting that there were numerous “awkwardnesses” in the staging of the play and that the actors playing Romeo and Juliet lacked passion. Katherine Duncan-Jones (2000) offers her analysis of the National Theatre's “Ensemble” production of the play directed by Tim Supple, noting that the depiction of the two households as racially different had little effect except to generate some confusion and throw an otherwise well-constructed play “off balance.” Lawrence Christon (2001) observes some “uneven” performances in the Center Theater Group/Ahmanson Theater’s production directed by Peter Hall, but notes that Hall's “theatrical intelligence” helped to move the production along.
Many critics identify within Romeo and Juliet an exploration of patriarchal power and its abuses. Sasha Roberts (see Further Reading) studies the relevance of such issues in late sixteenth-century England, contending that understanding such concerns reveals the complexities of Shakespeare's portrayal of the family crises in Romeo and Juliet. Roberts goes on to argue that the lovers' secret marriage defied Elizabethan social convention, and that while the play portrays Capulet's patriarchal power, it does not endorse his authoritarianism. Like Roberts, Thomas Moisan (1991) discusses the depiction of patriarchy within the play, demonstrating that gender is portrayed in Romeo and Juliet as an agent of patriarchal control. Furthermore, Moisan states that while Shakespeare toned down the clearly misogynistic overtones found in his source poem (Arthur Brooke's Romeus and Juliet), the play nevertheless reflects patriarchal concern regarding the potentially destructive quality of female sexuality.
Other areas of critical interest include the play’s form, style, and structure, as well as its language and imagery. Jill L. Levenson (2000) and Harry Levin (1960) comment on the poetic nature of the play. Levenson observes that in Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare manipulated the poetic form of the sonnet sequence, deconstructing it and scattering it throughout the play's structure, which is composed of tragic and comic elements. Levin notes that the play arose from Shakespeare's “so-called lyrical period.” The critic further surveys the balanced nature of the play's style and structure, finding that the symmetry of the dramatis personae is repeated dramatically in the symmetry of the antithetical style of the play's language. Similarly, Marjorie Garber (see Further Reading) studies the language and structure of Romeo and Juliet, and also notices the symmetry of the play's characters; each character has a counterpart on the opposite side of the feud. Garber observes as well that as the play shifts from comedy to tragedy, the characters undergo a dramatic change. The nurse, for example, an amusing figure in comedy, becomes a more frustrating character in tragedy. This transition from comedy to tragedy, argues Garber, is initiated by the death of Mercutio. Taking another approach to the play, David Lucking (1996) is concerned primarily with the function of oxymoron. Lucking asserts that through oxymoron the unifying force of the play is revealed to be the “metaphysics of irreconcilable but reversible opposition,” found in both the play's language and plot. Whereas Lucking focuses on the particulars of language, Abdulla Al-Dabbagh (2000) centers on the particular imagery of light and darkness in the play. Emphasizing the importance of recognizing the influence of Arabic culture and ideas on Shakespeare's play, Al-Dabbagh demonstrates that Shakespeare's treatment of light and dark imagery in Romeo and Juliet reflects the outlook of Islamic Sufis on the unity of existence and the presence of evil in the world.
Criticism: Overviews And General Studies
SOURCE: Levenson, Jill L. Introduction to Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare, edited by Jill L. Levenson, pp. 1-126. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
[In the excerpt below, Levenson highlights Romeo and Juliet's themes, discusses its structure and its use of rhetoric, and notes that in terms of genre, the play provides an original arrangement of the tragic, comic, and sonnet sequence forms.]
‘ROMEO AND JULIET’: THE PLAY
Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet was, and still is, famous for its affect. In his essay on feeling and early modern theatre, Gary Taylor cites allusions from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, notably to the tragedy's last couplet, indicating that audiences appreciated this play as ‘the ultimate in woe’.1 However the text has been adapted since the Restoration, woe and love have remained keynotes of successful performance; and Romeo and Juliet has enjoyed a number of highly successful periods in production, from the second half of the eighteenth century to the end of the twentieth, from staging by David Garrick to cinema by Franco Zeffirelli and Baz Luhrmann (see the discussion of theatre history below, ‘Restoration to Late Twentieth Century’). Theatre tends to pitch emotion for adult audiences; recent films, keying sentiment for more than one generation, have moved record numbers of teenagers...
(The entire section is 18256 words.)
Criticism: Character Studies
SOURCE: Porter, Joseph A. “Friendship and Love.” In Shakespeare's Mercutio: His History and Drama, pp. 145-63. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988.
[In the essay below, Porter states that in both criticism and in production, Mercutio's claims for the worth of friendship are not given adequate attention. Porter goes on to assess the historical context of the love versus friendship debate as it existed in Shakespeare's England, and notes the ways in which the subversive nature of Christopher Marlowe's homosexuality is addressed by Shakespeare through the character of Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet.]
THE HISTORICAL MOMENT
Mercutio takes shape in Shakespeare's mind as a product of, and response to, a distinctive array of social forces determining the received entities of friendship and love. Some of Shakespeare's address to these matters is recognized in commentary on the scrutiny of social, particularly verbal, determinants on the emotion of love in Romeo and Juliet (see especially Kahn, “Age,” 1980, and Snow, “Language,” 1985). The subject is much larger, though, and furthermore our understanding of the historical moment changes, being itself historical. In particular, numerous commentators over the past two decades, from Michel Foucault to Lawrence Stone, have contributed to a revision of earlier essentialist views of psychological states...
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SOURCE: Holmer, Joan Ozark. ‘“Myself Condemned and Myself Excus'd”: Tragic Effects in Romeo and Juliet.” Studies in Philology 88, no. 3 (Summer 1991): 345-62.
[In the following essay, Holmer analyzes the way in which Shakespeare utilized the character of Mercutio to make the play—and our reaction to its themes and characters—more complex and ironic than its sources.]
Romeo and Juliet, although a tragedy written early in Shakespeare's career, persists in being a problematic play while it continues to command our modern sympathies in spanning the socio-historical changes wrought over the passage of some four hundred years since the play first captured “two hours' traffic of our stage” (Prologue, 12).1 This tragedy's captivating story and its compelling presentation of romance, beauty, and powerful passions for good and ill have made it one of Shakespeare's most familiar dramas. But familiarity should not be allowed to breed complacency. Romeo and Juliet involves us in dilemmas provoking complex intellectual and emotional responses not unlike in kind, albeit perhaps in degree, those for which we praise Shakespeare's major tragedies.
Critics no longer debate whether this play is a tragedy, but rather what kind of a tragedy it is and wherein excellent for its kind, debate often turning on Shakespeare's degree of success in integrating the...
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SOURCE: Brown, Carolyn E. “Juliet's Taming of Romeo.” Studies in English Literature: 1500-1900 36, no. 2 (Spring 1996): 333-55.
[In the essay that follows, Brown analyzes the characterization of Juliet, stressing the young woman's depth of character and examining her search for selfhood.]
Shakespeare's Juliet has received divergent critical appraisals. Early criticism, in particular, of Romeo and Juliet largely overlooks Juliet, viewing the play as being primarily about Romeo and treating Juliet as a subsidiary, underdeveloped character. When such criticism explores Juliet, it is often influenced by her young age of fourteen, reading her as little more than a child—naive, immature, inexperienced, obedient to her parents' wishes, and uncomplicated. E. C. Pettet, for example, characterizes Juliet as a “spontaneous, passionate child of nature, whose speech and heart are always one.”1 But as criticism, especially feminist in orientation, begins to recognize the depth of Shakespeare's female characters, Juliet is receiving more concentrated, appreciative attention. And as critics look beyond her youth, they discover not a reticent virgin but a multifaceted character who transcends Romeo in maturity, complexity, insight, and rhetorical dexterity. Critical estimation of Juliet has moved from regarding her as a passive victim of “star-crossed love” to lauding her as a self-willed,...
(The entire section is 10073 words.)
Criticism: Production Reviews
SOURCE: Jorgens, Jack. “Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet.” In Romeo and Juliet: Critical Essays, edited by John F. Andrews, pp. 163-76. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1993.
[In the following review, originally published in 1977, Jorgens assesses Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 film, Romeo and Juliet, commenting on its visual excessiveness, its refreshing “nontheatrical” acting, and is paring down of the original text. Jorgens concludes that while the film's action, emotional impact, and conception of theme and structure may be appealing to some viewers, the work as a whole is a more immature effort than Shakespeare's play.]
Shakespeare's source for the story of Romeo and Juliet was Arthur Brooke's The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet, written first in Italian by Bandell, and now in Englishe by Ar. Br. (1562). In his “Address to the Reader,” Brooke spoke of
a couple of unfortunate lovers, thralling themselves to unhonest desire; neglecting the authority and advice of parents and friends; conferring their principal counsels with drunken gossips and superstitious friars (the naturally fit instruments of unchastity); attempting all adventures or peril for the attaining of their wicked lust; using auricular confession, the key of whoredom and treason, for the furtherance of their purpose; abusing the honourable name of lawful...
(The entire section is 5388 words.)
SOURCE: Jackson, Russell. “Shakespeare Performed: Shakespeare at Stratford-upon-Avon, 1995-96.” Shakespeare Quarterly 47, no. 3 (Fall 1996): 319-29.
[In the excerpt below, Jackson reviews the 1995-96 production of Romeo and Juliet directed by Adrian Noble and performed at Stratford-upon-Avon. Jackson highlights a number of “awkwardnesses of staging,” finds that the performances by the actors in the roles of Romeo and Juliet were not very passionate or compelling, and praises the performances by the Nurse and Friar.]
In its brochure advertising the 1995-96 Stratford season the Royal Shakespeare Company defined itself as “the finest actors and directors working on great plays in some of the best theatre spaces in the world” and promised “World Class Classical Theatre.” One can hardly blame any company for setting out its stall as attractively as possible, so there is no need to require that “possibly” or “perhaps” be inserted in this kind of statement. However, the actual achievements of the 1995-96 season suggest that some questioning is in order. If in this marketing context “Classical” means “mainly well-known plays from an established repertoire,” the choice of plays for the season did justify this claim. But if “Classical” implies a distinct performance style or tradition, as it does in dance, or if “World Class” is to be understood as “on a par with...
(The entire section is 1367 words.)
SOURCE: Welsh, Jim. “Postmodern Shakespeare: Strictly Romeo.” Literature-Film Quarterly 25, no. 2 (April 1997): 152-53.
[In the review that follows, Welsh comments that Baz Luhrmann's William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet is so visually outlandish that its faithfulness to the original play is arguable. Welsh additionally observes that many lines were cut and that a number of the actors were unable to successfully deliver Shakespeare's dialogue.]
William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet is deceptively titled, because it is really Baz Luhrmann's Romeo & Juliet. Visually it is more Strictly Ballroom than strictly Romeo, though the dialogue—what survives of it—is strictly Shakespeare. It would get high marks if its evaluation were strictly verbal, perhaps, but the setting is so visually bizarre that its “fidelity” is questionable. The film's spectacle constantly overpowers and overwhelms the poetry. This Romeo & Juliet is packed with about as much exuberance as one might expect from writer Craig Pearce and director Baz Luhrmann, the creative team that made Strictly Ballroom a high-camp triumph.
The text is delivered oddly and anachronistically but not completely. Part of the Prologue is there, delivered by an anchorwoman (Edwina Moore) on a tiny television screen that expands out to reveal the scene of “fair...
(The entire section is 1063 words.)
SOURCE: Walker, Elsie. “Pop Goes the Shakespeare: Baz Luhrmann's William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet.” Literature-Film Quarterly, 28, no. 2 (2000): 132-39.
[In the review below, Walker examines Baz Luhrmann's 1996 film William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, focusing on the way in which the film's intertextuality, as well as its choice of setting, encourages the audience's active response.]
Baz Luhrmann's 1996 film, William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, has attracted comparatively little critical attention even in the most recent collections of Shakespeare film criticism. Luhrmann's film is mentioned but in passing in the 1997 essay collection Shakespeare, The Movie: Popularizing the plays on film, TV, and video. In the 1998 “New Casebooks” collection of Shakespeare film essays Luhrmann's film is not mentioned at all, whereas Shakespeare films made after Luhrmann's (such as Kenneth Branagh's 1996 Hamlet) are already mentioned in the same breath as the aesthetically polemic films of Welles, Kozintsev, Olivier, and Kurosawa. The criticism of Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet to date (mostly in the form of magazine and film reviews) tends to dismiss the production as “MTV Shakespeare”: the kind of mindless visual candy we associate with rock videos.1 Implicit in this claim is the notion that Luhrmann's film provokes nothing but a passive response. Like...
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SOURCE: Duncan-Jones, Katherine. “Grudge Fudged.” Times Literary Supplement no. 5090 (20 October 2000): 19.
[In the following review, Duncan-Jones critiques the National Theatre's “Ensemble” production of Romeo and Juliet directed by Tim Supple, noting that the depiction of the two households as racially different had little effect except to generate some confusion and throw an otherwise well-constructed play “off balance.” Additionally, Duncan-Jones praises the efforts of the actors playing the title roles, but comments that Patrick O'Kane's portrayal of Mercutio was weak.]
I have always wondered whether a Romeo and Juliet in which the play's “two households” were shown as racially different would gain huge power for a modern British audience. In the National Theatre's “Ensemble” production, directed by Tim Supple, the experiment is tried, though perhaps a little half-heartedly. The Montagues are black, as is the Prince (Victor Power). Some minor performances are effectively defamiliarized, such as the extravagantly physical grief of Susan Aderin's Lady Montague for Mercutio, supposedly kinsman both to the Prince and the Montagues. However, confusingly, Mercutio himself is not black, but Irish. Patrick O'Kane is the most tiresomely posturing and solipsistic Mercutio I have ever seen. Nothing in his performance becomes him so much as his angry, protracted death, which,...
(The entire section is 818 words.)
SOURCE: Christon, Lawrence. “Romeo & Juliet.” Variety 382, no. 6 (26 March 2001): 56.
[In the review below, Christon discusses the 2001 Center Theater Group/Ahmanson Theater production of Romeo and Juliet directed by Peter Hall. Christon's review is mixed, as he points out that some performances were weak, but despite this, the pace of the play never slowed, nor did the production as a whole seem “ragged.”]
Whatever square the blank oval windows of set designer John Gunter's pale palazzo front are supposed to oversee, it isn't quite in the Verona of Shakespeare's “Romeo and Juliet,” where hot-blooded Italians, constrained by hierarchy, tradition and proximity, view one another with inflammatory suspicion. Instead, the play is cast in the theatrical never-neverland of multicultural America, where people of many races stand in the living moment, stripped of the antecedent that flavors their identity.
Most of the time this kind of experiment doesn't work, because most people who try it fail to realize that universality is gained through the specific, not the general. In this “Romeo & Juliet,” the Montague family is black and the Capulets are white. But unlike “Othello” or “The Merchant of Venice,” racial antagonism isn't a subtext of the play. So the background element of family wrath tends to shrivel, despite a certain amount of expository...
(The entire section is 564 words.)
SOURCE: Levin, Harry. “Form and Formality in Romeo and Juliet.” Shakespeare Quarterly 11, no. 1 (Winter 1960): 3-11.
[In the essay below, Levin examines the style and form of Romeo and Juliet, and contends that the play is an elaborate and innovative experiment in romantic comedy.]
“Fain would I dwell on form—”, says Juliet from her window to Romeo in the moonlit orchard below,
Fain would I dwell on form—fain, fain deny What I have spoke; but farewell compliment!
(II. ii. 88-89)1
Romeo has just violated convention, dramatic and otherwise, by overhearing what Juliet intended to be a soliloquy. Her cousin, Tybalt, had already committed a similar breach of social and theatrical decorum in the scene at the Capulets' feast, where he had also recognized Romeo's voice to be that of a Montague. There, when the lovers first met, the dialogue of their meeting had been formalized into a sonnet, acting out the conceit of his lips as pilgrims, her hand as a shrine, and his kiss as a culminating piece of stage-business, with an encore after an additional quatrain: “You kiss by th' book” (I. v. 112). Neither had known the identity of the other; and each, upon finding it out, responded with an ominous exclamation coupling love and death (120, 140). The formality of their encounter was framed by the ceremonious character of the...
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SOURCE: Moisan, Thomas. “‘O Any Thing, of Nothing First Create!’: Gender and Patriarchy and the Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.” In In Another Country: Feminist Perspectives on Renaissance Drama, edited by Dorothea Kehler and Susan Baker, pp. 113-36. Metuchen, N.J.: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1991.
[In the essay that follows, Moisan maintains that an in-depth study of the way in which Romeo and Juliet depicts gender reveals the tragic forces at work in the play. The critic also highlights the play's shortcomings as a tragedy.]
“Somehow or in some respects,” H. B. Charlton ever so inclusively suggested, “Romeo and Juliet fails to fulfill the function of tragedy, or rather it gives less of the pleasure peculiar to tragedy than do Shakespeare's greater tragic plays.”1 Although something less than succinct, Charlton's remark aptly reflects what had been oft said, more oft presumed: that Romeo and Juliet, an “early” play, either is not a tragedy or is less tragic than tragedies ought to be or than Shakespeare's later, “greater” tragedies are. All in all, for a tragedy, its protagonists were thought too young, too slight, its action too adventitious, too conspicuously dependent upon bad luck and poor timing, and the feelings produced by its denouement more akin to the pity of pathos than to the pity and fear...
(The entire section is 9965 words.)
SOURCE: Goldstein, Martin. “The Tragedy of Old Capulet: A Patriarchal Reading of Romeo and Juliet.” English Studies 77, no. 3 (May 1996): 227-39.
[In the following essay, Goldstein suggests that the driving force of the play is not the ancient feud between the Capulets and Montagues, but rather a conflict internal to the Capulet family, specifically, the disagreement between Capulet and Lady Capulet over who and when Juliet should marry.]
‘I know not how Capulet and his Lady might agree, their ages were very disproportionate; he has been past masking for thirty years, and her age, as she tells Juliet … is but eight and twenty’.
Samuel Johnson, in Notes to the Plays
Romeo and Juliet provides the paradigm—or myth, in one sense of the word—of a love affair between members of rival houses caught up in the implacable hostility of a feud. Versions of this myth have appeared in such diverse works as Aida and Huckleberry Finn. There is however no critical consensus on the implacability of Shakespeare's feud. That it has burnt itself out, and the older Capulets and Montagues show no interest in continuing it, has been asserted by Granville-Barker, Charlton, Bryant, and Levin among others, though Kahn believes it to be the motivating force of the tragedy, and an expression of patriarchal...
(The entire section is 5851 words.)
SOURCE: Lucking, David. “‘And All Things Change Them to the Contrary’: Romeo and Juliet and the Metaphysics of Language.” English Studies 78, no. 1 (January 1997): 8-18.
[In the essay that follows, Lucking investigates the way oxymoron functions in Romeo and Juliet, focusing particularly on the way Romeo and Juliet employ this rhetorical device.]
While the fact that oxymoron is the most pervasive rhetorical figure in Romeo and Juliet is unlikely to escape the notice of any reasonably attentive reader, the significance that is to be attributed to this predominance is by no means equally apparent. Critics have evinced widely varying views as to whether the frequency with which this device recurs is to be regarded as a key to character or to the stage of development attained by Shakespeare's own art at the time of composition, and whether in either case its use is indicative of control of the verbal medium or of domination by it. It has been suggested on the one hand that the predilection for this and other figures is symptomatic of an initial immaturity which the protagonists of the tragedy outgrow through their experience of authentic love,1 and on the other that it reveals their verbal dexterity and hence their intellectual superiority to the various other characters surrounding them.2 At a somewhat more distant remove from the play, attention has been...
(The entire section is 5611 words.)
SOURCE: Al-Dabbagh, Abdulla. “The Oriental Framework of Romeo and Juliet.” The Comparatist 24 (May 2000): 64-82.
[In the essay below, Al-Dabbagh examines the way in which Romeo and Juliet is influenced by Arabic culture and concepts, noting that the play's use of imagery related to light and dark reflects the conceptions of good and evil found in Islamic Sufism.]
There has always been a tendency in literary and cultural scholarship to barricade oneself behind narrow specificities and a one-sided sense of “uniqueness,” a tendency that may ultimately give the wrong emphasis to national, cultural, or even racial factors. The truly comparative counterapproach has, however, always reached for the universalist standpoint, from which literary phenomena can be regarded across borders and within a complex variety of cultural contexts. In the field of East/West literary relations, and specifically in the area of Arabo-Islamic legacies in Western traditions, major strides have recently been taken in this direction. Although most of the advance has been in Spanish, and in general medieval literature, such work has implications for nearly the whole of the Western literary tradition. And even though numerous detailed investigations have been successfully accomplished, a systematic overview of the field is yet to be achieved.
The acute absence of such a comprehensive...
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Andrews, John F., ed. Romeo and Juliet: Critical Essays. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1993, 425 p.
Collection of essays focusing on the play's language and structure, performance issues, and the play as a reflection of Elizabethan culture.
Clemen, Wolfgang H. “Romeo and Juliet.” In Studies in Drama, edited by Ghassan Maleh and Yasser Daghistani, pp. 95-107. Beirut: Dar Al Fikr, 1972.
Argues that traditional style and a “surprising new language” co-exist in Romeo and Juliet, and demonstrates the way in which this duality is present in the play's imagery as well.
Crunelle-Vanrigh, Anny. “‘O Trespass Sweetly Urged’: The Sex of Space in Romeo and Juliet.” Cahiers Élisabéthains 49 (April 1996): 39-49.
Maintains that the struggle between young love and patriarchal power over sexual freedom directs the way space and movement in the play are handled.
Dorynne, Jess. “The Insignificant Mother of Juliet.” In The True Ophelia and Other Studies of Shakespeare's Women By an Actress, pp. 63-93. London: Sidgwick and Jackson, Limited, 1913.
Offers a character analysis of the often-overlooked and underrated role of Lady Capulet, stressing that Lady Capulet is the “strongest” character in the play....
(The entire section is 731 words.)