Understanding Romeo and Juliet: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Romeo and Juliet: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Romeo and Juliet: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Romeo and Juliet: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Synopsis

The tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet has touched the hearts of young and old for nearly four hundred years. In this work, Alan Hager has compiled a rich collection of primary and contemporary materials ranging from information about the earliest performances of Romeo and Juliet to discussions of suicide in the 1990s. Designed to help students of the play, Understanding Romeo and Juliet highlights many different aspects of the play's context. Such aspects include a discussion about religions of love in the East and West, an examination of vendetta and collective violence, and an analysis of the play in the context of classical and medieval thought. Hager relates the work to issues as recent as the so-called Werther Syndrome (copycat suicide based on fictional models) and as remote as the notion of reincarnated love such as that of Rama and Sita in the Sanskrit epic Ramayana.

Excerpt

A clock-like machine, William Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet (1595) has four separate movements. First, there is the famous love story of two strong-willed and willful--not simply "star-crossed" (pro. 6)--lovers that ends in two separate suicides in an urban cemetery. Second, there is the continuing vendetta, or violent rivalry, between two families in the relatively unpoliced streets of that same urban center. This civil disturbance in Verona concludes abruptly with an ambiguous peace after only about five days. Third, there is a continual emphasis on paradox, contrariety, or yoked opposites. Fourth, there is terrible and tragic rush in action, speech, and spectacle in the drama; a continual gallop to satisfy sexual desire, bloodlust, and, oddly, delivery of notions of man and existence as paradoxical.

In the prologue, in the form of the dominant poetic structure of the play--the sonnet--we hear that we will only get "two hours' traffic of our stage" (12). This is an improbable fiction because even without breaks, delivering the text would take at least another three-quarters of an hour. Then we are plunged into the dizzying sequence of sad events involving lovers and street warriors, marked at every crossing by chronographia (poetic telling of . . .

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