ROMEOS, JULIETS, AND MUSIC
THE enforced arrival at Canterbury either criticizes the modern world for its lack of faith, as in Powell's film, or for a zealous excess of faith, as in Atwood's novel. Chaucer's pilgrims lose their way deliberately; to get them back on course requires an act of violence, dictated by an emergency. Romantic continuations were less adversary. Their purpose was to elicit from literary works meanings that had initially been thwarted, helping those reconceived literary works become Romantic. One of the urgent critical enterprises of the Romantic movement was the need to demonstrate that Shakespeare was a Romantic artist, which meant rewriting him into conformity with new aesthetic ideals--or, in some cases, unwriting him altogether, as when his words are dissolved by music in a series of adaptations of Romeo and Juliet.
The attempt is paradoxical: what remains of Shakespeare when his words are taken away? There is, however, an arcane logic to the process, made dear by Walter Pater's decree in The Renaissance that all arts should aspire to the condition of music. Pater argued that Giorgione's paintings are about listening rather than looking, and suggested that the people in them are not attending to the music of their lutes but eavesdropping on a reverberant silence