” Earth-treading stars that make dark heaven light” – Capulet
I haven’t seen the movie since High School, and never read the play, so I was glad to hear that the Maryland Shakespeare Festival were putting on Romeo and Juliet… I knew the basic plot as most people do (There’s a family feud. A boy and girl fall in love. Boy and girl die. The end.), but other than what we “Think” we know from the 1 minute synopses, I was completely engaged in the subplots and motivations… What surprised me most about this play was my reactions to Juliet’s father who in the play is simply known as “Capulet”. From what I thought I knew about this play, I expected total hatred and venom between the family’s, but in reality that is not completely true.
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
Though there may be an old grudge between the Capulet’s and the Montague’s, after the opening scenes and the Princes speech, Capulet seems to have completely buried the hatchet and put away his animosity.
‘Tis he, that villain Romeo.
Content thee, gentle coz, let him alone;
He bears him like a portly gentleman;
And, to say truth, Verona brags of him
To be a virtuous and well-govern’d youth:
I would not for the wealth of all the town
Here in my house do him disparagement:
Therefore be patient, take no note of him:
It is my will, the which if thou respect,
Show a fair presence and put off these frowns,
And ill-beseeming semblance for a feast.
After seeing, and then reading the play, I find these words make this play all the more tragic. Juliet’s father not only has zero animosity towards Romeo, but shows him due respect. Which is more they can be said for how he treats his own house hold, berating his wife, nurse, and anyone else who contradicts him. But I can’t help but think, that it wouldn’t take much persuasion to convince Capulet to allow Juliet to marry Romeo. I’m sure the Prince would push the union, even if only to heal the family’s feud and bring peace to the town.
And thus’ even is the tragedy all the more.
In my opinion this was a fantastic play to read. If you’d like a good example of what this play has to offer, read the poetic interchange between Romeo and Juliet at the ball. I was dazzled by the way the words seem to dance and flow across the page keeping time with the music that you could almost hear.
I also have to say of the 20 or so plays I have read, this and Richard II are the two I enjoyed reading the most. But that’s because I had such low expectations for both going in (Hamlet and Macbeth being the high water mark). Now that I have seen this play live, and then read it. I’m now looking forward to watching Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet on DVD this weekend. Once I do that, I’ll let you know what I think.
Death is my son-in-law, Death is my heir;
My daughter he hath wedded: I will die,
And leave him all; life, living, all is Death’s.