Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Rescuing Romeo: Can this marriage be saved?

Having recently seen Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, I had a rather heightened awareness of what actors (who know they are actors) actually do when not on stage. Their activities include:
Reminiscing about shows they have been in and swapping “war stories”.
Planning future auditions and speculating about future shows they might want to be in. Comparing roles they would like to play sometime, whether practical or not.

Yes, playing games does actually occur, although with this group we were strict on allowing it only before curtain, while killing time after costume and makeup, and during intermission, so that cues were not missed during the performance. Someone brought in cards from the game “Mindtrap” which is a collection of brain-teaser puzzles. (I impressed the others with how good I was at those--.)

Restlessly lurking around backstage from time to time a la the Phantom of the Opera is something most of us do, too, but you have to be careful to stay out of the way of people who may be hurrying to make an entrance.
One of the other things we do is critique the play we are in. There’s nothing like a month of memorization and rehearsal to give you an appreciation of a play’s flaws. And, make no mistake, “Romeo and Juliet” is flawed. It is FULL of plot holes. 

Assuming that everything goes as scripted up to the point where Friar Lawrence marries the pair, why don’t they just elope then? At least there’s a partial answer to that one.  Romeo can’t just show up with Juliet at Villa Montague with Juliet in tow as new bride, since because they married without parental consent, the marriage could yet be annulled if it was valid at all. So, they need to consummate the marriage somewhere/sometime.  Although Friar Lawrence is willing to use his study to provide sanctuary to a wanted felon (Romeo, somewhat later), he seems unwilling to allow it to be used as a marital bower,  and let the plan be for the two to get together later.

For the same reason, when confronted by Tybalt, Romeo can’t let the cat out of the bag yet, although he drops hints.  Once Tybalt has killed Mercutio,  why doesn’t Romeo let the  Prince take care of it? The Prince, as is mentioned in that scene, has decreed death for dueling. All Romeo has to do is let justice take its course.  The answer there, of course, it that Romeo, like all the men in the play, is a hothead, and honor demands that he tackle Tybalt and hang the consequences.

From here on, it gets weird.  Instead of Romeo going to Juliet’s chamber for the night, why doesn’t she sneak out and they fly together? Or, after having spent the night, why doesn’t Romeo take Juliet with him to Mantua? The nurse-provided ladder is right there, so no problem getting Juliet and a bag over the wall.

When Juliet comes to Friar Lawrence with news of the wedding plans for her and Paris, why doesn’t the Friar hide her “among a sisterhood of holy nuns” right then, or otherwise hide her until she can be smuggled out to Romeo?  Why doesn’t he “man up” and admit to the Capulets what he’s done? After all, in no way would it be consistent with his vows to remain silent and assist in Juliet entering into a bigamous marriage.  (We envision the wedding scene:  Friar: If any man here knows any reason why this man and this woman should not be joined in holy matrimony, let him speak now, or forever hold his peace. Oh, that would be me!--)  

Well, the reasoning here is that the Friar is a coward, probably justly afraid of Capulet’s vengeance and the discipline of the Church, and proposes the faked death scheme to Juliet as much to hide his own misdeeds as to help her.

Why does Juliet go along with the plan? She’s ready to kill herself, but not to run off to share Romeo’s exile?

Well, the ultimate answer to all these quibbles is that it wouldn’t be good theater.  Juliet is the Drama Queen and Romeo the Drama King, and they have to do what will make their subjects (the audience) happy.  After all, “Romeo and Juliet” may not make good sense, but it is great theater.
OK, enough with the Shakespeare spate. I’ve been marinating in it for a month, but I think I have it all out of my system  now--.

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Tags: shalespeare theatre
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