dijous, 2 de juliol de 2009

Papers de literatura i humanitats (III) - "Shakespeare in love" and "Romeo and Juliet"

In Shakespeare in love by John Madden, Viola (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Will (Joseph Fiennes) are separated by a class gap. Regarding Romeo and Juliet [1], the lovers belong to enemy families, seemingly irreconcilable. So, in the play, both households alike in dignity are mortal enemies, in the film, a broad river divides the lovers. In both cases, that is the story's excuse. Their impossibility of being together leads to a predictable tragical end: separation in the film, death in the play.

Characters are also a matter of comparison. Apart from the pairs Will-Romeo and Viola-Juliet, some others are also comparable: Viola’s nurse is a twin to Juliet’s nurse; Wessex is a composite character of Tybalt and of a hateful Paris; the Prince is Queen Elisabeth in the film; the friar in the play is performed in the film by all those characters who, unaware, allow Viola and Will to be together, such as the theater producer, the theater owners and the actors of the Admiral Company.

The tragedy. An outcome of fate?

The idea of fate can be found everywhere in the play. The question is, what is the final goal of that predestination? In the prologue of the play, we find a sentence to define the kind of love story that we are to be offered: (…) death-marked love. What is the purpose for this fatal fate?

We could find an answer in the words of the Prince at the end of the play when the two enemy families meet at the dead bodies of their daughter and son:


Where be these enemies? Capulet, Montague,

See what a scourge is laid upon your hate,

That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love. (293)

A glooming peace this morning with it brings.

The sun for sorrow will not show his head. (306)


After these lines, one could presume that this terrifying fate has an objective: to reconcile the two fighting households. That is the reason for the sequence of situations which have to lead to a fatal destiny for the lovers. They are just an excuse, they are only pieces on a chessboard who are moved by fate to achieve a final goal of reconciliation between the Montagues and the Capulets.

A mature passion

In Romeo and Juliet, the author describes the story of a passion through two points of view. Juliet performs the role of a more mature and sensible lover, whereas Romeo is a more passionate character who seems not to be aware of the dangers and obstacles that they would have to face.

These ideas are, as I see it, clearly reflected in the following lines:


O, thinkest thou we shall ever meet again?


I doubt it not; and all these woes shall serve

For sweet discourses in our times to come.


O God, I have an ill-divining soul!

Methinks I see thee, now thou art so low, 55

As one dead in the bottom of a tomb.

Either my eyesightfails, or thou lookest pale.


This famous balcony farewell scene becomes a dialogue between two points of view: that more realistic of Juliet (she foresees death!) and that of Romeo, who feels sure about the future as love is to prevail above all odds. Family hatreds included.

Further arguments to a higher level of maturity in the character of Juliet would come from the fact that, for her, Romeo is her first and only true love, whereas for Romeo, Juliet is not his first object of devotion. In fact, she shows up much later in the play. What we first know of Romeo is that he is in love with Rosaline. His twist of feelings, might be perceived as a sign of a lack of maturity? Might be.

[1] All quotes to the play belong to Shakespeare, W. Romeo and Juliet, Penguin 1967