Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Romeo and Juliet: Joseph A. Bryant’s Considerations :: Romeo and Juliet Essays

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has always been a very popular play. Joseph A. Bryant states this in his introduction, but there was never really contention. Most likely written in 1595, we learn from Bryant that this is thought to be one of Shakespeare’s more mature works that shows the pinnacle of his creativity (xxviii-xxx). Because of this creativity, audiences love Romeo and Juliet. However, Bryant also tells us that "[a]mong professional scholars the play has sparked less enthusiasm" (xxiii). For even though the play possesses an "ingenuity of the language" and has a particular "brilliance of the characterizations" (xxiii) , Bryant informs us that critics are upset by the importance Shakespeare places on pathos, and therefore feel that the play lacks real ethics. Bryant also concerns his introduction on the aesthetics of Romeo and Juliet with special consideration on the structure, the language, and the characters of the play, as well as how good of an exa mple of a tragedy the play is. Many readers may feel that Romeo and Juliet relies too much on pathos; that it’s just a tear-jerking love story. However, Bryant’s answer to those who think that the play lacks real ethics is that they are looking at it from a modern standpoint. The play really needs to be looked at from the point of view of the Elizabethan audience of 1595. Bryant tells us that "[t]hey knew by training what to think of impetuous young lovers who deceived their parents and sought advice from friars" (xxiv). Elizabethan audiences also knew that suicide was a sin (xxiv). This was common sense knowledge, and if looked at through the conventions of society at this time then, as Bryant states, the play "must have had automatically an abundance of ethical import" (xxiv). Bryant also commends Shakespeare for not attacking these commonly held ethical conventions, even though today’s readers can clearly see that Shakespeare thought nothing wrong with the relationship and did not even hold Romeo and Juliet entirely responsible for the consequences (xxiv). But some modern readers, Bryant tells us, are also uncomfortable with the numerous references to fate and destiny, and assume "that Shakespeare meant the play to be deterministic" (xxiv). Bryant tells us that Shakespeare does promise "in the Prologue to show the ‘misadventured piteous overthrows’ of a ‘pair of star-crossed lovers’" and then lets his characters continue to refer to destiny for the rest of the play (xxv).

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