Abstracts

 

Silvia Bigliazzi, “Juliet’s Comic-Tragic Soliloquies in Q1 and Q2”

This paper investigates the shaping of two different models of self-enquiry and articulation of selfhood in the two in-quarto versions of Juliet’s soliloquies. It has often been contended that Q1, compared to Q2, sacrifices the poetry of these pieces for the sake of action, but the changes go far beyond this, foregrounding recurrent patterns across scenes that suggest a different conception of the two lovers’ relation. A ‘self-other’ relational model based on an idea of oneness relying upon mutual dependency is more clearly voiced in Q1. On the contrary, Q2’s Juliet shows a more markedly ‘I-focused’ awareness, entailing a potentially more painful experience of separateness. These two models are voiced at crucial moments of comic and tragic turns, reflecting the more spontaneous and “conceited” cast of Q1, typical of the comedic genre, and the more tragically “lamentable” one of Q2, respectively. Thus, while Q1’s tragic ending opens to the possibility that compensatory mechanisms may derive from the two lovers’ death, fulfilling a pattern of mutual tension towards the beloved one, Q2 unequivocally portrays their fundamental separateness, eventually foregrounding Juliet’s awareness of her solitude at moments of tragic agency.


Simona Brunetti, “The Two Gentlemen of Verona on the Twentieth-Century Italian Stage”

The stage history of The Two Gentlemen of Verona in twentieth-century Italy records very few performances. This paper will discuss three productions in particular, starting with two successful stagings at the Teatro Romano in Verona, directed in 1965 by Giorgio De Lullo, and in 1989 by Lorenzo Salveti, respectively. Then I will move on to a more recent production which took place in the Summer of 2010 at the Villa Borghese Globe Theatre in Rome, under the direction of Francesco Sala. Through these analyses I will try to suggest some possible reasons behind the Italian apparent scarce interest in this play.


Lisanna Calvi, “Veering Towards Comedy: Benjamin Victor’s adaptation of The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1762)”

No record of performance of The Two Gentlemen of Verona during Shakespeare’s lifetime exists and the play was apparently ignored by Restoration playwrights too; its first known staging was indeed Benjamin Victor’s adaptation, which premiered at David Garrick’s Drury Lane Theatre on December 22, 1762. Victor, theatre manager, writer, and treasurer of the Theatre Royal, since 1760, presented the play as Shakespeare’s, although announcing the introduction of a few “alterations and additions”. These were meant primarily at straightening out the plot, by slightly rearranging the order of the scenes and deleting a few inconsistencies, and at polishing up the script by removing a few passages and allusions considered distasteful for an eighteenth-century audience. Nevertheless, the “additions” of a few lines and short scenes thoroughout the play and some limited, but significant excisions, including Valentine’s (in)famous offer of his fiancée to his friend, give way to a rather momentous swerve of the conceptual route of the play towards a more decidedly comic track. Indeed, Victor’s adaptation appears to match – seemingly better or maybe just less ambiguously than the Shakespearean original – Northrop Frye’s inclusion of The Two Gentlemen into the “drama of the green world” category, in which the ‘green world’, typically a forest, is where conflicts are resolved and characters undergo some kind of metamorphosis or conversion which looks more more apparent and extended in Victor than in the original.


Christie Carson, “Looking at Two Productions of the Two Gents: From the Globe Stage to the RSC (2012-2014)”

The Two Gentlemen of Verona was performed by Two Gents Productions, directed by Arne Pohlmeier, 9-10 May 2012 at The Globe Theatre in London and by the Royal Shakespeare Company, directed by Simon Godwin throughout the summer season of 2014 at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. From two men (and no dog) on the bare bones Globe stage to a fully produced main stage production in Shakespeare’s home town, this play was performed to critical success in both venues. Often seen as an early and therefore juvenile work these two productions reignited a discussion about the value of this play as a precursor or prologue to Shakespeare’s later work. The RSC production, in particular, chose a performance style which bordered on the didactic, emphasizing each word, phrase and character situation in the play that appears later in the Shakespearean canon. More an illustrated lecture than a performance, this production highlighted the educational remit of the RSC. By contrast the Two Gents production, which was performed in the African language of Shona, highlighted the performativity of the play and the Globe space. Employing extensive interaction with the audience, including several audience ‘plants’, this production pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable within the parameters set for the Globe to Globe Festival. The company was meant to be representing Zimbabwe, even though the two actors and director are all UK based and the production had formerly toured the UK and internationally in English. Despite, or perhaps because of, this somewhat unconventional interaction with the Festival’s proposed structure of inviting international guests to perform in London this production helped to articulate the importance, or lack thereof, of language in this play. Together these two productions demonstrate a spectrum of the current assumptions about Shakespeare’s work and audiences in the UK today.


Lukas Erne, “The Other ‘Bad Quarto’ of Romeo and Juliet

The ‘bad quartos’ – alternatively known as the ‘short quartos’, ‘early quartos’ or ‘textually-challenged quartos’ – were long side-lined or denigrated but have now established their place in the editorial and critical reception of Shakespeare’s plays. We may still disagree with one another about the origins of the ‘bad quartos’ and their relationship to the ‘good quartos’ and to performance, but there is now broad agreement among editors and scholars that the ‘bad quartos’ are in important ways far from bad, deserve close attention, and have much to teach us. Arden3 includes facsimile editions of several ‘bad quartos’ and provides a fully edited, modernized text of the ‘bad quarto’ of Hamlet in a companion volume. The New Cambridge Shakespeare series even features a subseries devoted to ‘The Early Quartos’. Romeo and Juliet is among the plays that have most benefited from the revaluation of the ‘bad quartos’, with at least four editions published since the turn of the century that include the text of the first quarto (1597). Yet there is another ‘bad quarto’ of Romeo and Juliet that has not yet joined the conversation about Shakespeare’s play but should. Like the first quarto, it is early modern and has undeniably close ties to the version preserved in the second, ‘good’ quarto. Like the first quarto, it closely engages with the version we are most familiar with, and has characters and a plot that are to a large extent the same as the second quarto’s. Like the first quarto, it has much to teach us about Shakespeare’s play. Yet unlike the first quarto, it is not readily available in modern editions. This paper will introduce ‘the other bad quarto’ of Romeo and Juliet and discuss what insights can be gained by relating it to the better known versions of Shakespeare’s play.


Ewan Fernie, “Cold-hand Man: Mercutio’s Comedy and Tragedy”

This paper will offer a new exploration of the ways in which comedy and tragedy mix, mingle and reciprocally intensify in the figure of Mercutio. Homing in especially on Mercutio’s famous Queen Mab speech, it will argue that he specifically exemplifies the comic and tragic valences of negative energy in Shakespeare. It will relate this negative energy to Romeo and Juliet’s broader investment in the nature, purpose and development of freedom.


Robert Henke, “Narrative Crossroads: Tragicomic Pathways in Romeo and Juliet and the Italian Novelle”

Although they all end tragically, the Italian novelle sources of the Romeo and Juliet story reveal an extremely pliable narrative, with multiple narrative possibilities available at almost any point. By taking the widely circulating story and injecting the possibility of a happy ending in the scenario “Li tragici successi,” the commedia dell’arte only followed the full consequences of narrative pliability, transforming genre itself. In the novelle, we can observe a wide range of tones and narrative choices: “roads not taken” by Shakespeare that sometimes are preserved in vestigial traces. For example, the earliest written, late fifteenth-century version by Masuccio Salernitano has the heroine, named Ganozza, enter a convent after she learns of the tragic fate of her lover Mariotto — a narrative idea that is spectrally registered by Friar Lawrence’s sad plan, uttered to Juliet over the dead body of Romeo, to “dispose of thee / Among a sisterhood of holy nuns”.   Some attention is given in the paper to Da Groto’s pivotal transformation of the largely romance-style version of Masuccio into a story of much more public, political, and tragic weight. Taking what is merely the conjunction in the same poetic line of the “Montecchi and the Cappelletti” (who live in different cities) in Dante’s Purgatorio, Groto cohabitates them in Verona, and places them in a specific and significant political-historical context: in the time of Dante’s protector-in-exile Bartolomeo della Scala. Other examples of narrative pliability are explored, such as the displacement of the “she doth teach the torches to burn bright” conceit from the Romeo figure himself — dressed as a nymph and dazzling the women at Cappelletti’s feast with his hermaphroditic beauty — to Juliet in Shakespeare. The various private spaces eked out by the lovers in the novella, which include a confessional box where they actually get married, suggest the possibility of a comic world within the harsher frame of tragedy.


James Hirsh, “Soliloquies in Romeo and Juliet: An Empirical Approach”

In the process of writing Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare, like the two main characters, fell madly in love. In his case what he fell in love with were the surprisingly precise and intricate set of conventions governing soliloquies and asides that he himself had helped to establish in his earlier plays. Those conventions become apparent only as a result of a systematic empirical investigation. Plentiful, conspicuous, unambiguous, varied, and overwhelmingly one-sided evidence demonstrates that in late Renaissance drama a soliloquy represented the spoken words of the character as a matter of convention, not the character’s unspoken thoughts. A character could guard a soliloquy in an aside from the hearing of another character only if the speaker was aware of the presence of the other character. Romeo and Juliet contains more examples of overheard or partially overheard soliloquies than any other play in the canon. Similarly plentiful, conspicuous, unambiguous, varied, and overwhelmingly one-sided evidence demonstrates that a soliloquy in late Renaissance drama represented a self-addressed speech, the most private form of speech possible, as a matter of convention, rather than a speech knowingly directed by the character at the hearing of playgoers, which would have constituted the most public form of speech possible in the period. Playgoers evidently took voyeuristic pleasure in eavesdropping on the most private speeches of characters and were not interested in hearing what a character might say to themselves if she knew that she was merely a character in a play. Shakespeare used soliloquies to dramatize how a character interacts with himself. Soliloquies depict characters engaged in a huge variety of self-directed activities: self-congratulation, self-justification, self-reassurance, self-control, self-denigration, self-manipulation, self-deception, wishful thinking, and so on. Romeo and Juliet contains an astonishing total of 160 verbal markers of self-address as well as other kinds of evidence of self-address.


Paul Kottman, “Love as Freedom in Romeo and Juliet”

In contrast to traditional interpretations of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, I argue that the lovers are not brought to ruin on account of the quarrel between the two families, nor on account of misfortune or youthful intemperance. Instead, I suggest that Romeo and Juliet act purposefully, with a project in mind – ingesting potions and poisons, laying plots and taking risks, with unwavering resolve and fearlessness, and without any lawful authorization or communal justification. Without avoiding misfortune, they did not give into fatalism. And where they failed, they also made it their business to claim that failure at the heart of a shared project. Interpreting the play against the backdrop of family love as care for the dead – where ‘love’ for the dead is itself a fundamental moment in the realization of human freedom and rationality – I argue that freedom in Romeo and Juliet is not only realized in the ritual negation of external, alien necessities (love for the dead), but in the denial of necessity’s impersonal externality.


Eric Nicholson, “Cleansing Civil Hands Made Bloody by Civil War: Refugee and NGO Adaptations of Romeo and Juliet”

Most often given the label of “love tragedy,” Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet also can be called a dramatic indictment of internecine fighting and futile civil war. While acknowledging the play’s exploration of the poetic words and passionate deeds of love, my paper will focus on its urgent concern with destructive political behavior, and its staging of how “ancient grudge break[s] to new mutiny” with implications that extend well beyond the medieval Verona setting. Thus I will consider post-World War II adaptations of the play, briefly citing Peter Ustinov’s Cold War satire “Romanoff and Juliet,” and Bernstein and Sondheim’s New York street gang/minority group musical “West Side Story,” but more extensively comparing recent adaptations staged by directors in countries lacerated by civil war and diaspora. My two case studies will be the 2015 collaborative production of Romeo and Juliet, performed in both Albanian and Serbian by actors from the NGOs Quendra Multimedia of Pristina, Kosovo and Radionica Integracije of Belgrade, Serbia, and directed by Miki Minojlovic, and the 2015 version of the play directed by the Syrian actor Nawar Bulbul, and performed via Skype streaming-broadcast by children in refugee hospices in Homs, Syria, and Amman, Jordan. In this way, I will aim to give contextual scope to the outstanding, ground-breaking work and commentary of Preti Taneja. Among several key questions: how do such productions empower or at least help to sustain victims of actual civil warfare, through not only representing but actually embodying and even enacting reconciliation?


Stephen Orgel, “‘Two Household Friends’: The Plausibility of Q1”

The paper focuses initially on a small number of moments in Romeo and Juliet Q1 that make a quite different kind of dramatic sense from the same moments in Q2, and that seem to me thereby to give us a rather different play as a whole; and then considers what happens when we take those alternative dramas into account in thinking about the play and undertake to produce out of them a coherent Romeo and Juliet. Throughout, my concern is with the larger question of what the relation is between the texts that have been preserved in the quartos and the folio and the play on Shakespeare’s stage; and ultimately with the problems of translating those printed texts back into theatrical performances.


Flavia Palma, “Tragic-Comic Patterns in The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Its Sources”

Due to an awkward development of the plot, especially in its conclusion, The Two Gentlemen of Verona has usually been considered one of the least successful Shakespearean dramas. In particular, Valentine’s final and unexpected forgiveness of Proteus makes this comedy’s happy ending implausible and psychologically contradictory. Valentine’s sudden change of mind after his surge of anger towards his false friend, whose betrayal he has just discovered, looks nonsensical, although it should be noticed that it can be related to the literary model of male ideal friendship, highly popular in Early Modern England, for instance as proved by the success of the Italian story of Titus and Gisippus told in Boccaccio’s Decameron and translated several times between the fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries. A comparison between this play and its novella sources in fact sheds light precisely on the play’s sudden comic-tragic and tragic-comic reversals following crucial episodes, including, on the one hand, Proteus’s abrupt falling in love with Silvia, Valentine’s exile, and Silvia’s attempted rape, and, on the other, Proteus’s absolution and reconciliation with both Valentine and Julia. A comparative analysis of the rhetorical features and of the dramatic structure of its major turning points shows Shakespeare’s peculiar handling of the comic-tragic contiguities he found in narrative form, revealing a potential for an ironic and a strategic reuse of Italian patterns which circulated widely in contemporary England, either in translation or absorbed in new English writings deeply inspired by the Italian models.


Nicola Pasqualicchio, “Mercutio Can’t Die. Romeo and Juliet Re-created by Carmelo Bene (1976) and Armando Punzo (2011)

If we accept Grotowski’s idea that a mise-en-scène is a reaction to a dramatic text rather than a representation of it, we can observe that the reaction response of Italian experimental theatre to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has been generally of a deconstructive and even ‘polemical’ kind. Differently from other plays – such as Hamlet and Macbeth – which avant-garde theatre has privileged and treated like admired masterpieces, even when dismantling them or using them as mere pretexts, Romeo and Juliet has been subjected by experimental companies and directors to a critical revision focused upon an awareness of the centrality of the love theme as an element of weakness. Therefore, they have tried to dampen the ‘romantic’ aspects of the story, by chilling or parodying them, or even marginalizing the sentimental core of the play and its two protagonists. This aim has sometimes been pursued by emphasizing Mercutio’s undeveloped tragic potentialities, as in the two plays I will discuss: Carmelo Bene’s Romeo e Giulietta (storia di Shakespeare) (1976) and Armando Punzo’s Romeo e Giulietta. Mercuzio non vuole morire (2011). These plays share some important features. In both cases the director plays, as an actor, the role of Mercutio, who does not die and becomes the main character and the symbolic heart of the drama; besides, both texts are dismantled and recomposed with the addition of quotations from poetic and dramatic works, both Shakespearean and non–Shakespearean. This paper aims at examining the new dramatic and poetic balance that the emphasis on Mercutio’s character and the practice of intertextuality impose on the two plays and on their performative conception and realization.


David Schalkwyk, “Giving and Taking in Verona: The Two Gentlemen vs Romeo and Juliet

This paper will explore the very different ways in which love is related to service in Shakespeare’s early comedy, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and the tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. It will focus especially on the contrast between the idealizing discourse of love as service in the comedy, which has as its logical conclusion an attempted rape and the very different presentation of the love between the young couple in the tragedy. The latter play is set in a context of service, especially evident in the rivalry between the retainer bands of the two households, but it is notable for the almost total absence of the discourse of service in the love between Romeo and Juliet.


Steven Urkowitz, “Shakespeare’s Consistent Revision of the Capulet Ladies in Q1 and Q2: ‘Thats well said Nurse’ into ‘Hold take these keies”

Generally unnoticed as a patterned group, Q1 and Q2 Romeo and Juliet contain many consistent, complex, and “progressive” textual variants related to the three Capulet women. Seen together, these variants indicate just how and reveal just what theatrical and narrative values motivated Shakespeare in his revision of the 1597 Q1 version to produce the more polished, sophisticated, and psychologically darker 1599 Q2 Romeo and Juliet. Repeatedly, in passages where two or three of the women interact, Q1 shows the women speaking to each other with reciprocity, cordiality and kindness. Equivalent moments in Q2 show instead a household regime of commands, hierarchical domination, and psychological isolation. These intricate patterns of textual difference among the women (as well as similar re-thinking of dialogue and action in the characters of Friar Laurence and Lord Capulet which I have discussed elsewhere), produce two quite distinct authorial versions of the play, woven with different styles, directed towards different experiences for the audience. When seen together, they demonstrate an author’s intimate familiarity with his text. The systematic changes were not likely to have resulted from any company-sponsored or “piratical” effort at reducing the Q2 text to something resembling Q1. Viewed in their cumulative effect, Q1 offers a more idealized household which suffers a tragedy of accidental circumstance, and Q2 presents that family as fully participant in the angry, macho regime of the streets of Verona, inevitably primed for disaster. The talk will be accompanied by handouts illustrating extensive “parallel quotes” from the quartos.


Melissa Walter, “Object and Empathy in The Two Gents’ Two Gentlemen of Verona

Since the first recorded performance of The Two Gentlemen of Verona in the eighteenth century, editors and performers have struggled to align the ending of The Two Gentlemen of Verona with its purported genre. Two Gentlemen of Verona/Vakomana Vaviri Ve Zimbabwe brilliantly renders the play with two male actors, a glove representing Silvia and a length of patterned cloth representing Julia. The play’s economical techniques resonate with Lance’s attempt to explain an emotional crisis using props to stand for people. The use of objects to stand for people has both tragic and comic effects. This paper explores how the use of props and two actors to render all of the characters in the play, including Crab the dog, has the effect of quasi-allegorically involving the audience in the changeableness of desire, as feelings are embodied through many different characters but only two actors, plus audience members used as puppets, and objects that stand for characters. It contextualizes the production’s handling of the performance cruxes of the conclusion within key related moments in the stage and editing history of the play.


Susanne Wofford, “Freedom and Constraint in Courtship across the Boundary of Rank: The “Jest Unseen” of Love Letters in Two Gentlemen of Verona and Lope de Vega’s El Perro del Hortelano (Dog in a Manger)” 

Both Two Gentlemen of Verona and Lope de Vega’s El Perro del Hortelano (Dog in a Manger) take up a condition of subjection and explore its effects on those above and below on the ladder of service. Each play looks at the “servant” of the high-ranking woman as dominated, willing to turn and twist according to the will of their mistress, but also expose the high ranking lady herself suffering substantial constraint. In Shakespeare’s Two Gentleman, the fantasy of escape from this hierarchy becomes more important than the courtly scenes illustrating the problems of status hierarchy and difference, especially in love, although this fantasy is sharply qualified in the final scene. The implication of both these plays is that the ladder of service is a ladder of domination, and that there is no liberty at the top of the ladder, and especially not for women, where the rulers and their heirs are shown to be also constrained and lacking in freedom. The social order itself in both plays is represented as dominating (in Pettit’s sense) individuals within it, and comedy as a genre participates in both representing that degree of domination, and also imagining an escape from it. This double domination – the domination of the servant by the master or mistress, and the constraints imposed by the social hierarchy on the individual of high rank – are vividly dramatized by the theatergram (to use Louise Clubb’s term) of the lover made to write a love letter to himself. Thus both plays dramatize the need for liberty while suggesting that comic compromises that appear to reconcile desire and the social order do not in fact allow the protagonists to escape from social dilemma created by a reliance on domination to create order. Both Silvia in Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona and Diana in Lope’s play Dog in a Manger (1613-1615) use a device that tricks the male “servants” whom they love, and use this ruse to get around the limitations placed to prevent them, as women of a high rank, from courting men of lower standing. Each of them causes the man she loves to write a love letter to himself, avoiding having it marked as being from the high born lady herself. Silvia in Shakespeare’s comedy is the daughter of the Duke of Milan, though, perhaps to convey the extent to which this social position stands far above that of the two gentlemen of the play, both Proteus and Panthino in 1.3 refer to the Duke as “the Emperor”. Diana is the Countess (Condesa) of Belflor, an heiress who rules her household. Silvia, as the daughter to the Duke, is not free to woo Valentine, her “servant,” who is a gentleman, but nonetheless significantly below Silvia in rank, and below her on the ladder of service and prestige. He is not an example of the kind of match her father would accept. Both women are severely constrained in their freedom to marry, and both plays include the ridiculous but class-appropriate lovers who must be avoided. The extent of the limitations placed on each are symbolized by key plot elements: in Two Gentlemen, Silvia and Valentine must escape the court entirely by running away to the woods, while in Dog in a Manger, the two acceptable suitors, who are also rivals and one of whom is a relative, team up to try to kill the secretary who is receiving the favor of Diana [rather more like the reaction of the relatives in Duchess of Malfi]. These two scenes and situations suggest that notions of liberty and freedom from domination must include understanding of bondage of both literal and figurative kinds. I hope to explore the different uses to which each play puts this theatergram by focusing in part on the kinds of constraint that prevail in the highly ranked society of the imaginary aristocracies of the plays. Each play is concerned to show that the character with the most power (Diana) or most likely to inherit positions of wealth and rule (Silvia) is as much disempowered by rank as liberated by it; while the parallel sense of constraint on the part of the “servants” shown to be, especially in the Spanish play, even more potentially destructive. How the “danger” and threat represented by seeking free choice in marriage across the boundaries of rank and status are negotiated in these comedies, and with what effect, will contribute to understanding how drama represents and enacts constraint while using wit, fiction, ruses and deceit to trick the audience and the characters into believing briefly in a world where these constraints can be evaded if not abolished entirely. In addition to exploring this theatergram in the two plays, I will also briefly explore its origins in pastoral romance, especially in Jorge de Montemayor’s Diana, already identified as a Spanish source for Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Back to programme
Back to homepage