Alternative criticism on Romeo and Juliet and Shakespeare

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  • Alternative perceptions and criticism on Shakespeare's R &J
    • Coincidences and improbabilities in the action
      • Is it credible that the constructs of R&J change completely to fall in love?
      • Romeo was previously infatuated, anguished passion and the **** of Mercutio's puns
      • Number of coincidences eg. elaborate Friar plan, letter not reaching Romeo
        • hastens tragedy
        • killed by cruel change or fate
        • victims of an extraordinary succession of missed chances
      • not a realistic text - earlier literature did not depict everyday life
        • no attempt to represent Italian customs accurately but a typical English Elizabethan household
    • Deconstruction and Historicism
      • some critics have suggested texts are shaped not by author's intentions but by societies and cultures which produced them
      • everyone in Elizabethan audience would be aware that suicide is a mortal sin
        • protagonists have lost all hope of salvation
        • the play is silent on this issue as to introduce the notion that R  J are damned would run entirely against its celebration of their love
        • alerts us to omission - truth is inescapable
        • there is justice in their deaths since Romeo and juliet bring their fate upon themselves through their worship of each other to the exclusion of all other moral obligations
      • romeo and juliet are utterly immoderate in their obsession with each other, they are incapable of compromise
    • Plot and structue
      • no sub plot, no seconday story
      • clear structure
      • something relentless about the progress of the play, no extended discretion from the tragic tale
      • compressing events into a few days was one of Shakespeare's most significant changes
      • short consistent time scale is very rare for Elizabethan drama
      • shakespeare makes the tragedy more pitiful simply by the swiftness of the events occuring
        • their love is shortlived
    • Themes
      • first written in Italin by Masuccio Salernitano in 1476, rewritten again to Tragicall Historye or Romeus and Juliet
      • shakespeare radically changed the emphasis and structure of the story
      • story is compressed into a few dats to stress the remarkable suddenness of the lover's passion
        • love has no time to develop
        • their love completely overwhelms Romeo and Juliet from the moment they see each other
        • highlights fragility of their love
          • no moments of undisturbed happiness
        • no sooner experience than it is destroyed
        • a sense that the lovers are trapped, their final deaths are inevitable
      • dramatically effective final scene, paris is also an unsuspecting victim of the tragedy - reaches climax of the play
        • he comes to juliet's tomb shows true affection
      • dramatically effective contrast to juliet's character in the nurse
        • tybalt acts as a foil for romeo and benvolio
      • Juliet is portrayed as 13 instead of 16, increases vulnerability
        • makes a more striking development from a young submissive girl to defiant, self reliant tragic heroine
    • Feminist approach
      • juliet's intial submission to her father's patriarchal authority
      • championing lovers in Romeo and juliet issues a challenge to the traditional notions of familial duty, gender, relations and character and status of women
        • however structure of play insists that juliet's insubordination is punished as she is who dies
        • it is her love for a mand and not her friendship with a woman which gives her strength
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