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Romeo and Juliet – the lighter side

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1 Romeo and Juliet – the lighter side
The comedic elements in Shakespeare’s lyrical tragedy

2 Clipart from Windows Professional XP

3 What was the C word? Romeo and Juliet is a play about contrasts. These contrasts include Light and dark Night and day Young and old Love and hate And…

4 Tragedy and comedy! Think also about the contrasts between illusion and reality And the characters: Romeo and Mercutio The nurse and Lady Capulet The nurse and Mercutio

5 Why include comedy in a tragedy?
It heightens the contrast It gives the audience an emotional break It diminishes the tension evoked in the tragic scenes It delights the audience It adds variety When integrated with the plot, it can counterpoint & enhance the serious significance

6 Does it have a formal name?
YES! Comic relief! “the introduction of comic characters, speeches, or scenes in a serious or tragic work, especially in dramas. Comic relief was universal in Elizabethan tragedies.” M.H. Abrams

7 Where’s the comedy? Two renowned comic characters in Romeo and Juliet are Mercutio The nurse

8 What makes us laugh? Aside Contrasts exaggeration Poking fun Puns
Word play

9 Bawdy jokes to settle the folks…
Gregory: The quarrel is between our masters and us their men. Sampson: ‘Tis all one. I will show myself a tyrant. When I have fought with men, I will be civil with the maids—I will cut off their heads. Gregory: The heads of the maids? Sampson: Ay, the heads of the maids or their maidenheads. Take it in what sense thou wilt.

10 And soon after… Sampson: I do bite my thumb, sir.
Abram: Do you bite your thumb at us, sir? Sampson: (aside to Gregory) Is the law of our side if I say ay? Gregory: (aside to Sampson) No. Sampson: No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir; but I bite my thumb, sir. – 51

11 Or look at the nurse… She begins with “Even or odd, of all days in the year” (l. 16) and ends with “And, pretty fool, it stinted and said, “Ay.” (l. 57) How many lines? 41! What makes us laugh?

12 Romeo’s wit “Give me a torch. I am not for this ambling. Being but heavy, I will bear the light.”

13 How pun-ny! Romeo: The game was ne’er so fair, and I’m done* *exhausted Mercutio: Tut! Dun’s the mouse, the constable’s own word! If thou art Dun*, we’ll draw thee from the mire of this sir-reverence love, wherein thou stickest upon to the ears. Come, we burn daylight, ho! * horse’s name in “Dun’s the mire”

14 “come, instance, instance”
Friar: Our Romeo hath not been in bed tonight. Romeo: The last was true. The sweeter rest was mine. Friar: God pardon sin! Wast thou with Rosaline?

15 How does Tybalt trigger comedy?
Benvolio: Nay, he will answer the letter’s master [Tybalt], how he dares, being dared. Mercutio: Alas poor Romeo, he is already dead: stabbed with a white wench’s black eye; run through the ear with a love song; the very pin [center] of his heart cleft with the blind bow-boy’s butt-shaft…

16 What about Romeo’s entrance?
Benvolio: Here comes Romeo! Here comes Romeo! Mercutio: Without his roe, like a dried herring

17 And then.. Mercutio: …follow me this jest now till thou hast worn out thy pump, that, when the single soul of it is worn, the jest may remain, after the wearing, solely singular. Romeo: O single-soled jest, solely singular for the singleness*! *pun on silliness

18 What about getting the goose?
Mercutio: I will bite thee by the ear for that jest. Romeo: Nay, good goose, bite not! Mercutio: Thy wit is a very bitter sweeting; it is a most sharp sauce – 82

19 Upon the nurse’s arrival…
Nurse: My fan, Peter Mercutio: Good Peter, to hide her face; for her fan’s the fairer face. Nurse: God ye good morrow, gentlemen. Mercutio: God ye good-den, fair gentlewoman. Nurse: Is it good-den? Meructio: ‘Tis no less…for the bawdy hand of the dial is now upon the prick of noon

20 Juliet hath her turn, too
Juliet: I’ faith, I am sorry that thou art not well. Sweet, sweet, sweet nurse, tell me what says my love? Nurse: Your love says, like an honest gentleman, and a courteous, and a kind, and a handsome, and, I warrant, a virtuous– Where is your mother?…

21 Juliet: Where is my mother. Why she is within. Where should she be
Juliet: Where is my mother? Why she is within. Where should she be? How oddly thou repliest! “Your love says, like an honest gentleman, ‘Where is your mother?’”

22 What about the nurse? Once things turn serious and deadly, she reveals how flat, how static she is. When Juliet begs for help in the situation where she’s supposed to wed Paris, and she’s already married, the nurse suggests bigamy: “I think it best you married with the county.”

23 To which spunky Juliet replies, “Well, Thou hast comforted me marvelous much.”
3.5.2 The nurse loses her magic and Juliet’s confidence and never regains either.

24 Even when danger may be imminent
Tybalt: What wouldst thou have with me? Mercutio: Good King of Cats, nothing but one of your nine lives.”

25 Where is most of the comedy?
Acts 1 and 2. Why? Shakespeare gives us lots of opportunities to mix fun and seriousness – the opening banter; the big party at the Capulets’ home; Mercutio’s banter with other characters; the joy of falling in love (R and J), but…

26 Always remember that there is a dark overtone –
The families are feuding Sword fights (resulting in death) are fairly common The prince is so worried that he declares the death sentence on those who break the peace

27 Mercutio, our most complex and amusing character, dies in 3.1.
Look at his final speeches: ‘tis [his wound] not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door, but ‘tis enough, ‘twill serve…Help me to some house, Benvolio, or I shall faint. A plague a’ both your houses!

28 With the death of Mercutio, Verona loses its only hope for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Remember that he is a relative of Prince Escalus, a devoted friend of Romeo, and one who has much wit, sensitivity, and complexity. Mercutio’s death ends the lightness – what follows is dark.

29 Thematically? “Laugh as we may, Romeo clearly lives in a world where folly can have serious consequences; and we are no longer confident that the conventions of comedy will save him from those consequences or spare us the pain of seeing him destroyed.” Sylvan Barnet

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