Romeo And Juliet
In Verona, as the play begins, an ancient feud between the Montague and Capulet families erupts. The Prince forbids further fighting, with death as the consequence. Romeo finds out by mistake that the Capulet family is holding a party and that Rosaline, his unrequited love, will be a guest. He and cousin Benvolio decide to sneak into the party. At the party, Paris, cousin to the Prince, has asked for Juliet's hand in marriage. Tybalt, the hotheaded Montague responsible for reinstigating the feud, overhears Romeo express his enchantment with Tybalt's cousin and Capulet's daughter, Juliet. Tybalt reports his discovery to the senior Capulet and prepares to fight the Montague, Romeo, but Capulet tells him to keep his peace. Drawn to each other across the party, Romeo and Juliet meet and instantly fall in love; but Juliet is called away by her nurse and learns Romeo is a Montague. Romeo makes his way into her garden where he overhears Juliet confess her love for him, whereupon he reveals himself and they confirm their mutual love. Romeo goes to the Friar and asks him to marry them, telling Juliet's nurse to convey the arrangement. Juliet sneaks out to meet Romeo at the Friar's where they are married. Romeo's companions, Mercutio and Benvolio encounter Tybalt, and the hostility between them escalates. Romeo enters, coming from his secret marriage, and tries to diffuse the tension, but Tybalt mortally stabs Mercutio. This enrages Romeo who berates himself for allowing love to soften his manhood. Shaken because Mercutio died for him, Romeo kills Tybalt. The Prince orders Romeo banished from Verona. Juliet, anticipating Romeo's arrival, learns from her Nurse that Tybalt has been slain and that Romeo has been banished. Romeo goes to the Friar for counsel who advises him not to act rashly, but rather go to Mantua and wait there until the passage of time makes possible a reconciliation with the Prince. Juliet's nurse arrives and arranges for Romeo and Juliet to spend one night together before he has to leave. In the meantime, not understanding why Juliet seems so upset over Tybalt's death, her father decides to move the marriage to Paris up to the day after next. Juliet refuses, and goes to the Friar to find a way out. He gives her a potion that will make her appear dead, but will allow her to awaken the next day, after her burial. He tells her he will send notice to Romeo so he can meet her when she wakes. Juliet takes the potion, and she is found and presumed dead. Hearing she has died and not wishing to live without his Juliet, Romeo buys poison for himself and travels to her graveside. Juliet awakens from her death-like sleep, but not in time to forestall their tragic destiny.
While the story of Romeo and Juliet is known to most of us, the trajectory of their ill-fated love is wrestled from the path it should have taken by the hand of time. In Joel G. Fink's rendering of this most famous of love stories, he examines the ways these two lovers rush to rearrange fate, compressing a courtship that, under ordinary circumstances, should take a substantially longer time. Through their attempts to change the future Juliet's father has determined for her, they lose any chance of their own future together. As the play opens, a long-time feud is rekindled, eliminating years of peace. While Paris' desire to court Juliet initially is placed on a timeline of two years, her father orders the marriage to take place immediately. Juliet begs time to move more quickly as she waits for Romeo to come to her after their marriage. Romeo's life with Juliet moves from an open-ended time-frame, to a single day once he is banished by the Prince. A missed meeting keeps the Friar's letter from reaching Romeo in time, and the fate of the lovers quickens. At the crypt, their tragedy could be averted, but for the timing of Juliet's reawakening. In this production we see that the fate of the lovers is subject to the unyielding and constant march forward of their greatest enemy, time.
In the Victorian Era, which is the time period for this production of Romeo and Juliet, there was a strict code of conduct regarding how young men and women were to behave. How properly these young people adhered to this conduct was a measure of their breeding and suitability to each other. A woman had to be quite careful in the choice of a match because once married, she was stripped of all her legal rights. Of course, if her father determined a young man was the proper match, she would have a very difficult time convincing her father she had a say in this choice. Women were regarded as possessions, and all legal rights were denied them. In order to assure the quality of a suitor, the proper Victorian courtship practices needed to be followed. Young Ladies were expected to conform to these conventions: - A young woman was expected to discourage special attention from any man unless she was especially certain he suited her tastes. - A woman should not show too much enthusiasm toward any suitor, lest she give the impression that she was encouraging the young man in a way unbecoming to her (sexually). - Flirting was considered to be in particularly bad taste, and a sign that a young lady was leading a young man on. - It was expected that an unmarried woman always have an older woman as a chaperone. - At a ball or dance (where young ladies were introduced to society), young ladies were only to leave the side of their chaperones for the duration of one dance, and were to return immediately at the dance's conclusion. - The young lady's use of fans, gloves and handkerchiefs became coded symbols, or "love tokens," sometimes given as gifts to suitors. - Young men and women were discouraged from expressing their feelings out loud, and love letters and cards became the preferred means for the expression of deep emotion. - Young ladies ought not to display too much intellect or education. In addition, a young lady of good breeding: - Would always express herself with a positive attitude. - Would never make adjustments to her appearance in a public place - Would never gossip - Would be gracious in the giving and receiving of compliments - Would never call on an unmarried gentleman - Would not speak to a gentleman without being properly introduced first - Should never receive men at her homes if she was alone A Young Gentleman was expected to: - Never use slang or bad language - Always stand when a lady entered the room - Never remove his coat when in the presence of a lady - Always remove his hat when speaking to a lady In addition, a young man who devoted himself to courting just one lady may have found it assumed that he was engaged to her, before he had even asked for her hand. Beyond the rituals of courtship, there were several behaviors considered rude in the presence of any person. Some of these were crossing your legs, winking your eyes, shrugging your shoulders, touching a person while in conversation with them, holding a steady gaze or touching one's own hair. These strict rules may have lead to self-consciousness, but they established guidelines within which young men and women could safely encounter one another to determine suitability.