Romeo and Juliet (2011)

By William Shakespeare
June 1 2011

Date Time
Wednesday June 1 12:00 am
No Information Provided

DIRECTOR'S NOTE

Directed by Lynne Collins

Approaching any production, a director and designers look for a way into the world of the play—a concept, a setting, a theme or even a single word. For this production of Romeo and Juliet, the language and imagery relating to light quickly took center stage. Since our production is set in the heat of a Verona summer in the late 15th century, we  began to think about that climate and how it affects the physical and emotional world of the play. We also looked at the great masters of Renaissance painting who were beginning to develop techniques to create strong contrasts  between light and dark. The climate, architecture and art of this period all connect to one of the primary images in the play: the tension between day and night, light and dark.
 
In many ways, Romeo and Juliet exists in two worlds. We enter the play in the public world of Verona. The Italian sun shines harshly on the public square, and violence bubbles under its heat. The elder Capulets and Montagues seem unwilling or unable to control the violent fever that their feud has bred in the younger generation. The overall impression is that this public, daylight world is controlled by overwrought, overheated chaos.
 
But there is another world in the play, the private, nighttime world of Romeo and Juliet. As the story unfolds, we know that love between the children of mortal enemies is probably doomed, but Shakespeare creates language for his young lovers that draws his audience into the hope that love can defy the laws of nature, and make the political and social concerns of Verona retreat into shadow. Since their love is not safe in the public world, Romeo begins to create the imagery that will define their private world:
 
But, soft! What light  through yonder window breaks? 
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun! 
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon 
Who is already sick and pale with grief 
That thou her maid art far more fair than she
(II .ii).
 
Later, waiting for her wedding night, Juliet expands on Romeo’s imagery: 

Give me my Romeo; and, when he shall die 
Take him and cut him out in little stars, 
And he will make the face of heaven so fine 
That all the world will be in love with night, 
And pay no worship to the garish sun (III.i).
 
While they must meet in darkness, their love creates its own light, outshining the sun of public Verona. With this  imagery, Shakespeare is not only writing some of his most beautiful love poetry; he is also creating tension for his audience. Even as we know that the daylight world is more powerful than these young lovers understand, we are also drawn into their belief in the dazzling power of love. And, though it comes at a great price, this luminous love does, finally, banish “the garish sun.”
 
A glooming peace this morning with it brings:  
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head 
(V.iii).

ACT I

Two rival families, the Capulets and the Montagues, feud on the streets of Verona. Benvolio, a Montague, tries to part them, but a hotheaded Capulet, Tybalt, incites more violence. The Prince breaks up the fight and warns that further violence will result in death. Lord and Lady Montague discover that their reclusive son, Romeo, is sick with love for the chaste Rosaline. That evening, Romeo and his friends put on disguises and crash the Capulets’ party, where he spies the lovely Juliet, steals a kiss and falls deeply in love.

ACT II

Romeo enters the Capulet orchard, where he is enthralled by the sight of Juliet. He overhears her calling his name and lamenting that they are of rival houses, so he emerges and professes his true love. Juliet asks Romeo to send for her tomorrow if his purpose is marriage. At Romeo’s request, Friar Lawrence agrees to perform the ceremony, hoping it will end the feud. Romeo gives Juliet’s Nurse a message to deliver: he and Juliet will be married that afternoon. Juliet meets them as planned and they are wed.

ACT III

Tybalt challenges Romeo to a fight, but when Romeo refuses, Mercutio fights on his behalf and receives a mortal wound. Angry and remorseful, Romeo vows revenge, kills Tybalt and is banished by the Prince. Unaware of what has transpired, Juliet awaits the consummation of her marriage. She learns of Tybalt’s death and Romeo’s exile. Romeo hides in Friar Lawrence’s cell, tortured by the thought of banishment. The Friar devises a plan for Romeo to visit Juliet that night, then wait in Mantua until it is safe to return. After their first night together, Romeo grudgingly leaves Juliet’s bedroom for Mantua. When her parents tell her she must marry Paris on Thursday, Juliet objects, and Lord Capulet threatens to disown her. Juliet seeks out Friar Lawrence for advice.

ACT IV

Juliet confesses to the Friar that she would rather die than marry Paris. Friar Lawrence hands her a potion and instructs her to drink it that night, telling her that it will give the illusion of death. He sends Romeo a message that explains the plan, and tells him to meet his wife in the burial vault and take her to Mantua. Juliet returns home and makes a show of obeying her father. Once alone, she swallows the potion. The next morning, the Nurse discovers Juliet’s body.

ACT V

Having never received word of Friar Lawrence’s plan, Romeo hears of Juliet’s death. He purchases a deadly poison and leaves for Verona to die at her side. When he encounters Paris mourning at the tomb, they fight and Romeo slays him. Romeo kisses Juliet one last time, swallows the poison and dies. When Juliet awakens to find Romeo dead, she takes his dagger and stabs herself. Lord Montague and Lord Capulet accept blame for the tragedy and agree to give up their hatred and honor the memories of Romeo and Juliet.

DRAMATURG'S NOTE

By Deric McNish

The basic plot of Romeo and Juliet can be traced back to ancient Greek poetry. One particular incarnation appeared in Italian texts in the 15thcentury, traveled to France, and from there became the subject of a poem called “The  Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet” by Arthur Brooke, from which Shakespeare pirated the characters and plot. For almost 2,000 years, Romeo and Juliet have been falling in love and dying in each other’s arms. We’ve told this tale so many times it has become a ritual that informs our collective psyche: “Love at first sight” never had a more powerful ally than Shakespeare. We resurrect these two young lovers in a hopeless contest between true love and cruel fate. Romeo and Juliet, though young, rash and naïve, can never be held responsible for their tragic fate. They are sacrificed to end a feud and, as Capulet and Montague promise in the end, they remain a monument more everlasting than their golden statues in Verona.

Since the first CSF production of Romeo and Juliet in 1962, Colorado audiences have flocked to this theatre every five to ten years to see this play. Last year’s subscribers will recall how The Fantasticks tells the same story with a twist: The lovers’ parents faked the feud to trick their children into marrying. On the radio you might hear Jason Aldean sing, “If you can be my tan-legged Juliet, I’ll be your Redneck  Romeo.” A new generation of Shakespeare fans can watch garden gnomes feuding, falling in love and riding lawnmowers in the movie Gnomeo and Juliet. More sophisticated minds can choose from dozens of operas, ballets, and nearly fifty film versions including the iconic West Side Story. Shakespeare himself parodied Romeo and Juliet in a play that was most likely written at the same time, A Midsummer Night’s Dreamwhen he wrote of Pyramus and Thisbe: “… very tragical mirth. Merry and tragical! Tedious and brief!”

Why are we drawn to this tragic tale, and  why are we compelled to tell it over and over again? Moreover, why must Romeo and Juliet remain a tragedy? Happy endings have been imposed on this story over the years, but they fade into oblivion while the true tale survives. Romeo was exiled to Mantua, a temperate locale featuring lakes, lively piazzas and excellent risotto. As the son of a prominent family, he might have lived as a guest in an extravagant palazzo. Mantua and Verona are about the same distance apart as Boulder and Denver. Horses trot at about 8 eight miles per hour, but surely the intensity of Romeo’s love would have spurred him on to a canter (10-17mph) or a gallop (25-35mph). Romeo was parted from Juliet by no more than two hours’ travel time.

Logic never had a place in the hearts of these epic lovers. No one can tell Romeo that, there are “plenty of fish in the sea,” Juliet can never be satisfied with the wealthy, handsome and obsequious Paris, and moreover, nothing can end this bloody feud but the sacrifice of something precious to both houses.