REVIEW
Ashcroft, Dame Peggy. "Romeo and Juliet."
Shakespeare in Perspective. Ed. Roger Sales. Vol. 1. London: Ariel Books, 1982. 25-30. Rptd. in Romeo and Juliet: Critical Essays. Ed. John F. Andrews. New York: Garland, 1993. 177-182.

Thesis: The famous actress' comments are full of persuasive common sense. Of the play, she says,

There has been a recent fashion in the theatre to define a certain kind of play as a 'black comedy'. I would define Romeo and Juliet as a 'golden tragedy'. George Meredith wrote:
. . . In tragic life, God wot,
No villain need be! Passions spin the plot:
We are betrayed by what is false within.
Tragic heroes such as Macbeth and Hamlet do have something 'false within'. It is after all the definition of a tragic character that his fate lies in himself and in his own weakness. Romeo and Juliet are thus not strictly speaking tragic characters, since they are betrayed by what is false without. They are the epitome of youth awakening to life, joy, love and fidelity. Theirs is the tragedy of circumstance, which perhaps makes it all the more poignant. Is it youth betrayed by age or love destroyed by hate? I think that both these are simplifications. It is true that they are the victims of a family feud, but as the play unfolds one sees everything that happens as a series of fatal accidents.   (177)
On playing Juliet (which she did three times), Ashcroft says, "I learnt . . . that it is essential for Juliet to be a child of fourteen. If that is credible, then her awakening, her passon, her refusal to compromise, and finally, her tragedy take care of themselves" (180).

Bottom Line: Worthwhile.


PAGE INFO:
   Author: Philip Weller
   Last Modified: 26 March 2002