REVIEW
Black, James. "The Visual Artistry of Romeo and Juliet"
Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 15 (1975): 245-256. Rptd. in Romeo and Juliet: Critical Essays. Ed. John F. Andrews. New York: Garland, 1993. 149-161.

Thesis: Black's thesis is that Shakespeare's artistry is visual as well as verbal. Black focuses on repeated stage-pictures (the two balcony scenes, the two scenes of the lovers' despair upon hearing that Romeo is banished, and others) and gives Shakespeare credit for having "prescribed the play's ideal performance" (158).

Sample Passage:

But there is more than a simple repetition of setting and tableau here; more than a "visual rhyme." When Romeo and Juliet first stood thus at meeting and parting in the Capulet orchard it was dangerous for Romeo to be found there. Juliet's sober warnings were rapturously dismissed by him:
Juliet. If they do see thee, they will murther thee.
Romeo. Alack, there lies more peril in thine eye
Than twenty of their swords. Look thou but sweet,
And I am proof against their enmity.   (II.ii.70-73)
Now, in III.v, all Verona is mortal to him; with the killing of Tybalt death and banishment have shadowed their love. Under this shadow it is Juliet who for a moment is desperately impractical -- "Wilt thou be gone? . . . Yond light is not daylight" -- and Romeo who protests "I must be gone and live, or stay and die." When he gives in to Juliet's pleadings it is with a desperate resignation far removed from his former rapture:
Let me be ta'en, let me be put to death;
I am content, so thou with have it so . . .
Come, death, and welcome! Juliet wills it so.    (III.v.17f.)
Delight in new love and anticipation of future meetings made their second-act parting "such sweet sorrow"; and goodnight was said only "till it be morrow." But at their next -- and final -- leavetaking Romeo's forced optimism cannot overcome Juliet's fearful premonitions; he finally gives in to their mutual fears and it is "dry sorrow" which informs this parting:
Juliet. O God, I have an ill-divining soul!
Methinks I see thee, now thou art so low,
As one dead in the bottom of a tomb.
Either my eyesight fails, or thou look'st pale.
Romeo. And trust me, love, in my eye so do you.
Dry sorrow drinks our blood. Adieu, adieu!    (III.v.54-59)
The fact that in each of these scenes the setting is the same and the stage picture reduplicated lends emphasis to the pathetic alteration in the speakers' tones and circumstances. The parallels emphasize the differences: things look the same but are painfully altered. Thus the audience is looking at what it saw before, but is being forced to see more intensely.   (150-151)
Bottom Line: Readable and persuasive.


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   Author: Philip Weller
   Last Modified: 27 March 2002