REVIEW
Dessen, Alan C. "Q1 Romeo and Juliet and Elizabethan
Theatrical Vocabulary." Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet: Texts, Contexts, and Interpretation. Ed. Jay L. Halio. Newark: U of Delaware P, 1995. 107-122.

Thesis: Dessen's thesis may be outlined in his own words:

My goal in this essay on Romeo and Juliet is . . . not to ignore totally the second or "good" quarto version printed in 1599, a text that rightly serves as the basis for today's editions, but to focus primarily upon the evidence provided and the implicit strategies found in the much shorter first or "bad" quarto of 1597.   (107)

I am concerned with this printed text as evidence about a performed version of this play somewhere, anywhere, in the mid-1590's.   (108)

Whatever the genesis of this shorter version, it appears to have strong theatrical roots. To sweep under the carpet its unique features (Balthasar's boots, the Nurse' intervention, staging analogues the different version of the 1.1 brawl) and particularly its apparent oddities and anomalies (as with Romeo's continuous on-stage presence between 2.1 and 2.3) is to risk blurring or eclipsing much of its distinctive value as evidence.   (120).

Sample Paragraph:

Other visual echoes also turn up in Q1: Juliet's two kneelings, first when resisting old Capulet's proposed marriage to Paris ("She kneeles downe," H1r) and next, after her visit to the Friar, when she apparently acquiesces to her father (again, "She kneeles downe," H4r); and the two specific references to curtains, first after Juliet takes the potion in 4.3 ("She fals upon her bed within the Curtaines," Ilr), and next after the lamenting over Juliet's body ("They all but the Nurse goe forth, casting Rosemary at her and shutting the Curtens," I2v). Such visual analogues do not in themselves turn QI into a "good" or fully realized play, but when taken as a group they do suggest a sense of design at work that may be further realized in other moments not so specified. Given the many silences about staging and onstage effects in this period, any such evidence should treated as a precious commodity and not lumped in a "bad" category.   (111)

Bottom Line: Interesting for scholars.


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   Author: Philip Weller
   Last Modified: 28 March 2002