- McGuire, Philip C. "On the Dancing in Romeo and Juliet."
- Renaissance/Reformation ns 5.2 (1981): 87-97. Rptd. in Romeo and Juliet: Critical Essays. Ed. John F. Andrews. New York: Garland, 1993. 215-228.
Thesis: McGuire quotes a passage from Sir Thomas Elyot's The Boke Named the Governour (1531), in which Elyot uses dancing as a metaphor for the virtue of Maturity, which is one of the seven branches of Prudence. McGuire then analyzes Romeo and Juliet as a series of violations of Maturity and Prudence.
Elyot's interpretation of Maturum also clarifies possible links between the dancing and the imagery of ripening articulated during the play. Capulet associates that imagery with Juliet when he rejects Paris's first proposal of marriage to her with the comment: "Let two more summers wither in their pride, / Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride" (I.ii.10-11). Juliet extends the imagery of ripening to include the love which she and Romeo share: "This bud of love, by summer's ripening breath, / May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet" (II.ii.121-22). The dancing can be seen as a "figure," a choreographic representation, of the processes of ripening which are aborted during the play, principally through the unknowing actions of the only two characters who declare that they will not dance -- Romeo and Capulet. Capulet's abrupt decision to have Juliet marry Paris forces Friar Lawrence, a character well-versed in the properties of herbs and flowers, to improvise a plan which calls upon Juliet to imitate the withering and subsequent ripening of plants by seeming to die and then, "in due tyme and measure" (245), reappearing as Romeo's spouse. That plan, which is tantamount to having Juliet enact the Proserpine myth signifying the cycle of the seasons, miscarries when the Friar's message to Romeo fails to reach him and Romeo returns too soon from exile, in effect cutting short the process of "ripening" which the Friar has set in motion. (217)
Bottom Line: A highly academic exercise.