REVIEW
Melchiori, Giorgio. "Peter, Balthasar, and Shakespeare's Art
of Doubling." Modern Language Review 78 (1983): 777-792.

Thesis: Doubling is the practice of having one actor play two (or more) parts. It must have been done in the first productions of Romeo and Juliet because Shakespeare's company had -- at the most -- 18 men and boys, but the play has about twice that number of speaking parts. Melchiori's essay is an examination of what parts could (and could not) be doubled. He concludes that the patterns of possible doubling support the widely held ideas that most of Romeo and Juliet was written before 1594, and that Q1 (the first printed version of the play) is a memorial reconstruction by someone who had seen the play. Melchiori also asserts that "Shakespeare's doubling technique is a way of suggesting parallelisms in the roles played by different characters" (790). For example, Melchiori says that the roles of Benvolio and Balthasar must have been doubled because both are men in whom Romeo confides.

Evaluation: Melchiori makes a circular argument. He says that certain pairs of characters must have been doubled because the characters are similar, then says that Shakespeare used doubling to emphasize the similarity of the characters. Also, Melchiori has very little to say about the significance of his conclusions. This is as close as he comes: "Such a piece of doubling would enrich the audience's response to the structure of the play and create an awareness of its implications" (792). "Enrich," how? What "implications"?

Bottom Line: Techie stuff.


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   Author: Philip Weller
   Last Modified: 2 April 2002