Abstract (as printed at the head of the essay):
Embedded in the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, in the characters of the Friar and of Romeo himself, are two opposing traditional views concerning the origin of suffering, hence of tragedy, in human life. The play however eludes both the "providential" and the "fatal" formulae and offers us an early, but fully articulated Shakespearean tragic structure. This is marked by a characteristic emphasis on the opacity of appearances which the protagonists fail to penetrate, by tragic heroes whose high distinction is to be understood in terms of their embodiment of the forces whose collision provides the dynamic of the action; by a finely turned peripeteia in which coincidence and inevitability meet in a nexus of ironies; and by the evolving affirmation, made both dramatically (through action and character contrast) and poetically (through the light imagery) of the high value of idealized sexual love. (241)
- A plot is not tragic if everything is the fault of the hero, and it is not tragic if nothing is the fault of the hero. Nevo writes, "What is required is an interlocking, an intersection of opposing aspects of reality: the fore-ordained and the fortuitous, the inevitable and the arbitrary, choice and chance, will and the world" (244). Nevo goes on to say that at the turning-point of the play (the death of Mercutio), Romeo's "despairing cry 'O, I am fortune's fool' richly expresses his sense of the uncalled for, unchosen, and outrageous event; of his helplessness in the face of forces which are ranged against him, which include his own acceptance of the code of honor, and his own grief and self-reproach at the death of his friend 'under his arm'" (245).
- The play is not depressing. Nevo writes, "From the wreckage tragedy depicts, something that is of the spirit survives to effect our reconciliation to the heartshaking emotions of pity and terror. The scene of their death is the recognition of that survival. . . .Their death is an act of freedom and fidelity; hence an affirmation of the reality, vitality, and value of their experience" (257).
A Note: In the bound volume of Studies in English Literature for 1969 there are misprints in Nevo's essay. Both pages 253 and 254 end in the middle of a sentence.
Bottom Line: The essay is a lot better than the abstract.