REVIEW
Nosworthy, J.M. "The Two Angry Families of Verona."
Shakespeare Quarterly 9 (1958): 455-469.

Thesis: Nosworthy believes that Romeo and Juliet is a bad play, and that some of its badness is due to the influence of an obscure farce entitled The Two Angry Women of Abingdon.

After establishing that The Two Angry Women of Abingdon preceded Romeo and Juliet and therefore could have been known to Shakespeare when he was writing his play, Nosworthy cites a series of supposed verbal parallels in an effort to persuade us that Shakespeare borrowed from the earlier play. This section is not particularly persuasive. Nosworthy proceeds to assert that Shakespeare "had an imperfect conception of the needs of tragedy" (226), and then writes,

This imperfect conception seems to me to go hand in hand with faulty execution, and for this I would hold the impact of Porter [author of The Two Angry Women of Abingdon] largely responsible. In the actual execution of this tragedy, Shakespeare, it seems, submitted himself too readily to an influence whose only prompting was towards comedy, with the result that, despite Fate, the feud, the mortal duels, Romeo's banishment, the flight, sufferings, and pitiable ends of the two lovers, there is remarkably little in Romeo and Juliet that is tragic in both tone and substance. And it is of the tonic imperfections that we are most painfully aware. The scene in which the Nurse and the Capulets lament Juliet's supposed death offers a notable conflict of incongruous styles. Mercutio makes a good end, but his dying speeches, magnificent in their exuberance, are not really fitted to the occasion. Above all, the Porterian Capulet, his lady, and the Montagues to boot, fail to maintain the feud at anything more than an everyday, domestic level. They are simply angry and funny in the Abingdon manner.     (226)
In short, Nosworthy doesn't believe that a stupid quarrel should lead to tragic consequences. He's right, it shouldn't, but Shakespeare knew what the news tells us every day -- it very often does.

Bottom Line: Nosworthy should have written about a play he actually liked.


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   Author: Philip Weller
   Last Modified: 2 April 2002