Traversi, D. A. "From An Approach to Shakespeare."
An Approach to Shakespeare. New York: Doubleday, 1956. 110-138. Rptd. in Romeo and Juliet: Critical Essays. Ed. John F. Andrews. New York: Garland, 1993. 13-40.

Thesis: At the beginning of his essay, Traversi asks "To what degree can youthful love be regarded as its own justification -- 'bears it out even to the edge of doom,' as the sonnet [#116] has it -- or, alternatively, to what extent do the lovers share the conviction that this is simply an empty, rhetorical affirmation?" (13). Answering his own question, Traversi says, "The answer the play gives lies not in any simple assertion, whether affirmative or otherwise, but rather in balance of contrasted realities" (13). Traversi then states his view of the "contrasted realities": "Their love must indeed accept the reality of death, which its very origin and nature demand; but once this had been accepted, it remains true that sense of incommensurate worth, of true value, survives to color their tragedy" (14). Following these general statements, Traversi works his way through the play, commenting on the differences among the various characters' views of love and evaluating the love of Romeo and Juliet.

Some Fuzziness: Traversi often makes statements such as the following:

Because this new love bears within itself an element of excess, a neglect of all realities except those which its own consummation involves, it will end in death; but because it is also a true emotion (and true not least in relation to the aged experience that sets itself up so consistently to thwart it, to deny its truth), because its intensity answers, when all has been said, to love's value, it will be felt to achieve, even in its inevitable frustration, a certain measure of triumph over circumstance.   (21)
However Traversi never explains why the "element of excess" must lead to death, or just how large the "measure of triumph" is.

Bottom Line: Sometimes insightful, sometimes mystifying.

   Author: Philip Weller
   Last Modified: 3 April 2002