«by JANE ELIZABETH KINGSLEY-SMITH A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Arts of the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY The ...»
Yet Shakespeare chose to ignore the possibility of elopement in his tragedy. It does not feature in Romeo's desperate conjectures. Only a reprieve from the Prince, the displacement of Verona or the creation of a second Juliet will save him (3.3.57-60). Nor does Juliet ever suggest she should leave with Romeo though she earlier declared that, once married, she would 'follow thee, my lord, throughout the world' (2.1.190). In 3.5, Capulet threatens to disinherit Juliet and to banish her from his house unless she will marry Paris (191-5). Rather than fleeing to Mantua or allowing herself to be banished, Juliet arranges to leave her father's house in the semblance of a corpse.42 It is only in this morbid fantasy that Juliet can imagine leaving Verona.
Nevertheless, the possibility rejected by Romeus and unthinkable to Romeo, finds expression in Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Though Romeus deplores such Tansies vayne1,43 there is no one to stop Julia in this play from donning the guise of a page and going in pursuit of her lover, Proteus.44 Moreover, Sylvia agreed to elope with Valentine before any 42 Although this plan is the Friar's suggestion not Juliet's, the Friar and the Nurse have never previously encouraged the lovers to leave Verona. Marianne Novy regards Juliet's passivity in keeping the marriage a secret, pretending obedience to her parents and then agreeing to the Friar's mock death as her capitulation to a stereotyped femininity. This capitulation may be seen as the 'point analogous to Romeo's duel with Tybalt where
failure to transcend the gender polarization of their society makes disaster inevitable'. See Love's Argument:
Gender Relations in Shakespeare (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1984), 108.
43 Romeus' objection to the elopement is partly based on his fear of punishment and disgrace if they should be caught by Juliet's father. He also regards Juliet's disguise plot as degrading. He promises that he will return to take her away by force if necessary, 'Not in mans weede disguisd, or as one scarcely knowne,/ But as my wife and onely feere, in garment of thyne owne', Narrative and Dramatic Sources, vol 1, 1681-2.
44 Julia's speech at 2.7.9-13 describing her journeying to Proteus as a pilgrimage anticipates Romeo and Juliet in a number of ways. The protagonists' first sonnet involves the identification of Romeo as a pilgrim. In the Orchard scene Romeo refers to 'Love's wings' that enabled him to fly over the orchard walls whilst Juliet refers to Romeo's 'dear perfection' in her opening soliloquy.
sentence of banishment had been passed. Like the union of Romeus and Juliet in Brooke, and of Romeo and Juliet in Shakespeare, this was to be effected by Valentine climbing a rope ladder to Sylvia's window (2.4.179-80). When the plan is revealed and the lover banished.
Sylvia determines to follow him into exile herself. She tells Sir Eglamour that her flight to Mantua is to escape 'a most unholy match' (4.3.30) in an echo of Juliet's desperation to avoid the bigamous marriage to Paris. Mantua is also Romeo's place of exile.
This theme of possibilities enjoyed by Valentine but denied to Romeo is repeated in the exiles' adaptation to life outside the city. Valentine has foreseen annihilation in his loss of Sylvia: 'She is my essence, and I leave to be/ If I be not by her fair influence/ Fostered, illumined, cherished, kept alive' (3.1.182-4). Yet Valentine does not suffer the imagined dissolution of self in this unnamed and liminal forest.45 The outlaws he encounters not only remind him of his former life (one of them has been exiled for trying to abduct an heiress) but
they recognise these qualities in Valentine:
Valentine's worth in this alternative society ironically depends on the same qualities that found him a position in the Emperor's court. The First Outlaw, perhaps one of the gentlemen 45 The exact situation of the forest is never clarified. Valentine says that he has arrived there on his way from Milan to Verona (4.1.17-20). Sylvia and later the Duke locate him at Mantua (4.3.23. 5.2.45) but since the Second Outlaw declares that he was banished from Mantua the forest cannot be situated there (4.1.48-9). It is perhaps on the outskirts of Mantua somewhere between the two places Valentine has named.
amongst them, implies that exile cannot deprive Valentine of the beauty, courtesy and education he possesses. These are more essential to him than a name. Furthermore, the Second Outlaw appreciates Valentine for the very fact that society has rejected him.
Valentine's exile is transformed by the conventions of pastoral wherein a sojourn in the forest becomes a time of regeneration. He laments Sylvia's loss but also embraces the opportunity
Moreover, his command of the outlaws ensures that they are all reintegrated back into Verona. The spirit of regeneration apparently restores even the outlaw who bragged of murder (4.1.48-9). 46 In contrast. Romeo's exile is a progress towards death. Separated from Verona and Juliet, he exists in a state of limbo. His exile in Mantua is barely described and when characters do remember him it is in the context of his death. Lady Capulet suggests to Juliet that they might poison Romeo through an agent in Mantua (3.5.87-92). The Nurse argues that Juliet should take Paris as a second husband: 'Your first is dead, or 'twere as good he were' (224). The only detail we have about Romeo's existence in Mantua is that he noticed an apothecary's shop where one might buy poison. It is not surprising to learn that, before the news of Juliet's demise, he has been dreaming of death (5.1.6-9).
46 Leah Scrasg also makes this point in Shakespeare's Mouldy Tales: Recurrent Plot Motifs in Shakespearian Drama (London and New York: Longman, 1992). 129.
Valentine has been able to translate the word 'banished' into a term of value. Romeo and Juliet, however, declare from the first moment they hear it that that word will be their deaths.
It is 'death mistermed'. It remains to be asked to what extent Romeo and Juliet are linguistically responsible for their deaths. Have they in fact wrested 'banishment' from its 'true' meaning and written their own curse? In answering this question, it is important to recognise the dual nature of the word itself. Banishment is exile as long as the conditions are obeyed, namely that the accused is never found in those particular dominions again. If they are, then 'banishment' becomes 'death'. It incorporates both meanings. Moreover, the context in which banishment signifies death is one in which other 'harmless' terms are fatally empowered. It has been frequently observed that various Petrarchan conceits are 'unmetaphored' in this play. Where Romeo describes love as 'A choking gall and a preserving sweet' (1.1.191), he unconsciously predicts his own death by poison and also describes the liquor which preserves Juliet from Paris. When he features love as 'Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!' (178), he might similarly be anticipating Juliet's death-like trance. More obvious examples of this process would be the dramatic conflation of weddingbed and death-bed at the end of the play and Romeo's dying with a kiss. 47 The assumption that Petrarchism is somehow deadly forms the basis for Gayle Whittiers examination of the play wherein 'the inherited Petrarchan word becomes English flesh by 47 Rosalie Colie coined the term 'unmetaphoring' with regard to Romeo and Juliet, defining it as the 'trick of making a verbal convention part of the scene, the action, or the psychology of the play itself, Shakespeare's Living Art (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974), 145. Other critics who have considered the dramatic role of these conceits include Leonard Forster in The Icy Fire: Five Studies in European Petrarchism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), 51. and particularly Pasternak Slater. Petrarchanism Come True' from whose extensive examples those quoted above are taken.
declining from lyric freedom to tragic fact' (27).48 Whittier describes Romeo's relationship
with the 'difficult and dangerous Petrarchan word':
It is difficult in that, while all poetry, if not all language, balances the dream of transcending time and space over the referential facts of limitation, separation, and death ("... the poet, he nothing affirms and therefore never lieth..."), the Petrarchan word is especially non-referential, with its obvious hyperbole, celestial compliments, and paradox. It is dangerous in that, where the word is performative, Romeo lives out its terms in a referential way, ultimately converting himself from life to "story". When Romeo falls in love with a love already scripted as otherworldly and then seeks to dramatize that script, he falls into the living power of an inherited word, which, like fleshly inheritance, bestows both life and death.49 My main disagreement with this thesis is that the lyric transcendence Whittier imagines inhering in Petrarchism is not upheld by the play. The airy words of Petrarchism are frequently debased and rejected by the lovers themselves. As Jill Levenson has suggested, the terms of Petrarchism are habitual linguistic currency for a variety of Verona's citizens. Nor do I agree that Romeo seeks to reject the inherited word to become the author of himself.
Although he tries to exceed Petrarchan hyperbole Romeo never abandons his poetic forefather. He wants to uphold the conventions since it is through both civic and poetic tradition that Romeo recognises and substantiates love. It is through the commonplace of Verona that Romeo and Juliet recognise themselves.
48 The association of Petrarchism with death is partly an expression of the complex relationship between desire and death which informed much philosophical and literary writing in the Renaissance as throughout history, explored by Jonathan Dollimore's 'Desire is Death' in Subject and Object in Renaissance Culture ed. by Margreta de Grazia, Maureen Quilligan and Peter Stallybrass (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 369-86. Gayle Whittier employs Lacanian theory in 'The Sonnet's Body and the Body Sonnetized in Romeo and Julief. Sh. Q. 40 (1989), 27-41. See also Lloyd Davis, '"Death-marked Love'': Desire and Presence in Romeo and Juliet', Sh. S. 49 (1996), 57-67.
49 'The Sonnet's Body and the Body Sonnetized', 30.
Romeo and Juliet's inability to translate the term 'exile' into anything but 'death misternied' reflects a lack of imagination and of poetic conviction. The words of society are more powerful than their own. In the first parting scene between the lovers, Petrarchan poetry was rejected by Juliet as too commonplace and impermanent to describe their love. They eschewed the terms of public discourse for a private communion in the orchard, a dialogue which in Juliet's case aspires to silence. In the first balcony scene then Romeo and Juliet are in control of language. Juliet has the confidence to scorn at Petrarchan poetry and the airy words of the feud. In contrast, the parting that takes place after the consummation of the
marriage recognises the lovers' subjection to the popular word:
Whether Juliet calls the lark a nightingale or a toad, it will retain its original significance as a portent of day. The curse that 'banished' performs is this inability to translate the terms of 'reality' into a private discourse and thus a private world. They will only survive exile if they abandon the conventions of Verona for their own poetry, a poetry whose imaginativeness might rival Mercutio's creation of Queen Mab. However, it is this poetry that they cannot create. Puns, oxymora and Petrarchan conceits shape Romeo's language even in the tomb.
Moreover, once in exile, the possibility for the creation of a mutual space through poetry is lost, for exile plunges them both into a profound silence. They literally never speak to one another again after this parting at dawn. In the tomb Romeo gazes on Juliet's speechless body, willing it to reply. Though she does not, Romeo insists that they will finally find time
and space together. He swears he will never leave (Juliet or Verona):
Their search throughout the play has been to make a space for themselves in Verona where those selves were created and are still defined. Exile is a journey towards death rather than to a world elsewhere, either in geographical or cosmological terms. Romeo and Juliet are consistently sceptical about the prospect of heaven. The life in death both predict in their final puns is rather their permanent seclusion together in the tomb.
This secular ending is upheld by Verona's reaction to their deaths. In the scene wherein Juliet's mock death is lamented, the Friar tells the mourners that she has gone to heaven.
They have lost their part in her to God (4.4.94-101). At the end of the play however, when Juliet really is dead, there is no such loss. Rather, Romeo and Juliet are immortalised in Verona through the creation of two golden statues. Through Juliet's effigy Montague
Whilst the play seems to allow for scepticism as regards the reconciliation of Capulet and Montague, Romeo and Juliet are restored to their names. We have seen in the play how they depend on social and poetic convention for their identity. In their fathers' promises, they are enclosed, not only in gold, but within a verbal structure that is both civic and poetic. As long as Verona is known by this name and as long as its history books exist they will remain part of it. Verona is the god of Romeo and Juliet's idolatry and as such, it is apt that they should be preserved through the power of its name.
'STILL-BREEDING THOUGHTS': RICHARD II AND THE EXILE'S CREATIVE
In an essay entitled The Exile as Uncreator', David Williams describes how exile from the English medieval society was associated with loss of speech. A common analogy for society was dialogue, the word-exchange of men. The exile's exclusion from this communication indicated his anti-social nature. It symbolised his opposition to the linguistic creativity which bound society together and to the Creation itself, imagined as the union of separate elements. 1