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Circumstantial Shakespeare$
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Lorna Hutson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199657100

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199657100.001.0001

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‘Quando?’ (When?) in Romeo and Juliet

‘Quando?’ (When?) in Romeo and Juliet

(p.36) 1.Quando?’ (When?) in Romeo and Juliet
Circumstantial Shakespeare

Lorna Hutson

Oxford University Press

This chapter shows how belief in the autonomy and depth (or plenitude) of Shakespearean character has been inseparable from an assumption that Shakespeare’s plots are relatively informal, merely following the order of events as given in his source texts. The chapter shows how this belief has lasted from the eighteenth century (Samuel Johnson, Charlotte Lennox) to the present. It has survived the ‘unediting’ deconstruction of ‘Authentic Shakespeare’. The chapter analyses the plot of Romeo and Juliet, showing that Shakespeare does not merely follow his sources (Boaistuau and Arthur Brooke) but rather identifies a key circumstantial topic of argument—the question of Time, of whether the time is ripe for Juliet’s marriage—and goes on to build dialogue, scenes, and action around this question. A circumstantial question thus implies an offstage world and helps create our sense of Juliet’s ‘unconscious’ and of adolescent ‘sexuality’.

Keywords:   Romeo and Juliet, Samuel Johnson, Charlotte Lennox, unediting, character, plot, Boaistuau, Arthur Brooke

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