(Podcast recorded and produced by Daniel J. Rowe, blog written and edited by Eric Jean)
Welcome back to the Bard Brawl and act II of Romeo and Juliet. I hope your Valentine’s Day story worked out a little better than theirs. Although, really, I guess they did have a pretty bangin’ first date.
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Like the first act, act II opens up with a Prologue. Don’t remember this prologue? That’s probably because no one stages it. And why would you? You just finished this blockbuster first act of death threats and teenage lovemaking and Shakespeare wants you to stop to listen to someone tell you about how they need to figure out a way to meet in secret.
Yeah, we figured that since their two families are at war, they might not be so keen to announce they started dating. Thankfully, Shakespeare seems to figure this out because that’s the last of the prologues for this play.
Mercutio and Benvolio spot Romeo sneaking out of Juliet’s house in scene 1 but they must not have realised who’s bedroom he’s sneaking off to because Mercutio tries to get his attention by invoking his ‘love,’ Rosaline. You’d almost get the impression this wasn’t the first time they spotted him sneaking into some girl’s bedroom in the middle of the night. Romeo clearly doesn’t want to be found out and they would much rather make fun of him behind his back so after doing that for a minute or two, they head home to bed.
So here’s the set-up for act II, scene 2, one of the most famous (and totally made up) love scenes in the world:
Having sneaked into the Capulet orchard by jumping the fence, Romeo makes his way to Juliet’s window, which is a little unsettling because he seems to know exactly where that is despite the fact that she lives in a huge estate. While he’s hiding in the bushes (trying to catch a glimpse of her undressing) Juliet walks out onto the balcony. Romeo goes on and on like he’s a hockey announcer providing some sort of play by play for some imagined audience.
Juliet, like Romeo, seems to have a habit of speaking her thoughts aloud which, in this case, happens to work in her favour because Romeo hears her and announces his presence. She’s a little creeped out that he’s here at first but after some blah blah back and forth they agree that the best course of action – and the thing they most want in the world – is to get married.
No problem. Romeo tells her to get in touch by 9am and he’ll have worked out a plan.
At the start of scene 3, Friar Laurence is quietly pruning his plants when Romeo barges in, out of breath and babbling on about how he’s in love and that he needs the Friar’s help. The friar’s a little surprised that Romeo so quickly forgot Rosaline, his one true love, and now wants to marry Juliet. He doesn’t seem to have much faith in Romeo’s constancy but he agrees to marry them only because he thinks that this might put an end to the Montague and Capulet feud.
Wait, what? Does he even realize what he’s saying? When has two people marrying ever made warring in-laws kiss and make up? Maybe it will work out this one and only time though.
Romeo’s friends Mercutio and Benvolio as hanging out in the street making fun of Romeo (again) and Tybalt when Romeo runs into them in scene 4. They mock him for ditching them last night and make a bunch of jokes involving penises such as: “then is my pump well flowered.” Juliet’s nurse arrives to meet with Romeo where they discuss the plan to sneak Juliet out of her house: she just needs to tell her folks that she’s stepping out for a quick confession at father Laurence’s. The Elizabethan equivalent of “I’m going to the library to study.” No mother or father would ever doubt that excuse. Brilliant!
Meanwhile, Juliet’s been waiting impatiently for her nurse (who is starting to come off as more of a pimp, really) to come back with news from Romeo. Back and forth between the two of them which seems designed to torture poor Juliet but eventually the nurse spills the beans: head to Friar Laurence’s place where he’ll marry you and you’ll finally get to have sex! And then you’ll get pregnant which is exactly what every 13-year-old wants, right?
In the final scene, Romeo is waiting for Juliet to show up. Friar Laurence tries to get him to chill out a bit, to slow this love train down a little, but when he sees Juliet, he seems ready to get on it himself. (He also wins the creepiest line of the play award for this gem: “Romeo shall thank thee, daughter, for us both.”)
Off they go to get married in secret, like two totally responsible adults who have carefully weighed the pros and cons of their decision and are in no way whatsoever rushing into the mistake of a lifetime.
Can we expect a honeymoon scene in act 3? I sure hope so!
And hey. Buy ‘Zounds! You’ll never regret or forget it.
Enjoy sonnet 43 by the legend, David Kandestin.
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