Thursday, May 21, 2009

It Is The East, And …. That Capulet Chick … Is The Sun

Here’s a fun question that just popped up on the Twitter radar:

When does Romeo actually learn Juliet’s name?

From what I can see there’s no explicit moment at the party, just an exchange with the Nurse:


Marry, bachelor,
Her mother is the lady of the house,
And a good lady, and a wise and virtuous
I nursed her daughter, that you talk'd withal;
I tell you, he that can lay hold of her
Shall have the chinks.

Is she a Capulet?
O dear account! my life is my foe's debt.

There’s an argument to be made that Capulet can’t have that many daughters, and so it wouldn’t be hard for Romeo to realize who they were talking about.  But it’s not like he says, “Oh, *that’s* Juliet?” He still calls her “a Capulet” as if she was a third cousin twice removed, and not the sole daughter of the head of Capulet house.

There’s plenty of logical places where he could have learned it that Shakespeare just didn’t write down (overheard at the party, Benvolio told him, etc…)  I also can’t find anyplace where Romeo was on stage and anybody called Juliet by name so he would have overheard it. 

I just like noting stuff like this when it comes up.  Best I can tell, Romeo just starts calling her Juliet during the balcony scene, and I’ve got no idea when he figured out her name.


ren girl said...

Juliet is Capulet's ONLY daughter-- Capulet has a line that says "the earth has swallowed all my hopes but she," meaning that every other child he has is dead. Romeo would absolutely know her name, even if he had never seen her before. I think he calls her "a Capulet" as in a realization that she belongs to that family, not as a generalized pronoun because he doesn't know her first name--it's a "oh, crap, she's one of them?" then if she's one of them & the daughter of the lady of the house, the only girl she can be is Juliet.

Willshill said...

There's no reason at this point for Romeo to have to know that it's by name a 'Juliet' he's been 'a courtin'. In their brief encounter, neither of their names are spoken. The Nurse calls her "Madam"; Romeo has earlier asked a servant: What Lady is that which doth enrich the hand of yonder Knight?--the servant doesn't know. The Nurse doesn't tell him. Juliet does ask the Nurse to find out Romeo's name. (after all, she's got that famous line later, see?)

There's really no logical place for him to find it out--they dash from the party--he's hiding from Mercutio and Benvolio outside her window... next thing you know...Juliet is the Sun.
As is Shakespeare's wont, he leaves a loose end that isn't noticeable at all in the playing. The important focus is on their surnames and he gets away with it.
I guess he figured...Hey...what's in a name?

ren girl said...

My point is that Romeo would know who Juliet WAS, even if he had never met her. It's not at all a plot hole. The very first scene establishes the fact that everyone in Verona knows WHO everyone else is--this is a city divided into halves, so you have to know who is your friend and who is your enemy, by name or by sight or by both.
In that case, Romeo--the heir to the main Montague family--has to know the name of the heir to the Capulet family, their only daughter.
It's just that he's never literally seen her before, so he knows her by name but not by sight. He sees this pretty girl, falls for her, & then is told that she's the daughter of the lady of the house--which means she's that girl he knows of called Juliet.

Same thing for Juliet to Romeo, although she gets told his name--but she has to know who he is, even if she's never seen him. The end of the ball scene is when they connect the names they know with the faces they just met.

Duane said...

I don't think it's a plot hole, Ren. Just one of those interesting things that fall in the "never noticed that" bucket. You as the audience are left to fill in those bits. Perhaps it was logical 400 years ago that Romeo could know exactly that there *was* a Juliet, and yet sit there and talk with her and never know who she was. But to modern audiences that's a bit confusing -- if he knew of her then surely he's seen her picture, right?

Willshill said...

"Loose end"; it's much different than a "plot hole". Since he does in fact call her by name without having been told it, all the rest is left for conjecture and footnotes, not in the play, and apparently of no real concern to Shakespeare.
Close readings always bring out things unnoticed in the playing. The party, for instance, lasts all of about 15 minutes, and all of the guests rush out en masse, as though someone shouted "the Plague!", with Capulet
not even having had time to break out the banquet--some party-- Do we care? Shakespeare didn't. He was confident in his ability to write circles around any discrepancies. Similarly, we don't need, while involved in the play, an explanation of why everyone's first and last names seem to be mentioned precisely and with intent--everyone's BUT Juliet's. But now that Duane's brought it up...
That doesn't mean that critical explanations or rationalizations are invalid, but it doesn't mean they're Shakespeare's thoughts or intentions, or that it couldn't be something as simple as oversight, or that the conclusions we may come to are necessarily self-evident circumstantially within the textual makeup of the play simply because they make the most sense to us. In short, he could have simply slipped up--as he does many times-OR maybe not. I'm not claiming to know for certain--but given what's on the page, I don't think anyone can claim an alternate certainty either. But it is an interesting question--I don't think I've heard it asked before. We just assume--like maybe Will did.

catkins said...

This is much too important to be a slip up. I think it is dramatically right that the first time we know that Romeo knows Juliet's name is when we hear it from his own lips. He is not told, "Her name is Juliet." We do not hear him muse over her name, as he did over Rosaline's. His first mention of her name is spoken in the third line of Act 2, Scene 2, at the beginning of a monologue in the poetry of true love.

Willshill said...

Possibly; but--first, as played originally, there was no Act 2 scene 2 to have to set up dramatically or textually. Mercutio goes on for half a stave with his ribaldry, finally convinced by Benvolio to give up the chase. They're followed out by Romeo's sotto voce rejoinder: "He jests at scars that never felt a wound, /But soft..." It's a continuous, unrelenting flow of action and dialogue into his seeing her. He fairly stumbles into realizing she's there.(She says as much to him). I cut out the scene division when I directed it specifically because it causes a serious halt in the headlong flow--they're careening towards each other not even knowing they're on a collision course; drawn like moths to a flame no matter what else happens to be going on around them.
Juliet has the much more famous line (s) that speak (s) his name, yet she asked to know it and does know his name--and we know she knows it. Hypothetically--and logically then-- If it were all that important and connected thematically for S. he might have saved the need to exchange dramatics for continuity for she who repeats a name over and over again. It's the first time we've heard her speak his name as well.
I think your wonderful and perceptive poetic/thematic analysis could most likely be after the fact Carl. And if not, it certainly would have been enough reason for S. to make the statement that strongly, sans "realistic/chronological logic". But it still doesn't explain how we are to explain that he just "knows" her first name--textually that is.
...Not that we'd even ask the question dramatically. Heck, I conflated Q2 & F1 into a performance script that played fine, and the question never occurred to me. Oversight?--it's simply taken for granted, I think, and there's a possible end to a need for ferreting out the "mechanics" of it; there's never been any need to do so. And maybe it was that simple an "oversight" for S; maybe he took Romeo's knowledge for granted, as do we; maybe it's only OUR afterthoughts that now need a comfy place in Shakespeare's head.
But with all of the naming her and him and he and she and who's who? going on, you'd think... ... well at least I do NOW. See what you started Duane! :)

kj said...

At Capulet parties, everyone always wore name tags.