Thursday, October 17, 2013

We'll Always Have Paris, Or Will We?

On Twitter we're discussing an apparent trend toward cutting out the Romeo/Paris confrontation at Juliet's tomb.

@WhitneyJE got us started earlier today, and it's been going from there:

What do you think?  Check out the link to see the whole conversation as of this posting.  Is it just an easy place to cut an unnecessary scene?  Does it break the momentum of Romeo getting to Juliet?  Do we not care enough about Paris at that point?

While I agree that the audience doesn't have much opportunity to feel for Paris one way or the other, I don't think that makes him a bad guy who needs to die. He's an innocent in this. From his point of view, he's doing everything right. His betrothed died, he's gone to the tomb, he thinks Romeo is going to do something bad, he tries to do the right thing and pays for it.  Is it necessary?  Maybe not.  But it's still a good scene.

I think it adds to Romeo's character, though.  Just like we have to stop and consider that Hamlet sent Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (again, two relative innocents) to their death, Romeo plows right through this guy who gets in his way.  It's not as if Romeo has time to say, "Aha, Paris! You're the one who caused this whole problem, and I shall take my revenge!"  I'm pretty sure that Romeo doesn't even recognize him until after he's dead.  This is one of the reasons I like this scene in the Luhrman version of the movie, because DiCaprio's "Tempt not a desperate man!" scream really does make me feel like he's a guy that knows exactly what he's doing, he just isn't going to let anything stop him.

What do you think?  I won't ask "Keep it or cut it" because who voluntarily cuts Shakespeare?  Instead I'll ask, "When you go to a production and discover that it's been cut, how upset are you?"


JM said...

It's not as if Romeo has time to say, "Aha, Paris! You're the one who caused this whole problem, and I shall take my revenge!"

--Nor would he. Paris is the "passionate" one in this exchange. Paris calls him haughty, vile Montague, condemned villain, and says" Obey and go with me for thou must die."
Romeo has only kind words for Paris and BEGS him not to tempt him: "Good gentle youth, tempt not a desperate man...I beseech thee put not another sin upon my head...By heaven, I love thee better than myself...Live and hereafter say a madman's mercy bade thee run away."
Paris then proceeds to call him a felon and says he will apprehend him. Paris would have killed him on the spot and crowed moralistically about it had it worked out differently. Later Romeo shows the body of Paris the greatest respect.

Because DiCaprio & Co. chose to give him an actor's selfish moment of displaying " great passion" (especially since it's in the absolute dead wrong place) must we now think it's "so" and have to consider it?
Ye gods! we will ever be done with over-complicating editorializing?

Now, to respond to the question minus 1/2 the complication (Rosenc. & Guild. will have to wait for later):
No, it shouldn't be cut. It's not there for nothing. It's integral to the spirit of the play and enhances the level of Tragedy.
And if the audience doesn't "feel" for Paris, or have any feeling at all one way or another, the fault lies in the actor and/or director. He has plenty of time to establish a character. If he doesn't he shouldn't be on the stage taking up valuable space.

amybillingham said...

so, based on the twitter conversation, i appear to be in the minority here. i can't say i care that much about Paris at this point in the story. i don't know that i actually prefer to see this cut, but i can understand why some directors make that decision.

i'm going to a performance of Romeo & Juliet in a few weeks at the Folger here in DC, so i'll report back on how they handle it!

i like what JM has pointed out; that Romeo doesn't exactly want to kill Paris. it reminds me of how he tries to make peace with Tybalt before he ultimately kills him. another example of how everyone around Romeo (society/family/etc) keeps pushing him to violence.

Giulia said...

Well, first of all I do understand why directors would cut this scene. I mean, we here care about every detail and so should everyone but, let's face it, it's not. Many people watch Shakespeare, either a movie or in the theatre because they feel like it, when they feel like it. And as a director, who needs to please the whole audience, it seems like an easy choice.

Anyway, about the scene itself, I really like the "tempt not a desperate man..." line and it gives a huge sense of how Romeo was feeling towards everything. As if any little happening could push him over the edge.
But I don't care much about Paris and I think he's not really necessary in the play by that moment. But I agree that his innocent, caught by accident in the turmoil of the families.

JM said...

"And as a director, who needs to please the whole audience, it seems like an easy choice. "

--I'm a director. How would I be 'pleasing the audience' by cutting Paris out? I can't imagine...
I've directed it, assistant directed it, served as dramaturge, edited it for production, played two roles in it, and taught a master class in production for it. Never has it occurred to anyone in any of those cases, for many directorial/production value reasons, to cut Paris' confrontation with Romeo.

The figure of Paris has not only impacted the entire play and its outcome, but helped in revealing personality in Juliet and Romeo as well.
If time constraints are a concern, there are plenty of other places an adept director can cut and paste, even within the context of speeches and scenes and keep the continuity of the scene going. But *that* takes some work. Out of scheduling necessity for the venue I've edited a production down to *2 hours* and didn't have to cut out the scene between Paris and Romeo.

IMO, wholesale cutting of an important, representative, revealing, and character-illuminating scene of someone who has figured greatly, is tantamount to laziness in the name of expedience. No matter how many lines a character may have, or how "popular"--or not-- they might be, he/she is there for many other reasons in the mind of the Playwright. Funny, how he is so often so easily forgotten.
In the case of Shakespeare, he's not just telling a story to amuse us, he's revealing human persona through setting a scene in which the truth about that persona plays out in front of us. He's also painting a picture for us, in this case, a graveyard, a scared little boy, Paris'page, TOP OF THE SCENE/set the scene, PARIS!
People don't understand or appreciate the yeoman actor's job in this day of cookie cutter film stars.
Anyway, one more sword fight, no matter how brief it need be, to wake the audience from their possible slumber from preceding scenes--there's a lotta lotta talking yet to come, folks--. Curious, or maybe not to some, that Romeo is finally compelled by Paris to say "Have at thee BOY!!" Paris' dying wish is to be buried next to Juliet; Romeo says "okay"! Ahh, the echoes of symbolism...and they are many.
Cut out too many of his symbolic pictures to "cut to the chase" (in this case the tragic romance between R&J, which we *already know* about them--ho hum it can easily become)...lobotomize Shakespeare--along with his modern day audience.