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About the Author
Julia Reinhard Lupton is professor of English and comparative literature and associate dean for research in the School of Humanities at the University of California, Irvine. She is the author of Shakespeare Dwelling: Designs for the Theater of Life, Afterlives of the Saints: Hagiography, Typology, and Renaissance Literature and coauthor of After Oedipus: Shakespeare in Psychoanalysis.
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Reading Dramaturgy in Romeo and Juliet
In his comic exchange with the Capulet's illiterate serving man on the afternoon of the big party (1.2), Romeo caps his reading of the guest list with an evaluation and a query:
Romeo: A fair assembly. Whither should they come?
Romeo: Whither to supper?
Serving-Man: To our house.
Romeo: Whose house?
Serving-Man: My master's.
Romeo: Indeed, I should have asked thee that before.
Serving-Man: Now I'll tell you without asking. My master is the great rich Capulet, and if you be not of the house of Montagues, I pray come and crush a cup of wine. Rest you merry. (1.2.74–84)
The serving man's information-poor responses continue to draw laughs in the theater as Romeo drags out the key coordinates of the invitation from the ready but not able clown. In a rehearsal at my campus, the director and his cast discussed what to do with "Up." For a modern audience, the serving man might be referring to a part of the city, as in uptown, or the movement through it, as in the "jauncing up and down" on Juliet's errands that the Nurse complains of in act 2 (2.4.51); a time of day in the routines of eating (the "up" in "supper"); the "upper" class that he serves; the comic, upward movement of the play's first half; or features of the theater's architecture, such as the galleries where higher-paying patrons would be seated, the balcony where Juliet will later appear to Romeo as the rising sun, or the ladder he will use to join her. The simple word "up," comic in both its semantic truncation and its buoyant arc, is one of many directional moments in Romeo and Juliet in which the play seems to surge and pop with its own burgeoning intentionality. Mapping civic space onto social space and merging both with the physical architecture of the theater, the serving man's "Up" contributes to Romeo and Juliet's virtuoso conjuration of worlds.
In New Dramaturgy: International Perspectives, Katalin Trencsényi and Bernadette Cochrane define dramaturgy as "the totality of the performance-making process" and as "the inner flow of a dynamic system." In the same volume, Joseph Danan writes that "dramaturgy cannot be separated from playwriting or mise-en-scène, because it is the process which crosses between the one and the other, and connects them both" (6). Drawing on dramaturgy as "drama-ergon," "the work of the actions," director Eugenio Barba defines dramaturgy as "the way the actor's actions enter into work," a technical as well as a literary procedure "inherent in the weaving and growth of a performance and its different components." Dramaturgy, that is, treats the stage as a taskscape, a terrain of affordances that formats interaction. First coined by Tim Ingold as a phenomenological complement to James Gibson's ecological work on affordances, the taskscape speaks to what design theorists call an "architecture of flows," which approaches the built environment as an event rather than an object. For architect and urbanist Keller Easterling, architecture "is not about the house but rather about housekeeping," beckoning us to reconsider spaces from a dramaturgical and dwelling perspective.
In this chapter I argue that Romeo and Juliet stages architecture in the dynamic mode of dramaturgy, using the scripts of hospitality and urban space. Hospitality plots the gestures of entry, exit, offering, and encounter in the theatrical taskscapes of drama and life; in Romeo and Juliet, hospitality furnishes the drama with narratives of hosting and its risks, naturalizing classical myths into routines of dwelling internal to the story. At the same time, hospitality orchestrates the local affordances of objects (platters, torches, fabrics, floors, balconies, rope ladders) that help erect and maintain the environments of entertainment. Romeo and Juliet ensconces human life in an active environment built from the mixed media of torches and traffic, crowbars and dovecotes, household service and party planning. Because my focus remains phenomenological and literary-critical rather than theater-historical, I am interested in the role that poetic imagery plays in cuing action and inspiring future scenographic invention, as well as in dramatic poetry's life beyond performance, in readerly modes of engagement with dramaturgic possibilities that belong to no single stage. Such readings take place on imaginative planes that might infuse or inspire a particular production, but also bear their own literary power. These imaginative resonances might thematize the conditions of performance, but they are not bound by them. My aim is to remain true to the range of experimental clearings, both theatrical and poetic, managed by Shakespeare's lyric tragedy. Romeo and Juliet, with its absorption of neighboring entertainment forms into the language-rich and book-conscious medium of Elizabethan drama, is continually integrating poetic and performative concerns in a manner that has proved endlessly productive for both scenography and literary criticism.
Reading dramaturgy in Romeo and Juliet, then, encompasses a range of entries into the play, from concrete moments of staging and their immediate thematization in the text to the more diffuse scenographic and spatial sensibilities manifested by Romeo, Juliet, Capulet, and the Nurse as they move through their affordance-laden world. The first three sections address the dramaturgical dimensions of Romeo and Juliet's taskscapes, as defined by the scripts of child-rearing and domestic service, hospitality and entertainment, and urbanism and transport. In "Traffic Patterns," I look to the play for a phenomenology of transit in and between urban and domestic space. In "Consorting," I address the two lovers, but also Capulet, as scenographers avant la lettre who adjust the atmospheres of their worlds using the affordances of poetic language as well as available appliances. In "Dovehouse with Earthquake," I read the Nurse's memory of Juliet's weaning for forms of proximity and distance that organize both the scene recollected in the speech and its incorporation into the present action. The final two sections consider the taskscapes of dancing and housebreaking. In "Torchbearer" I argue that Romeo's decision not to dance mixes a festive urban choreography with lyric emblematics in order to design a space for close encounter with Juliet. Finally, in "Crowbar and Lantern," I evaluate the tonal consequences of Romeo's tools for opening the Capulet monument. A recurrent theme throughout these pages is the resources of light for poetic and theatrical expression; although modern lighting design lies centuries away from Shakespeare's original play text, Romeo and Juliet is a drama peculiarly alert to the emotional and spatial qualities of light and to the appliances available to dampen, amplify, and shape luminescent effects in early modern techniques of dwelling, from torches, candles, and lanterns to sparkling jewels and matte and shiny fabrics. Attention to affordances shapes these readings of dramaturgy, whether carried by tools, architectural features, and social arrangements, or communicated by poetic images that cue future scenographic invention in technical regimes to come.
Romeo and Juliet famously launches its dramatic action and theatrical delivery under the sign of traffic. The story of the star-crossed lovers, the Chorus tells us,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage; The which if you with patient ears attend, What here shall miss, our toil will strive to mend. (Prologue, 12–14)
A loan word from the French traffique and the Italian traffic, "traffic" suggests the coming and going of labor, business, trade, and transport in a cosmopolitan urban space. Encompassing not only the actions that transpire on stage but also the transactions between actors and audience, the final couplet spells out the responsibilities of both parties within the specialized architectural environment of the theater. The players are "toiling," engaged in a form of labor that involves the moving of furniture and the scaling of facades as well as the giving of speeches, and their labor is fraught with the risk that the performance will "miss" its mark. Such miscarriages can be mitigated by the audience's efforts to "attend," a word that implies an embodied and thoughtful listening that is also a kind of service, a sympathetic and solicitous looking after rather than a passive looking at the fiction unfolding before them. "Mend" rhymes with "attend," enlisting the efforts of both audience and actors in maintaining the "here" of the theater. "Here" may also refer to the book of Romeo and Juliet carried on stage by the Chorus, who might have been played by the bookkeeper or book-holder, forerunner of the modern stage manager. If so, the reference simultaneously grants a certain presence to Shakespeare's text while also placing that text under the care of the theatrical house.
"Toiling," "mending," "attending," and "traffic" suggest the physical effort, emotional output, and attentive input that coproduce a theatrical experience, what theorists of work call "affective" or "emotional labor." Affective labor is associated with service jobs that have no physical product and that engage the caring attention as well as the bodily expenditure of the worker; in the contemporary experience economy, affective labor ranges from the unwaged work of mothers to the highly paid performances of the celebrity chef. Affective labor characterized the artisanal and domestic arts of early modernity and, after losing prestige in the industrial period, has returned as a major component of communicative capitalism. In The Human Condition, Arendt anticipates later discussions of affective labor when she draws comparisons between menial labor, including the skilled activities of cooking and housecleaning, and intellectual pursuits such as philosophy, medicine, music, and theater. In Italian analyses of post-Fordism, this affinity comes to the fore as the key feature of the new service and experience economy: in the words of Paolo Virno, "The affinity between the piano player and the waiter that Marx glimpsed finds an unexpected confirmation in which all wage labor has something of the 'performing artist' about it." For Arendt and Virno alike, the efforts of both the laundress and the lutist disappear in the process of their performance, manifesting the affinity between the creaturely metabolisms of labor and the speech-based quality of action.
In the unfolding of affective labor from Aristotle and Smith through Arendt, Virno, and Hardt, theater is that form of art that develops performative affect as its primary medium and subject matter, while also drawing on domestic and manual forms of labor for its stage management, understood not only as the technical supervision of theatrical production, but as the deeper protocols that link the physical resources of the stage to the traffic of actors across it. Romeo and Juliet, with its many servants as well as its Nurse and Friar, seems keenly attuned to the role of emotional self-performance in both the routines of Renaissance dwelling and in theater's mixed status as action, work, and labor. Hospitality is a form of housekeeping and social work that enlists affective labor from all parties, ranging from the lord, lady, and young mistress of the house to their busy servants and their array of guests. Romeo and Juliet dramatizes the planning, effort, and social niceties that make such meetings possible, including inviting guests; clearing tables and moving furniture; adjusting light, heat, and sound; welcoming late arrivals; and saying good night. In Romeo and Juliet, hospitality's traffic ensconces the household within neighborhood, community, and cosmos.
The "traffic" announced in the prologue flows immediately into the first city scene, act 1, scene 1. Gregory and Samson, young serving men of the Capulet household, enter the stage looking for trouble:
Samson: Gregory, on my word we'll not carry coals.
Gregory: No, for then we should be colliers. (1.1.1–2)
No coals, of course, are actually being carried; the phrase refers to enduring insults. Yet labor rumbles in the background: colliers made charcoal out of wood, usually near the forests where the wood was hewn, and then hauled it into the city. The coal industry was a forest-city hybrid, as we know from Henslowe's diaries, which records the details not only of his theater business but also of his mining and coal operations. Not to carry coals, then, is to belong more forcefully to the urban scene and its precious liveries of distinction. And to enter engaged in rapid wordplay that soon dissolves into the city ballet of the street fight is to link household service to the office of the zani, recently excavated from early modern commedia for postFordist analysis by Sianne Ngai. The zani, she writes, following Robert Henke, is "a temporary and itinerant worker in a household," like "the performers in the troupes who played him." Samson and Gregory appear to enjoy a more permanent relationship to the house of Capulet, though the men playing them may have been hired on a temporary basis by Shakespeare's company. Samson and Gregory are zany in their office as servants and clowns who move between backstage and onstage labor in the houses they energetically serve. Contemporary zaniness, Ngai writes, concerns "performance, affective labor, and the post-Fordist workplace"; Renaissance zaniness, such as that on view in Shakespeare's Verona, concerns the traffic of affective labor in the pre-Fordist workplaces of early modernity.
As zanies, laborers existing on the margins of the Capulet household, Samson and Gregory display a keen awareness of the urban topography of Verona as a space that affords particular kinds of appearance, encounter, and activity. Samson goes on to brag that he will "push Montague's men from the wall, and thrust his maids to the wall" (1.1.15–17). The wall defining the edge of the city street becomes the support against which young men perform their masculinity. Unlike the boundary fortifications evoked by Romeo later in the play ("there is no world without Verona walls" [3.3.17]), the men's wall work conjures a cityscape of narrow alleys that encourage clandestine encounters and force indecorous crowding, backstage spaces that open onto a public square or suburban field that encourages roughhousing as well as commerce, festivity, and public judgment. The city's layout affords a range of behaviors that instantiate social and sexual tensions and hierarchies. The likely use of all three stage doors during the scene (the Capulets entering from one door and the Montagues from another, with the roused Prince and his entourage arriving through the august middle door) activates these spaces of contest and exchange, immediately rendering them as environments for action. Naomi Conn Liebler argues that Romeo and Juliet, unlike The Merchant of Venice or Julius Caesar, fails to generate "a legible map of an orderly city." Yet we know where we are, not in a postcard way, but in a dramatic way: we are in a scene of action, swiftly brought into play by the rivalries of caste and class in a modestly modernizing urban economy, sparrings fanned by the openings and closings of city space.
Traffic of a more domestic and explicitly hospitable kind occurs in the brief exchange among household servants at the threshold between the young men's street scene and the beginning of the Capulet party. Romeo's gang and Capulet's serving men momentarily share the stage:
They march about the stage, and Serving-men come forth with napkins.
[Chief] Serving-Man: Where's Potpan, that he helps not to take away? He shift a trencher, he scrape a trencher?
First Serving-Man: When good manners shall lie all in one or two men's hands, and they unwashed too, 'tis a foul thing.
[Chief] Serving-Man: Away with the joint-stools, remove the court-cupboard, look to the plate. Good thou, save me a piece of marchpane, and as thou loves me, let the porter let in Susan Grindstone and Nell, Anthony and Potpan.
Second Serving-Man: Ay boy, ready.
[Chief] Serving-Man: You are looked for and called for, asked for and sought for, in the great chamber.
Third Serving-Man: We cannot be here and there too. Cheerly boys, be brisk a while, and the longer liver take all. (1.4.113–28)
These lines rezone the stage from the streets of Verona to the interior of the Capulet house as the serving men prepare for the party. The servants, who are also stagehands, are engaged in the act of making room: clearing the domestic space of the Capulet house for dancing, while redistricting the space of the stage from city street to domestic interior. Hospitality provides the social script for these acts of making room: diegetically, the serving men are arranging for the party in which the visored Romeo will first encounter the feted Juliet, domestic preparations that momentarily merge with theater-making as a process that involves the traffic of persons and things in an architecture of flows.
Excerpted from "Shakespeare Dwelling"
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Table of ContentsIntroduction: Entries into Dwelling1 Reading Dramaturgy in Romeo and Juliet 2 Macbeth against Dwelling 3 Grace and Place in Pericles 4 Nativity and Natality in Cymbeline 5 Room for Dessert in The Winter’s Tale
Epilogue: Fight Call Acknowledgments Bibliography Index