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July 18, 2010


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Thanks for that Peony!!
I will admit, I am not much of a scholar on Dante, patchwork at best. But your writing made me look at Romeo and Juliet in a new light.

Yes, they were at about that age - pure, innocent. 14ish and dying for love.
But OK then, if Romeo and Juliet is in a classical sense a tragedy, what was their tragic flaw - their love? Othello had jealousy, Macbeth had lust for power... all leading to their downfall.
Could Shakespeare be implying that such young, reckless love is a fatal flaw? Or was it their youth?

I don't think Shakespeare himself felt that way about love in general - judging from his sonnets:
Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end,
Each changing place with that which goes before
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith, being crowned,
Crooked eclipses 'gainst his glory fight

And Time that gave, doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth,
And delves the parallels in beauty's brow,
Feeds on the rarities of natures truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow;
And yet, to times, in hope, my verse shall stand,
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

He doesn't seem to be upset with love here - he seems willing to acknowledge our inevitable mortality and time's cruel effect on beauty, but not willing to relinquish love to the scythe. He wants it to be eternal through his pen.

Who knows, maybe his team of writers convinced him to go with the 'tragic love' take on it in R&J... (yep, I think he may have had a team of writers, just like Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart - the bards of our time). They knew what would sell, draw a crowd, get people talking (for nearly 500 years).

But if you don't accept the premise that their love was a flaw, you can not call it a tragedy. It's just a sad story.

So from a Dante perspective - Yes, I agree, I think they did 'choose' their love despite the obvious consequences of that love, and it was free will and the fact that their love was taboo that made the emotions they felt that much more intense. So yes, perhaps that was their sin and perhaps they got what they deserved.

Maybe my answer then is a Dante-esque comedy then rather than a classic Shakespearean tragedy.

No, wait though - there really was no chance of redemption for them - the only righteous path was to deny their love from the beginning and thereby avoid the hell of their final existence. But can we honestly expect that of 14ish year young people experiencing their first love?? Love was not the problem - their tender age was. Is that a sin? No....

So nooowwww, I'll say that youth was their tragic flaw - R&J is a classic tragedy.
They were just too young to know what to do and how to feel and how to manage the politics and history we all have to deal with as adults in love...


Long live love !!
(I wrote a book - sorry)

Gregg, I have had a smile on my face and this song playing in my head ever since I got your comment. Thank you! Have you see this movie ? I really wanted to see it when it came out but-- like with so much-- missed it. I am going to rent it when I get back to LA next month.

I am no expert on Dante nor Shakespeare....however, I asked an expert!! lol
And, just concerning Dante, he says,

"In Aristotle's Poetics, tragedy is linked to hamartia, often translated as "tragic flaw," but better translated as "guilt," or human fallibility. Hamartia is the word for "sin" in the Greek Bible. It was translated as peccatum in Latin."

And, I think that with the above in mind, human falliability in the face of fate/destiny/the gods is what is at issue.

In that way. I don't think, it is a tragedy because of any character flaw of the characters-- quite the opposite. The ancient Greeks believed (in Heidegerrean terms) that fate was one's character plus the world that one is thrown into... and what separates a tragedy from a comedy is perhaps only that things worked against them; that is, that the play ended in tears (a comedy of errors??)

But like with so many stories like this (I've been re-reading some of Osip Mandelstam's poetry this week), even though it ends in tears, still whenever we see the triumph of the human spirit over advertisty, we don't want to label it a tragedy, do we? Because no one would argue that the two lovers, in the end, were triumphant-- staying true to their feelings?

My friend recommended this book as well, but too expensive for now... 泣。

I really liked the sonnet too. 感謝。

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