Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Rosaline, or, When I'm Right, I'm Right!


Perhaps one of the hallmarks of maturity is to realize that the person who is wrong needn't always be told he's wrong. Experience as a copy editor has made it a habit with me to insure correctness, but the other person in an unwritten discussion doesn't always have to know that he was wrong, wrong, dead wrong! 

Yesterday, shortly before my ballet class, a fellow student and I were discussing the ill-advised—at least I think so—New York City Ballet production of yet another Romeo and Juliet. To make matters worse, they insist on calling it Romeo+Juliet, perhaps to distinguish it from other (better) versions. Among other infelicities of the production, the hideous scenery displays a house that an astute New York Times critic likened to Fred Flintstone's cave. Anyway, the subject of Romeo's infatuation with the usually unseen Rosaline came up. My classmate, who claims to have a PhD in theater, mentioned that Romeo has been having sex with Rosaline, and that she appears onstage and has some lines. As a former English teacher, I did not recall either the appearance of Rosaline or any lines attributed to her. I checked my copy of the play when I got home, and saw that I was right. A little googling also revealed that the only dramatic version in which she makes a physical appearance is the Zeffirelli film, although some directors of the staged play or the ballet may put her in as an aloof walk-on or walk-by.

Romeo specifically comments that the unseen Rosaline is guarding her chastity as if she were a disciple of the goddess Diana.  At most, he has been stalking her. And, as we all know, he immediately forgets about her when he catches sight of you-know-who at the Capulets' ball, which he, masked, has crashed. I was reverting to type, ready to correct my classmate today, but he didn't show up, and I thought better of it anyway. He seemed so positive that he was right. Better to leave him with his illusions and not make yet another enemy.

Rosaline is mentioned by name as "fair niece Rosaline" in the invitation to the Capulet ball (I, ii, 81) and shortly thereafter by Benvolio, who, urging Romeo to go to the ball, states: "At this same ancient feast of Capulet's / Sups the fair Rosaline whom thou so lovest, /
With all the admired beauties of Verona. / Go thither and with unattainted eye / Compare her face with some that I shall show / And I will make thee think thy swan a crow." (I, ii, 86-92) She is mentioned in the Act II scene with Friar Laurence. When the Friar questions Romeo about her, he says, "I have forgot that name and that name's woe." At the beginning of Scene iv of Act II, Mercutio, not knowing of Romeo's change of affections, refers to: "...that same pale, hard-hearted wench, that Rosaline, / Torments him so that he will sure run mad." And that's the last we hear of this lady.

There, I got it off my chest without humiliating anyone. Doubt that Mr. Wrong (or anyone else) will even read this, or even care. Trivia is my middle name.   

1 comment:

lio said...

Dear Perlman,
My name is Javier Perez and I live in Barcelona, Spain.
For some years I am writing a biography of Joe Pilates. I read an article you wrote about La Meri (very interesting)where you talk about Joe Pilates.
I am writing this e-mail to ask you, please,if you can help me about your experiences with Joe Pilates, how were his classes at the Jacob Pillow Festival, anything about him
I hope I do not bother you with my e-mail.
I thank you in advance. Mi personal e-mail address is espejavilio@yahoo.es
Yours,
Javier Perez