Romeo and Juliet - Literary Genres: The Sonnet and the Sonneteer

Romeo and Juliet:
Sonneteers by any other name…
What is a “sonneteer”?
A sonnet writer
A melancholic lover
A hopeless romantic
A narcissist
A copy-cat
A performer
What’s a sonnet writer?
An actual historical figure who writes
 … not the same as the persona cultivated
within those sonnets.
 So,
sonnet writer:sonneteer::Sidney:Astrophil
The Diffusive Sonneteer
The sonnet (sequence) is a diffusive
The sonneteer is a diffusive figure!
– Prefatory material
– Prose Fiction
– Drama
The “Sonnet Virus”
The Sonneteer Performed
“I am melancholy myself, divers times, sir,
and then do I no more but take pen and
paper, presently, and overflow you half a
score, or a dozen of sonnets at a sitting.”
-Matthew, in Ben Jonson’s
Every Man in His Humor
The Sonneteer Performed
“You, Master Amoretto, that art the chief carpenter
of sonnets, a privileged vicar for the lawless
marriage of ink and paper, you that are good for
nothing but to commend in a set speech, to colour
the quantity of your mistress stool, and swear it is
most sweet civet [perfume].”
-Ingenioso in a
Cambridge University Play,
Return from Parnassus II (c. 1601)
Romeo’s Performance
Now is he for the numbers that Petrarch flowed in:
Laura to his lady was but a kitchen-wench; marry,
she had a better love to be-rhyme her… (2.4.3840)
Who is “his lady”?
Mercutio thinks it’s Rosaline:
I conjure thee by Rosaline's bright eyes,
By her high forehead and her scarlet lip,
By her fine foot, straight leg and quivering thigh
And the demesnes that there adjacent lie. (2.1.17-20)
Recall Romeo’s poetic performance in the first Act
over Rosaline (“O brawling love!”)
Poetic pose = an imitative act
Mediated Desire
Romeo’s Mediated Desire
How does mediated desire turn
to tragedy?
In other words, what’s the relationship
between sonnets and Romeo and
Where do they appear?
Are Sonnets a foil to or function
of Verona’s Violence?
Sonnets as guiding form: Chorus
Sonnets as spontaneous expression:
R&J’s meeting
Petrarchan language as spontaneous
expression: balcony scene
Petrarch as mediator
Petrarchan nature of the
balcony scene
Romeo asks her “What shall I swear by?” and
Juliet responds, “swear by thy gracious self /
Which is the god of my idolatry” (2.2.113-114).
She changes her mind:
Well, do not swear. Although I joy in thee,
I have no joy of this contract tonight,
It is too rash, too unadvis'd, too sudden.
But eventually succombs to sonneteering tropes
Violence of the Petrarchan
Romeo: Alack, there lies more peril in thine eye /
Than twenty of their swords!
Juliet: O, for a falc’ner’s voice, / To lure this
tassel-gentle [male falcon] back again! (2.2.158159)
Romeo: I would I were thy bird!
Juliet: Sweet, so would I, / Yet I should kill thee
with much cherishing. (2.2.181-183)
Violence of Mediated Desire
Externally vs. Internally Mediated
We shall speak of external mediation when the
distance is sufficient to eliminate any contact
between the two spheres of possibilities of which
the mediator and the subject occupy the respective
centers. We shall speak of internal mediation when
this same distance is sufficiently reduced to allow
these two spheres to penetrate each other more or
less profoundly.
– Girard, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, 9.
Externally Mediated Desire
Internally Mediated Desire
But where is the internal
mediation in Romeo and Juliet?
Paris… questionable rivalry
Verona… overwhelmed with rivalry
… and with sonnets.
Verona is such a world of sonnets that
external mediation becomes internal
mediation (the spheres penetrate).
Romeo and Juliet’s Desire
Sonnet Conversation
If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.
Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.
Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.
Scattered Rhymes…
Romeo: …
Thus from my lips, by thine, my sin is purg’d.
Juliet: Then have my lips the sin that they have took.
Romeo: Sin from my lips? O trespass sweetly urg’d!
Give me my sin again.
You kiss by th’ book.
…Scattered Flowers…
Sweet flower, with flowers thy bridal bed I strew—
O woe, thy canopy is dust and stones!—
Which with sweet water nightly I will dew,
Or wanting that, with tears distill’d by moans.
The obsequies that I for thee will keep
Nightly shall be to strew thy grave and weep.
… Scattered Bodies
A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head:
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
Some shall be pardon'd, and some punished:
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.