I finally started using the new editor! Yay, me. Of course it took almost three months, but hey. Now I can post pictures all over the place, not just at the top. Although I have to confess I sort of like the "medieval manuscript" look of the old version.
Random but (somewhat) relevant news item: the other day I read that the eminent French anthropologist, Claude Levi-Strauss, had died at 100. When an acquaintance mentioned that she hadn't known he was still alive, I was struck by what an odd moment that is--to realize someone had been (still/recently) alive only after discovering they're dead. I thought Levi-Strauss would have found that amusing, probably, since his work was all about the universality of dualistic (in the academy they call this "binarist") thinking. Every culture, he asserted, creates its reality out of oppositions--raw and cooked, light and dark, inside and outside. For a less reductive explanation, see his obituary. (So cool I can do that with the new editor!). Mythic antitheses are the foundation of all law, no matter where you live: the law is, first and foremost, a dividing line between what's permissible and what isn't. Read Leviticus in the Old Testament--that's the Book that deals with rules about sexuality, diet, death, and so on--and you'll see that, reductively speaking (been doing a lot of that today) everything is either clean or unclean. The most irreducible of all oppositions, of course, is the one between the living and the dead--it's final and absolute. Except, of course, on Halloween. So reading Levi-Strauss's obituary was sort of a liminal/Halloween moment--his death notice reminded us that he hadn't been dead until now! It's almost as if the obituary brought him back to life for an instant--a fleeting, magical violation of a universal law.
That's my wacky philosophical thought for today. (Much) more to the point, I thought of Romeo and Juliet, and its formal enchantment with oppositions. As Levi-Strauss suggested, oppositions are the basis of myth; Will is definitely mythmaking here. That's why the play has endured as a cultural icon over so many centuries--because we think in oppositions, and the play fits neatly into our metaphysical framework. Okay, it's also a compelling narrative--but look how many ways you can change the setting, and still get essentially the same story. You can plop it down in New York City, the West Bank, Iraq--anyplace where there's a war that involves civilians, which is much of the world--and it works.
The founding opposition of this, as any romance, is between the public world, with its laws and prohibitions, and the interior, emotional/psychic realm that the lovers inhabit--and which they fight to preserve as a sacred space. Scene 5, in which Romeo and Juliet meet and fall (instantly) in love, is structured as a progressive move inward from public to private. The scene begins with the servants, bustling about and chattering as they work. It then moves to Old Capulet, addressing the revelers and urging everyone to dance, then to an exchange between Capulet and his cousin, until finally zooming in on Romeo.
So, here we are. Romeo is at the Capulet ball, wearing a mask, of course, and looking around for Rosaline. He doesn't find her, though. Instead, his eye lights on Juliet, dancing with some other guy.
He asks a servant who the mystery girl is, but he doesn't know. That seems odd, but one assumes the Capulets have hired some extra hands for the ball. Anyway, he stares at her, and then, off the top of his head--I mean, from the depths of his heart--he comes up with this:
O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
As a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear--
Beauty to rich for use, for earth too dear.
So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows
As yonder lady o'er her fellows shows.
The measure done, I'll watch her place of stand,
And, touching hers, make blessed my rude hand.
Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight,
For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.
So in some ways, this blog aspires to be Post-Post-Metaphorical. To make figurative language fashionable again, invited into the finest parlors and chat rooms. Of course, I can't do it alone. We must all Stand Up for Metaphor! Throw off the chains of literary fundamentalism! Raise a disapproving eyebrow at the retreat into similes!
Being silly again--I'm slightly flu-feverish still.
Romeo here chooses Juliet out of the crowd, repudiating Benvolio's earlier assertion that one woman is as good as another, and old Capulet's insistence to Paris that Juliet isn't that special--she wouldn't stand out in a crowd of pretty girls. For Romeo, she's The One. In the daylight world, women are interchangeable. At night, there is only Juliet.
Next: Romeo and Juliet compose a sonnet, and I finally finish Act 1.