A Shakespearean Glance at the People and Issues of the Day.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Lord Montague's Lesson


Good morning, students. Quiet please. Well, ok, quieter, please.

We left off last time in Act I scene I with Benvolio describing Romeo's melancholy mood to Romeo's parents. Let's listen to Romeo's dad Mr. Montague as he answers Benvolio. Who would like to read? A show of hands? A show of hand? No one? No one except Suzie? All right. Suzie.

"Teacher's pet."

I heard that, Ralph. All right, then. Ralph, let's have you read.


Ralph, I do not see that word in the text. Proceed.

"Many a morning hath he there been seen,
With tears augmenting the fresh morning's dew,
Adding to clouds more clouds with his deep sighs;
But all so soon as the all-cheering sun
Should in the farthest east begin to draw
The shady curtains from Aurora's bed,
Away from light steals home my heavy son
And private in his chamber pens himself,
Shuts up his windows, locks fair daylight out,
And makes himself an artificial night,
Black and portentous must this humor prove
Unless good counsel may the cause remove."

Thank you, Ralph, for that unenthusiastic rendering. So what did Montague already know about what Benvolio told him? Anyone? Hath he where been seen? Consult your notes from yesterday. Raul, you cannot take notes without a notebook. Well then borrow some paper. A pen? Here, use mine. I will want it back. Anyone? Anyone besides Suzie? Yes, Cho.

"By those sycamores."

Correct. He's made a habit of hanging around the sycamores, where he was augmenting the dew with his tears. How can tears augment dew? These types of analogies will figure heavily in your SAT examinations.

"They're both wet."

Very good Natasha. And the clouds business? Cho?

"His deep sighs are like clouds."

Yes again. We are cooking with gas. Additional clouds. Moving right along. OK, we have an all-cheering sun. Is the sun waving pom poms on the sidelines of last week's disastrous game? Yes? No?

"Its' cheering you up."

Correct again, Suzie. That kind of cheering. And the sun, like your mother in the morning, draws the curtains from Aurora's bed. Who's Aurora?

"She transferred last year."

"Yeah. Her dad got a job - ."

Not that Aurora. How would Shakespeare have met – never mind. He means Aurora the Greek goddess of dawn.

"Honest, Mr. Abrams, how're we ever supposed to know all this stuff?"

Well, you could let me teach it to you. Moreover, any good Shakespeare book is going to have a ton of footnotes for you.

"We don't want to stop every ten seconds to check some stupid footnote."

Well, you get to learn stuff from them, like who the Greek Goddess of dawn was. Aurora. Plus you only have to do it the first time.

"The first time? You think we're ever gonna read this stuff twice."

Don't you listen to your favorite bubble gum pop songs more than once on your beanpods?

"Ipods. And what do you mean by bubble gum pop -,"

Let's proceed. Away from light steals home my heavy son. Is Romeo fat? I mean weight challenged? Why does Shakespeare choose the word 'light' instead of sun or day?

"Why don't you go ask him?"

Cute. No, ask yourself. Look elsewhere in the same line.

"Oh. Heavy. He's making a pun."

"A bad pun. That 'light' isn't the opposite of that 'heavy.'

No it isn't. But he knows you know that. He's just having fun. As are we. Isn't learning Shakespeare in a classroom fun? OK, next, Romeo pens himself in his chamber. Does he write on himself? Ha ha! No? Not funny? Ok, it's pen as in pig pen, and chamber as in room. Locks himself up in his room. And he steals home when?

"When the cheerful sun draws Aurora's curtains."


"So Romeo's a vampire."

He's mimicking one. Note that he next locks out fair daylight and makes himself an artificial night. Know of anyone who does that?

"Sandra does."

No names please.

"Well, she does. The black mascara. The studded collar. The trenchcoat."

"The principal made her give those up."

"Not the leather pants, he didn't."

"Those have got to be hot. I mean, can you imagine a cow wearing skin?"

Huh? A cow? Wearing what? All right, all right. Students. My point is made. People your age will always and at times feel the urge to lock fair daylight out and make an artificial night. The Columbine high school massacre need not be the end result, although in Romeo and Juliet, it is.

"Cool! When do we get there."

Patience. Natasha, please restate those last two lines in everyday English. Take your time.

"His mood must end up being black and threatening unless good advise removes whatever's causing it."

Very good.

"He needs a Dr. Phil."

"Dr. Phil needs a Dr. Phil. You hear about that?"

"About what?"

(Bell rings.)

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