“The devout religion” of my ear. Hearing and scope of choice in Romeo and Juliet

testatina convegnoEnrico Reggiani (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan)

paper at the INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM, “Within Whose Scope of Choice’. From Renaissance to contemporary civic crisis and reconciliation, Università degli Studi di Verona, 11th-12th April 2013

[ABSTRACT] In Romeo and Juliet, the textualization of hearing processes (i.e. an important component of Shakespeare’s physical anthropology and sensorial epistemology) significantly contributes to the representation of the characters’ “scope ofshakespeare's court choice”. For many of them, the text even seems to articulate an integral and “devout religion” of “my ear”, complementary to “the devout religion of my eye” (I. 2, 91-92, Romeo to Benvolio) or to a variable combination of both. The degree of their “strict fidelity, or faithfulness; conscientiousness; devotion to some principle” (which is “religion” according to OED online; 2nd quot from R&J), whatever it is, directly conditions their “room for exercise, opportunity or liberty to act; free course or play” (“scope”, OED online).  

   In my paper, I’ll have only enough time to briefly examine two important passages from R&G: the Chorus in the old capulet & parisopening Prologue and the dialogue between Old Capulet and Paris in the second scene of the first act. The strategic importance of this dialogue will provide the basis of the multi-levelled and multifunctional dramaturgical dialectic between hearing-oriented and sight-oriented world-models in Romeo and Juliet and will show that the role of hearing in Romeo and Juliet “soundscape” is neither “simple” nor ancillary to sight, being instead characterized by an ’“aural quality” both dramaturgically “elusive” and strategically allusive.


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