'Are those circumstances really necessary? The case of Romeo and Juliet'

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


From the eighteenth century to the present it has been generally assumed that Shakespeare’s plots are relatively unimportant compared with his characters. Samuel Johnson – followed by many others – argued that improbabilities and infelicities in Shakespeare’s plots were ascribable to his following chronicle and romance, and that these improbabilities were redeemed by the compelling humanity of his ‘characters’. I will argue the opposite. Shakespeare’s characters seem worthy of our continuing exploration because of the circumstantial design of the plots into which they are written, and because these ‘circumstances’, understood as rhetorical topics, continually stimulate our judgement of probability into acts of imagination.
Period17 Oct 2013
Held atUniversity of Amsterdam, Netherlands