‘That One Word “Banishèd”’: Linguistic Crisis in Romeo and Juliet
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Stunned at the news of Romeo’s exile, Juliet utters the word ‘banishèd’ five times in 13 lines. If this statistic strikes us, like most statistics, as possibly illuminating but essentially dull, that is very much the attitude which directors and critics have taken to the repetition of the word. Indeed, its effects are assumed to be so fatal to an audience’s involvement in the play that many directors substantially cut the speeches in which it occurs.1 This chapter will reclaim the word ‘banishèd’ from such ignominy by arguing that it has a crucial dramatic role in Romeo and Juliet. We will begin with a brief consideration of the significance of exile in Elizabethan love poetry, including the status of ‘banished’, ‘exile’ and their variants, as clichés. We will then move on to consider how Shakespeare revivified these words to illuminate not only the lovers’ response to exile but their relationship with language throughout the play. Finally, a comparison with The Two Gentlemen of Verona will reveal the fatal power of ‘banishèd’.
KeywordsSocial Code Death Drive Performative Utterance Performative Speech Alternative Society
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