Earlier this year in September, I was contacted by the folks over the New Orleans Review with a tantalizing tweet:
@walthall Maybe you’d like to send us something to consider for our ALL-SHAKESPEARE issue of NOR? http://t.co/qOm1YWyHeb #shakespeare
— New Orleans Review (@NOReview) September 23, 2015
Like I wasn’t busy enough…
A shot at publishing a scholarly piece on Shakespeare couldn’t be denied.
I got a quick start. Then that English Language course happened, and the paper slipped to a back burner. Then my dad died, and it fell off the damn stove completely.
I gave up.
But my wife Lisa didn’t. She gave me the nudge I needed, and over the course of the last three days, I’ve been able to shift enough fog out of my brain to finish it.
Titled “Hey, Romeo: It’s About Time!” it discusses my favorite subject in my favorite play. Here’s a teaser, the opening paragraph:
I remember as a child asking my dad what the movie Lawrence of Arabia was about. “It’s about four hours long,” he responded. Punny guy, my dad. Anyone who has read the opening of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has heard the play’s chorus answer that question of theme with his own time reference: the play is about “two hours” (Prologue, 12) long. Beginning from just this twelfth line of the play, Romeo and Juliet is a play obsessed with the concept of time. The temptation is to focus on the superficial clock-watching what-ifs: what if Romeo and Benvolio had been just a few minutes early/late and not met Peter in the second scene? what if Romeo had returned from his wedding early enough to find Benvolio and Mercutio but to avoid Tybalt? what if Paris had arrived just a few minutes earlier, or Romeo a few minutes later in the play’s final scene? While fun, these questions turn the play into a kind of Rube Goldberg machine of suppositions and repercussions, based almost solely on the reader’s experience. Instead, let’s look at the words Shakespeare uses, since by employing anything and everything from ages to times and dates, to timelines, to even mathematical errors, Shakespeare drives home this temporal theme with the relentlessness of a ticking clock.
With any luck, I’ll be able to point you to the full text next spring, when the New Orleans Review publishes its special Shakespeare issue!
And I have only Lisa to thank. Twenty-four years and counting, baby. You keep me afloat.