The Reader and the Text
When readers read Romeo and Juliet, whether for their own pleasure, for a stage production or for an engaged critical reading, they make the play into their own personal text. They emphasize the elements they want to focus on; they interact with aspects of the text they have been trained to recognize. The history of readings and stagings of the play, especially the accounts of its public performances over the past 400 years, displays people continually making the text their own. They read from particular historical and social perspectives, they read within a community of other readers and performers, they read from training and experience, and they are highly skilled at reading what is not there. With performance there is always the doubled reading: the first by those people engaged in the production, and the second by the audience of the performance. And with both theatre and written performance, there are the readings of readings undertaken by critics and historians of later times. None of these readings are ahistorical, nor can they find an absolute authentic interpretation. Rather, as this chapter will explore, the readings engage from the moment of their present time and context, with the play and any other available documents from the past.