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The Princess, hearing of her mother’s statue, which is in the keeping of Paulina, a piece many years in doing, and now newly performed by that rare Italian master Giulio Romano, who, had he himself eternity and could put breath into his work, would beguile nature of her custom, so perfectly he is her ape. He so near to Hermione hath done Hermione that they say one would speak to her and stand in hope of answer. (5.2.93-101)
26 On this, see Jensen 194-233 (chap. “Singing Psalms to Hornpipes: Festivity, Iconoclasm and Catholi (. )
34 For him, the statue carved by the Italian artist is endowed with magic powers, and Romano’s unusual skills vie with God’s competence and achievement. As Paulina insists on the sculptor’s excellence (5.3.16-17), she introduces the statue as a skilful mockery of life. She warns the king and his subjects accordingly: “Prepare to see the life as lively mocked as ever / Still sleep mocked death” (5.3.18-20). This indeed amounts to a mockery of God’s creation and even though the colours of the statue are not specified, Paulina indicates that “[t]he statue is but newly fixed; the colour’s / Not dry” (5.3.47-48). Yet, the only colour mentioned is that of her coloured red lips, which capture Leontes’s attention and awaken his desire. From a religious point of view, the hint at Roman Catholic statues, here, is undeniable. The statue of Hermione with its red lips is so lifelike that it becomes a dangerous temptation for the idolatrous king who, significantly, wants to kneel and implore its blessing. As a result, religious superstition and ‘popery’ may be seen as an underlying current running through the whole scene. 26.
27 Besides, the friar plays God by forging a dead Juliet and by reanimating her. He recreates the mir (. )
35 In Romeo and Juliet , the belief in evil colours, based on the fear of the unknown and the faith in (black) magic, is introduced quite differently. Whereas Juliet is thought by all to have passed away, Balthasar queerly mentions that “[h]er body sleeps in Capel’s monument” (5.1.18), which suggests that she is to wake up soon. Despite her lively colours, Juliet looks dead while she is alive, and she takes on all the disquieting features of the ‘living dead’. In the play, the mix of graphic and pre-gothic images suggesting a recumbent statue looking alive both highlights and superimposes the various themes of colour, death, life, beauty and illusion, which probably reminded a possibly nostalgic audience of the beautiful polychrome statues of the past (Lindley 97-122). The vision of the statufied Juliet is all the more confusing in the tragedy as the recumbent statue scenes are presented twice; first when Juliet drinks the elixir and falls asleep, and a second time when she actually kills herself. This repeated performance of death generates the image of a somewhat fiendish statue able to rise from the dead, thereby transgressing the laws of God. 27.
36 In the graveyard, Shakespeare’s apparent inconsistency in his use of colours is even more conspicuous. When Friar Laurence worries about Juliet being locked in the monument, he exclaims: “Poor living corpse, closed in a dead man’s tomb!” (5.2.29). He highlights the senselessness of a living being locked in a monument like a corpse. Furthermore, so as to add to the general bewilderment when entering the tomb, Romeo carries on his eulogy on his beloved’s beautiful colours, stressing the elements making the lying Juliet look alive. Even more than a shrine, she appears as a polychromed statue to him. He further wonders about Juliet’s healthy hues as if the crimson on her face and her fair complexion finally struck him as “unnatural” for a corpse, since she does not look like a sculpture anymore, but just like a sleeping Juliet. When she finally wakes up, it is to discover her Romeo dead. The roles have been reversed: he is now the coloured recumbent statue. Howbeit, while kissing Romeo’s lips she notices that his “lips are warm” (5.3.167). Is Romeo really dead, or turned into a gisant of sorts, or only sleeping?
37 Along the same lines, the watchmen are also baffled by Juliet’s death. They can only declare: “And Juliet, bleeding, warm, and newly dead” (5.3.174). Theirs is a muddled explanation: “Sovereign, here lies the County Paris slain, / And Romeo dead; and Juliet, dead before, / Warm and new killed” (5.3.194-6). The jumble of “newly”, “dead”, “new”, “kill” illustrates rather well the characters’ total bewilderment, as they find themselves in a situation where the conventions regarding hues and shades are constantly turned upside down.
Conclusion: aesthetic hues of death-in-life and life-in-death.
28 Romeo and Juliet is based on the Italian tale entitled The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet b (. ) 29 See the monument of Christopher Roper, 2 nd Baron Teynham (1561-1622), carved by Epiphanius Evesham (. )
38 The colours of life and death initially encoded in Romeo and Juliet and The Winter’s Tale are, at the end, interwoven to such a degree that they can no longer be distinguished from one another. The hues in the statues of the young lovers and of the aged Hermione bring out an unusual coloured vision of death and life. They point out to surprisingly stark visual analogies between religious statues and what would today be considered as more artistic sculptures. Interestingly, Shakespeare uses lightly coloured pseudo-sculptures in order to examine and subvert the aesthetic and dramatic conventions of his time, revealing tremendous changes in the attitudes of society toward sculpture and colours. In fact, it might be in response to a burgeoning craze for coloured statues that Shakespeare added the final golden statues of Romeo and Juliet, which are absent from the original plots he borrowed from. 28 With the erection of the golden sculpture, hinting at a highly successful alchemical transmutation (McAdam 159), Capulet and Montaigu join hands so as to seal their reconciliation in the same manner as Leontes, taking Hermione’s hands, resuming his repentance. Despite the time gap between the two plays, the two coloured sculptures could be deciphered as rather similar attempts to reintroduce stand-up sculptures in the English theatrical landscape. Here, Shakespeare certainly acts as a precursor, but it must be said that, by the end of the 16 th century, the aesthetic dimension of sculptures and statues in England, began to be detached from their sacred function. The very fact that Shakespeare first selected a slightly coloured image of Juliet, and that, a few years later, he tested the onstage appearence of a wrinkled and coloured pseudo-sculpture, suggests an impending revolution in art, as well as slight but important changes in the religious vision of art. Polychrome sculptures were gradually reassessed and, during the first decades of the 17 th century, were even beginning to be appreciated in their own right. 29.