After reading the play of the same name by Shakespeare, I wrote this poem. Partially as an assignment, but I enjoyed writing it.

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo, mine love, Capulet, mine name,
A Capulet, nay at heart, Ay in name,
Forsworm to feud thee, now sworn to love thee.
Destiny, a cruel play on our love.
Stronger is which? Thine steel sword or thine heart?
A corpse mine body wouldst be without thee,
A corpse I am in thine divine presence.
Drop thine steel, and I wilt lower mine guard.
Alas, 'tis Paris I am to marry!
Marry, That "man of wax" shan't, can't woo me,
For thou art the flame that melts yonder wax.
Wherefore art thou mine Romeo, mine love?
Montague, a name, Capulet, a name,
Wouldn't thou forsake thine name, mine Romeo?
My heart and soul wouldn't forsake mine own name,
For thine love gives mine soul more than a name could!
Ay, names that wouldn't oppose mine love for thee.
Is not true love stronger than any name?
Which be the strongest, hate, name, or love?
May our love be blest by the One above.

A play generally accepted as having been written by William Shakespeare around 1594 or 1595. It first appeared in print in 1597. Even before the Shakespeare play though, this story of two "star-crossed lovers" was widely popular in Europe. It is said that Shakespeare borrowed much of his artistic rendering of the tale from a poem by Arthur Brooke entitled The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet. Brooke in turn based his poem on the works of writers previous to him. Here's an excerpt from an essay by David P. Stone which describes, in brief, the evolution of the Romeo and Juliet story:

The story was popular, on the Continent at least, before Elizabeth's time. The first version was that which appeared in Salernitano's 'II Novellino' in 1476. This version had the clandestine lovers, the accommodating Friar, the killing that led to the young man's banishment, the rival suitor, the sleeping potion, thwarted messenger, an unhappy conclusion; but no suicides. This might have passed into oblivion had it not been for Luigi da Porto's "Istoria novellomente ritrovata di dui Nobili Amanti", published about 1550, which laid the scene in Verona and identified the families as Montecchi and Capelletti. Da Porto's story also named the friar as Lorenzo and the slain man as Thebaldo Capelletti and introduced the ball, the balcony scene and the double deaths inside the tomb. It was da Porto who first named the minor character Marcuccio and gave him the icy hands which subsequent tellers of the tale mention in great detail but which Shakespeare disregarded in favour of a definite character. Da Porto is also remembered for having Juliet commit suicide by holding her breath - a detail which no one, fortunately, bothered to perpetuate.

Da Porto's tale was widely imitated both in Italy and France, but the version of most importance to readers of Shakespeare was that of Mateo Bandello, who put the story into his "Novelle" of 1554. Of all the versions before Shakespeare's, Bandello's is generally considered to be the best. It is plain, straightforward narrative, unmarred by the sentimentality and moralising that characterised the work of some of his adapters. In Bandello's story the masking is there, the servant Peter appears -but as Romeo's man- the Nurse has a significant part in the plot, the rope ladder comes into play and the theme, as we now have it, takes on more of a definite shape.

Almost as important as the Bandello version is the one adapted from it by Peirre Boaisteau in 1559 which was included in Bellforest's 'Histories Tragique'. Boaisteau made Romeo go to the ball in the hope of seeing his indifferent lady, Rosaline; worked out the business of Lord Capulet's restraint at discovering Romeo's presence and developed the dilemma in which Juliet finds herself when she learns of Tybalt's death at the hand of her husband. He also developed the character of the apothecary.

All of these contributions went into Painter's version which was presented in 1567. This was a translation of Boaisteau's version and from this was derived Arthur Brooke's poem. So the plot sources of the play are: Salernitano, da Porto, Boaisteau, through Painter's translation to Brooke, in that order. Of these, Shakespeare used only Brooke directly and thus derived from the tradition only that which Brooke had left him. But he borrowed freely from the great wealth of detail which Brooke himself had offered. - http://members.tripod.co.uk/scorpius/index.htm

Shakespeare's version in its entirety is noded below by scene. For a neato synopsis of the play, see Shakespeare : Romeo and Juliet.


The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet
by William Shakespeare

Dramatis Personae:


CHORUS - Prologues

ROMEO
MONTAGUE - his father
LADY MONTAGUE - his mother
BENVOLIO - nephew to Montague, friend to Romeo
BALTHASAR - Romeo's man
ABRAHAM - servant to the Montagues

JULIET
CAPULET - her father
LADY CAPULET - her mother
NURSE - nurse to Juliet
TYBALT - nephew to Lady Capulet
PETER - servant to the Capulets
SAMPSON - servant to the Capulets
GREGORY - servant to the Capulets
CAPULET'S COUSIN

PRINCE Escalus - prince of Verona
MERCUTIO - his kinsman, friend to Romeo
County PARIS - young nobleman, kinsman to the prince
PAGE to Paris

FRIAR LAURENCE
FRIAR JOHN
An Apothecary

Various Franciscans, Watchmen, Guards, Masquers, Guests, Musicians, Citizens and Attendants

SCENE - Verona; Mantua



Act I
Prologue and Scene I
Scene II
Scene III
Scene IV
Scene V

Act II
Prologue and Scene I
Scene II
Scene III
Scene IV
Scene V

Act III
Scene I
Scene II
Scene III
Scene IV
Scene V

Act IV
Scene I
Scene II
Scene III
Scene IV

Act V
Scene I
Scene II
Scene III

I discovered this in the front of my Penguin Classics edition of Measure for Measure, (Jonathan Crewe, 2000). It's a good example of how we accept what is written as the truth, when clearly we don't even know the real Romeo and Juliet.

from the First Quarto (1597):

Whats Montague? It is nor band nor foote,
Nor arme, nor face, nor any other part.
Whats in a name? That which we call a Rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet:

from the Second Quarto (1599):

Whats Montague? it is nor hand nor foote,
Nor arme nor face, o be some other name
Belonging to a man.
Whats in a name that which we call a rose,
By any other word would smell as sweet,

from the First Folio (1623):

whats Montague? it is nor hand nor foote,
Nor arme, nor face, O be some other name
Belonging to a man.
What? in a names that which we call a Rose,
By any other word would smell as sweet,

and the standard modern text, dating from the C18th:

What's Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O be some other name!
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

(II.2.40-44)


Please note that I have left the spelling pretty much intact from the Quartos and Folios, which were printed not that long after printing was invented. They hadn't really got the hang of spellcheckers in those days. I have put a few spaces in for clarity, and I used s instead of the old f symbol.
-- Nemosyn --

I have been asked to give my ideas as to which might be the 'real' version of this text. Apart from typographical errors, half a line is added (belonging to a man) and the punctuation is dramatically different in each version. The question is more about how these changes came about. I imagine in the theatre during this period there must have been a strong oral tradition, with players learning parts off older players, so corrections could come from that oral base. Other corrections may be the interpretation of later editors who had different ideas about meaning and punctuation. Remember, too, that often the men typesetting a book were illiterate and would have found it harder to pick up errors.

Luhrmann and Zeffirelli have different interpretations of Romeo and Juliet because they have different goals. Zeffirelli is trying to produce a classic Shakespearean production, much like you would see on stage. Luhrmann is trying to produce a marketable, popular version of Romeo and Juliet.

The most obvious differences between the two movies are the settings and props. Neither movies stay completely faithful to the text in this respect. The Luhrmanm version strays from the text by changing the location from Verona, Italy to Los Angeles, USA. The props are then updated from the 1600s to their modern-day equivalent: for example, the guns are called "swords" and the coastal area is named "Verona Beach." Even though Zeffirelli chooses a more classical setting, he still takes some liberties with the scenery. Mostly these are minor changes in outdoor scenes that couldn't be literally portrayed on a stage. Some of these scenes, like Romeo and Balthasar galloping from Mantua, weren't even in the written text, and others, such as the large peasant-filled Verona square, could be depicted less extravagantly.

Another significant difference in the directors' interpretations of Romeo and Juliet is what they leave out or edit. The murder of Paris is totally cut out of both movies. This single abridgment totally alters the ending of the story. In Shakespeare's version, Romeo still could have been accepted into society before killing Paris --as Father Laurence pointed out--, since he was exlied for killing Tybalt, Mercutio's murderer. In Both movies Romeo chases Tybalt and challenges him to a duel, but in the original it's Tybalt who attacks Romeo. Romeo was defending himself when he killed Tybalt, so he's in a good position in the eyes of the 16th century law system. In the movies, Romeo's suicide is even more of an act of blind passion than it was in the original text.

As well as leaving out Paris' death, the Luhrmann production destroys the ending scene. By having Juliet wake up while Romeo is dying the mood plummets from depressing to the pit of despair. As if things weren't bad enough, the Capulet and Montague lords don't reconcile with each other in the light of their children's death. The last little bit of hope is beaten, maimed, and thrown to the dogs.

Both the Zeffirelli and the Luhrmann show how bizarre Romeo and Juliet really is. It's stuffed full of sex, violence, murder plots, family feuds, conspiracies, and any number of other illegal activities. These things are much easier to spot in the Luhrmann version because of its modern setting. We would never expect two people who start a gun fight at a gas station to be let off with a mere warning from the police. Because of the remote place and time it's occasionally possible to lose sight of how strange the story really is when reading the text or watching the Zeffirelli production.

            In Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, the two lovers die a tragic death, and bring several others down with them.  As Esculus puts it  , “For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo” 5.3.319.   What caused this to happen?  Was it fate, with no way to stop it?  Or could it have been avoided?  The fault must be placed on society.  Society deemed it unacceptable for the two lovers to be together, which forced them into secrecy, leading them to their deaths.  Three main factors in society led to the deaths, these factors are, the families of the lovers, the values of society, and authority, these groups are all to blame for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.

            The first group that had a role in the deaths of Romeo and Juliet was the families of the two lovers, the Capulets and the Montogues.  The families are the root of the problem that plagued the romance.  If they had simply gotten along, there would be nothing remarkable about the relationship between Romeo and Juliet, and they could have lived happily ever after.  Instead of letting things unfold this way, the two families upheld an ancient grudge, barring the romance.  “ Let him alone… it is my will… show a fair presence.” 1.5.75.  This grudge ran so deep that even when Capulet attempted to prevent a fight, he was only able to delay the fight to a later time.  “Though art a villain, there forth, turn and draw” 3.1.65.   By abhorring each other, the two families only managed to push their children to an early death.

            In the period that Romeo and Juliet took place; society had strict moral and ethical standards, which hindered the lovers from achieving a happy marriage.  At the time, it was customary for girls to have their husband chosen for them by their father, as Capulet chooses Paris for Juliet.  “Of my child’s love, I think she will be ruled”. 3.4.10.  This becomes an obstacle set by society that Juliet must face.  Another boundary placed by society is the inability for Romeo and Juliet to get divorced after their hasty decision, which also plays into Juliet being unable to marry Paris, even if she wanted to she couldn’t, as she is already married. ”He shall not make me there a joyful bride!” 3.5.120. It is society that deems it necessary for Juliet to do as her family says, and makes her unable to choose the life she wants.

            The final factor that leads to the deaths is that of authority. Authority figures are found throughout the book, and authority comes mainly in the forms of the Prince, and Capulete, who both hold the positions that most influence the life of the lovers.  Once again, Capulet must be blamed.  He is the one who held the most power over Juliet’s, life, thus he also held power over the relationship between her and Romeo.”  Get to church, or never look upon my face again”  3.5.150.  He used this power to oppress both of them, and made it impossible for them to have a relationship, he is still to blame even thought he might not have done all of this intentionally.  Other figures that influenced the actions of Juliet include the Nurse, Lady Capulet, and Esculus.  By not supporting her daughters wishes, Lady Capulet helped her husband to oppress Juliet.  Finally, Nurse is to blame because she simply went along with the plans, and didn’t do the right thing, and tell everyone before it got complicated.  It is these factors coming from authority that lead the lovers to death.

            The deaths of Romeo and Juliet are caused by a reason, but this reason is not predetermination.  It might have been impossible at the time to prevent the deaths, but it is clear that it was only human error that made the deaths impossible to stop.  Because of this, it is the fault of characters who remain alive fault, and no outside forces should be made the scapegoat.

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