It comes from an itch I was given in my brain by a meme circulating about the bones of two lovers being uncovered in “The city of Mantua, in Italy, the city Shakespeare chose to set the story of Romeo and Juliet.” (The story was written to take place in Verona, Italy– Romeo was banished to Mantua. Juliet never set her fictional foot in Mantua.)
…And so I can’t resist.
Happy Throwback Thursday!
I’ve been quiet lately as I’ve been writing a new book called “Enter: Juliet.” The heroine signs on to a touring theater company only to find herself trapped in a bunch of plays (shameless plug ahead):
There are only three options for the actors in a Jacques Theatre production: To perform well and live to play another day, to give a fantastic “final performance” that earns freedom, or fail and get “fired”– the details of which are murky.
When Scarlett signed the Jacques Theatre employment contract, she had no idea she’d be signing away her freedom. The director also failed to mention that Scarlett would find herself in the real Verona, Italy in 1591.
While playing to an unseen audience on a strangely realistic stage, Scarlett has to learn to use her troubled past and her broken heart to make her performance as Juliet believable. With the help of two handsome actors, Scarlett also learns that some things in the theater are illusions– but many more are painfully real.
Some information I picked up while writing “Enter: Juliet.”
1. It really sucked to get dressed back in the day. There were layers upon layers upon layers. How anyone got out of their clothes for any reason is beyond me. Some interesting bits about clothing:
· A hoopskirt was called a “farthingdale.”
· The bigger your ruff was, the cooler you were.
· It was hard to look like a tough guy when wearing that much lace.
Here’s a really cool website if you’re into this sort of thing: http://www.elizabethancostume.net/overview.html
2. In Verona, Italy, there is a coliseum that was built in 30 A.D. and it is still in use today. (http://www.arena.it/en-US/HOMEen.html)
3. There were laws to dressing in Elizabethan England. That meant Sally Barmaid couldn’t blow her allowance money on a new Coach clutch. (http://elizabethan.org/sumptuary/who-wears-what.html)
4. The music was awesome.
(This really nice guy named Jon Sayles gives away free downloads of period music on his website. Go say hi!: http://www.jsayles.com/familypages/earlymusic.htm)
5. Even though Romeo and Juliet was obviously a work of fiction, it is believed to have been (very loosely) based on two Verona lovers from 1303. (http://www.theatrehistory.com/british/romeoandjuliet002.html)
But Shakespeare’s characters are definitely still fictional. So that brings me to:
6. There is a tour you can take in Verona that brings you to what “could’ve been” Juliet’s house, but the website mentions the balcony was put in sometime in the 20th century. While on this tour of fictional places, you can also visit what may have been Romeo’s house and what could possibly be the church, all within close proximity of each other. There’s even a “Juliet’s tomb.” PS– when in Verona, it’s tradition to rub Juliet’s right breast for luck. (I didn’t make that up.) The statue, I mean. But why would anyone consider Juliet a symbol of luck?
7. There is a debate as to whether Shakespeare originally set our favorite young suicidal lovers in 1303 or sometime in the late Sixteenth century. The widely accepted answer comes from the Romeo and Juliet text:
“’Tis since the earthquake now eleven years;
And she was wean’d,–I never shall forget it,–“ (Nurse, 1.3)
Wait, I thought Romeo and Juliet took place in Italy, Shakespeare! Why would we be referring to an English earthquake? That’s a BAD Shakespeare!
Anyway, there was an earthquake in England in 1580. That places the writing (and setting) of Romeo and Juliet (according to the nurse) eleven years later in 1591.
So there you have it. Now go see it/read it again and sound really smart with your flashy new facts.