Verona: Romeo & Juliet, According to Me
"Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?" Cried Juliet from her balcony.
"I'm on Via Capello, just about to arrive at your house. Sorry it's taking so long. There's about a trillion people crowding the streets," Romeo replied, sounding annoyed. "Ugh, and they're totally blocking the door to your house. Can we just reschedule? I can't stay long anyway, I'm supposed to be meeting Mercutio later."
"No. I've been waiting all day. Get yourself up here, now!" Juliet hung up the phone.
Romeo rolled his eyes and fought his way through the crowd towards the door. Pity I left my sword at home, he thought wryly to himself.
"Six Euros, please," a dour looking woman just inside the door told him.
"Entrance fee is six Euros. Six for the balcony, seven for the accompanying museum. Are you a student or over 60? You can get a small discount."
"Do I look over 60?" Romeo asked sarcastically. "Let me in, I'm here to see Juliet."
"You and everyone else. Pay, or leave," the woman snapped.
Romeo sighed and texted Juliet.
Crazy lady downstairs charging me to enter. Do you have six Euros? I'll pay you back.
"Ugh! You always do this Romeo, always!!" Juliet shrieked so loudly Romeo heard it downstairs. And that's my cue to exit, he thought.
Juliet threw her phone off the balcony in a fit of rage, where it hit an unsuspecting tourist on the head. Thinking it was a clumsy Asian or rude American who had hit him, the tourist whirled around and punched the man behind him in the face. The small square erupted in chaos right as Romeo came trudging out of the house. Unwillingly ensnared in the fight, he did his best to defend himself, but without his sword he was nothing. A burly German tourist pushed him roughly into an iron gate which bore hundreds of gimmicky locks, upon which people wrote the names of their true loves. Blood spattered the Post-it notes stuck to the adjoining brick wall, obscuring little girls' pleas to Juliet for love advice. There, slumped against the names of lost loves from all over the world, Romeo suffered a brain hemorrhage and died.
A few hours later, following a long and restful nap, Juliet descended from her balcony. A young man who had been knocked out during the fight was just coming to.
"What happened here??" Juliet cried as she stepped outside.
"I don't know," the man answered, looking around. "Some sort of fight. All I remember is being hit on the head."
"Typical. Men are always fighting over me," Juliet said matter-of-factly. "I'm famished. Want to get some dinner?"
"Uh, sure! Where?"
"I dunno. Let me ask Siri."
Juliet wandered off with the young man, never once noticing Romeo amongst the fallen. His dead eyes stared, unseeing into the gift shop selling shirts, mugs, posters, and candies bearing his name. Though to this day, some will argue that it was Juliet who suffered a worse fate following their argument: after a night of (unprotected) passion with the random tourist, she found herself pregnant and husband-less, for the child's father had caught a flight back to his native Uzbekistan the very next morning.
Instead, I stood alone in a corner and marveled at the power of words. I doubt Shakespeare had any notion that, four hundred years after writing Romeo and Juliet, his story of star crossed lovers would still be thriving and a bible of sorts for modern day romanics. And I'm certain he never imagined people from all over the world would flock to Verona just to look at the balcony where Juliet uttered those now famous words.
Supposedly uttered, I should say. Apparently, the notion that Juliet Capulet lived here is a rumor started by a tour guide in the 1970's to attract more visitors to Verona. Yet I guarantee you that at least half of the people who come to Juliet's house truly believe that it was actually Juliet's house. Of course, this means that those people believe Romeo and Juliet is a true story. Now, the rational (and cynical) part of my mind tells me that of course, Romeo and Juliet is pure fiction. There are absolutely no historical records that hint towards the existence of any of the characters in the play.
The whimsical, imaginative part of my mind - the part that desperately wants to find a time machine to take me back to Tudor England so I can get to Henry VIII before Anne Boleyn does (and presumably, before the syphilis does) - tells me that nothing is impossible. Many of Shakespeare's plays were based on fact. Who's to say he didn't hear a tale of ill-fated lovers in Verona from some Italian visiting England? And, as Rick Steves puts it, "You just walked down Via Capello, the street of the cap makers. Above the courtyard entry is a coat of arms featuring a hat - representing a family that made hats and which would be named, logically, Capulet." (If you didn't know, Juliet's last name is Capulet).
Though the house part of Juliet's house dates back to the 13th century, the balcony was added during the 20th. Despite the prominent use of cell phones in my version of Romeo and Juliet, we all know Shakespeare's version happened well before the 20th century.
I pondered all of this as I watched masses of people purchase locks to put on the iron fence with the hope that as long as it remained locked, their relationships would be intact. I watched as they paid six Euros to enter Juliet's house, the inside of which contains a bed used in one of the film versions and "art inspired by Romeo and Juliet." I watched as they knelt on the pavement to hastily write a letter to Juliet and dropped it in a box containing thousands of other letters. I watched as couples strolled - I mean, maneuvered - their way through the square with stars in their eyes, each of them thinking that only they had a love strong enough to rival that of Romeo and Juliet's. Might I add that I too was there with my one true love, a love I firmly know to be more powerful and everlasting than that of anyone else: ice cream.
So, whether that is Juliet's house or isn't, whether it's a waste of time and money or not, one thing is for sure: it is a source of intrigue and inspiration, even for a cynic like myself. After all, I just devoted an entire blog post to it, didn't I?