Frailty, Thy Name is Pretty Woman

My wife and daughter don’t get much time to bond. With two younger siblings in the house it’s hard for them to sit around and watch a movie that might have more “adult themes” than the two younger ones are ready for.  As we’ve worked our way through various 1980’s classics my wife has asked about Pretty Woman, a favorite of hers. I remind her of exactly what that movie is about, and how ugly Jason Alexander gets at the end, and maybe it’s not something our 11yr old boy is interested in or ready for.

But, the other night the boys were out at a karate event and the middle daughter was having friends over (hanging out in the basement), so  I came home discover them watching Pretty Woman together.  Thus began the remainder of the night’s entertainment, listening for random feet in the kitchen and diving for the remote control to make sure nothing questionable is on screen when younger eyes might see it.

There’s a scene toward the end when Julia Roberts’ character convinces Richard Gere to take a day off and relax. She makes him take his shoes off and feel the grass with his toes. Before you know it they’re relaxing as he reads to her.

“Wait,” I say. “What did that book just say?”

My daughter knows this game and is already looking for the remote control.

“Are you serious?” my wife asks.  She knows that the sooner we finish this movie the better the odds we don’t get permanently interrupted.

“I could have been seeing things, but I could swear the book he’s reading from has a big word with a capital S on it. Which would be weird because you’d expect Complete Works or something and his name wouldn’t be the first word.”

My daughter has skipped a good minute or so before the scene, so we wait it out.  I get up and stand near the screen with my camera ready.

Shakespeare in Pretty Woman

“Ha!” said I.  “Not my first rodeo.” If you can’t read it from the picture, it’s “Shakespeare Quotations.”

I actually went back just now as I’m writing this to rewind the movie (on the computer) and try to figure out what he’s reading.  You hear, “deaf heaven” and “my bootless cries.”  Son of a gun, they’ve got him reading Sonnet 29. Awesome. Better than something totally cliche out of Romeo and Juliet. I’m a little annoyed that they’ve got him reading from a quotations reference book rather than a Complete Works. It’s like neither of the characters knows anything about Shakespeare and thought, “Oo, that sounds romantic, we should read that” but wanted to get just the highlights or something.

Not only have I never noticed this, I’ve never seen a reference to it. Not that I was looking all that hard.  Googling “pretty woman Shakespeare” does indeed show some of those “25 Facts You Never Knew” type lists about the movie, and at least a couple of them do drop what Richard Gere is reading.

Is there a larger Shakespearean comparison or parallel we can make? You’ve got all the obvious Galatea / My Fair Lady stuff.  But is there anything else in this movie that connects to Shakespeare? In other words is this scene entirely coincidence, or is it a hint to a larger connection?

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