This Is Gonna Get Ugly

For my day job we have a very large email marketing business.  It’s normal conversation to talk about what others are doing, so when I got the following subject line in an email I laughed and showed it to my coworkers:

Make someone ugly cry. Adobe can help.

What I wrong as a comment was, “I know what they meant, but that’s the worst subject line I’ve ever seen.”  It sounds like Adobe’s offering to help you chase ugly kids around the playground and make them cry.

A couple days after that post, a coworker calls me over and says, “You posted something the other day and I’ve been meaning to ask you about it…I don’t get it?  You wrote, I know what they mean … but I don’t.  I don’t know what they mean? Is it like the optical illusion with the old woman and the young woman and I can only see the old woman?”

So I told him, “Claire Danes in the Leonardo DiCaprio Romeo+Juliet.”Clare Danes cry faceTurns out there’s actually several blogs and tumblrs dedicated to her cry face in particular, and she’s even been asked about it in interviews 🙂

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Romeo and Juliet Die in a Gunfight

I’m not sure how much Shakespeare we’re going to get in this one, but the coming action film starring Kaya Scoldelario and Josh Hutcherson is being billed that way:

The Mark Gordon Company has set Kaya Scodelario (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales), Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games), Olivia Munn (X-Men: Apocalypse) and Helen Hunt (As Good as It Gets) to star in the action romance Die in a Gunfight, a modern update on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

More specifically the film, “will see Hutcherson and Scodelario as two star-crossed lovers Ben and Mary. Set against a backdrop of corporate espionage, revenge, and a long-standing feud between their families.”

If we hold this one to the same standard as Lion King, I wonder how well it would fare?  I’ve often said that the only way we can call “brother kills brother and son takes revenge” a Hamlet story is if we count all “lovers can’t be together because their groups hate each other” a Romeo and Juliet story.

Maybe we need to come up with a metric for how much Shakespeare something has to have in it before they get to use the name?

Let’s predict, shall we?  This will be fun.  For us to consider this a modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet it should ideally have …

  • Two warring families (or other social groups) who hate each other just because.  They always have.  Maybe there’s backstory, maybe not, we don’t need one.
  • One representative from each family, who would like to see the families reconcile so they can be together.
  • A best friend / confidant for each.
  • One representative on each side (a Mercutio and a Tybalt) who are quite fine with them continuing to try to kill each other, thank you.
  • Some sort of time element driving the plot, such as Juliet’s marriage to Paris.  Something to keep it moving.
  • A Friar Laurence character to come up with a crazy “this’ll never work, but it’s our only hope!” plan.

You’ll notice I did not say “They have to end up dead.”  I’m actually quite ok with flipping to a happier ending, because if you don’t then you really do just rule out the possibility of any Disney or kid-friendly adaptations.

What do you think?  Something I missed? Something I put on my list that you can live without?

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Is Romeo and Juliet an Anti-Irish Rant?

There’s not much Shakespeare content in Neal Stephenson’s The Rise And Fall of D.O.D.O, much to my dismay. But there is a bit that’s new to me and worthy of discussion.  The story is a time travel one, and when our hero is transported back to Elizabethan England to hang out with an Irish prostitute, he wants to talk about Shakespeare. He notices that Romeo and Juliet is currently playing.

“It’s a shite play,” she responds, “Just a court sponsored rant against the Irish.”

She then cites her evidence:

  • the “villain” is a Catholic friar, and “everybody knows” Catholic is code for Irish.
  • his meddling is the cause of all suffering and the reason why the play is  tragedy and not a comedy
  • the friar’s name is Lawrence, obviously named for St. Labhras, who was martyred by a poison of his own concoction.

Is this a well known conspiracy theory, or did Stephenson make it up?  He’s got other examples, less specific – the one about the “terrible drunk Irish character staggering about the stage wailing about how all the Irish are villains and bastards and knaves” or the “English king who went to conquer Ireland, and he said the Irish live like venom.”

So, did Shakespeare hate the Irish?

 

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Safe for Shakespeare

On the common message board at work I posted quick thoughts on the local Romeo and Juliet this weekend, where I called it (among other things), “safe.”

“I’m curious what exactly a safe production of Romeo and Juliet is,” said a coworker in person.  “Do they not die in the end?”  Laughter from random overhearing coworkers.

“Nope, they definitely still die.”

“Is there still an implied teenage sex scene?”

“Yup, definitely has that.”

“And they still murder people?”

“Yes, yes they do.”

“And you call that safe? As a parent?”

“Fair point.  My kids definitely gave me the, ‘Seriously, Daddy?’ look when Mercutio was writhing and grinding on the floor a few times. But everybody knows the story, it’s not like anything was a surprise.  By safe I meant it was a traditional, expected interpretation.  At no point did I think, “Whoa, hey, that’s different! I’ve never seen that particular interpretation of that moment before!”

“Ohhhh,” said he, “You meant it wasn’t avant-garde.”

So I immediately sent him this picture from Slings & Arrows as the first thing that comes to mind when somebody mentions an avant-garde Romeo and Juliet:

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A Three Hour Shakespeare, A Three Hour Shakespeare

Tis now the very witching time of night, plus about three hours.

What is Shakespeare’s fascination with three hours?  I was at Romeo and Juliet this weekend and this stood out to me:

Ah, poor my lord, what tongue shall smooth thy name,
When I, thy three-hours wife, have mangled it?

Because I thought, “Hmm, that’s interesting, because clearly they’ve been married more than three hours so it’s like she’s using that as just a generic term for some length of time. Kind of like how Hamlet does it, doesn’t he?” Actually I was off on that one:

how cheerfully my mother looks, and father died within these two hours.

But then I thought about that one about, “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late,” from Merry Wives of Windsor.  I got to wondering just how often he used this expression. Turns out, quite a lot. Some of them could even be literal (such as “the length of time after supper and before bed time”) but surely not all of them.

All’s Well That Ends Well

Ten o’clock: within these three hours ’twill be
time enough to go home.

Coriolanus

Within these three hours, Tullus,
Alone I fought in your Corioli walls,
And made what work I pleased:

Cymbeline

I have read three hours then: mine eyes are weak:

Henry VI Part 1

More than three hours the fight continued;
Where valiant Talbot above human thought
Enacted wonders with his sword and lance:

Love’s Labour’s Lost

And then, to sleep but three hours in the night,
And not be seen to wink of all the day—

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

what dances shall we have,
To wear away this long age of three hours
Between our after-supper and bed-time?

Romeo and Juliet (again)

Now must I to the monument alone;
Within three hours will fair Juliet wake:

The Tempest

My father
Is hard at study; pray now, rest yourself;
He’s safe for these three hours.

How thou hast met us here, who three hours since
Were wreck’d upon this shore;

What is this maid with whom thou wast at play?
Your eld’st acquaintance cannot be three hours:

Twelfth Night

Ay, madam, well; for I was bred and born
Not three hours travel from this very place.

 

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Commonwealth Shakespeare 2017 : Romeo and Juliet on Boston Common

I haven’t missed a Commonwealth Shakespeare performance on Boston common since the infamous Hamlet incident in 2005. Every year I wait to see what they’ll play, every year I tell friends and family and coworkers for weeks leading up that I’ll be going.  It’s something of a holiday for me.

This year is Romeo and Juliet. Or, like I told everybody, “The one everybody knows!” I could not say that about Love’s Labours Lost or Two Gentlemen of Verona :). Better, I could at last take the kids. People might think that my kids have grown up with Shakespeare, and they have. But that doesn’t mean that at under ten years old they can sit through an actual 2-3 hour Shakespeare performance in the original text.  They’ve seen movie versions, clips, kids versions, modern versions – but this would be the first time they would sit through a “real” show.

This was a very traditional interpretation, which made it even more perfect.  Period scenery, with a balcony dominating the stage.  Period costumes, with the Montagues in one color and the Capulets in another (and Mercutio in a third).

All in all I liked it, and I’m glad my kids – who also liked it – got to see this one. But I didn’t love it. My oldest, who just finished the play in high school, spent the play explaining things to her sister, and occasionally turning around to me when they chose a particularly interesting interpretation, or altered a more obvious line. My middle, who is fascinated primarily with story, wanted me to tell her the plots of basically all the Shakespeare stories. At one point she apparently realized that Shakespeare collaborated (when I called The Tempest his last solo effort) and she got all bent out of shape over that, declaring that she never knew Shakespeare was a fake, and that she’d have to seriously think about this. My youngest did his best to piece together everything he knew about the story, coupled with what he could skim in the program, with what he was seeing on the stage.  Of course that led to moments like the early scene where Benvolio is explaining to Lord Montague where Romeo has been, and my son explains to me, “That’s Tybalt talking.”  In this particular cast, both Benvolio and Tybalt were two African American gentlemen, and from our seats I’m sure they looked very similar to him.

Stuff I Liked

One particularly fascinating moment came during the “pre-show” of sorts. The troupe put on a stage combat demonstration. No explanation or narration, just an opportunity for the audience to get a sneak preview at the fight scenes.  I watch two guys go at it and tell my kids, “That must be Romeo and Tybalt, because that’s not how Mercutio gets it.”  My attention drifts, because in a few minutes I realize there’s about twenty people all battling and I think, “Oh, cool!  The opening scene!”  When suddenly this tall, athletically built woman, in a dress, leaps into the fray with sword drawn and parts two warring men.  It was actually pretty cool, and looked like something out of a movie fight scene. I had no idea what was going on.  My brain immediately flipped through the script trying to figure out what I’m watching.  “Wait,” I say out loud, “Are they going gender blind for this?  Cool.”  I ask my oldest to look her up in the program, and without looking (because apparently she already had), all I hear her say is the word “princess” because now there’s some other noise, I think the director had come out to talk.  I still don’t get it, and I think that this is the actress’ name.

Nope – that’s Princess Escalus.  They have gone gender flipped for that particular role, and I’m totally ok with it because she was seriously badass. When this Princess said to knock it off, people took her seriously.  (What I did not like is that they put her in a dress but still left her lines calling herself Prince.  Can’t we just pick one?  Either you’ve got a woman playing a man, or else you’ve flipped the gender of the character.  It’s jarring to me when they play it from both angles.)

Love Mercutio.  I tell my kids, “The trick with Mercutio is, the minute you see him, you have to like him.  He’s the cool guy that everybody wants at the party.  He’s the one where you’re invited to hang out and you’re all, Oh, Mercutio’s gonna be there?  Dude, absolutely, let’s go!”  And this Mercutio (who was giving off a strange Key and Peele vibe) crushed it there.  During the Queen Mab speech all of the other masqueraders are hanging on his every word.  But he can just as easily flip and talk one on one with his pal Romeo.  I find myself looking sadly forward to watching him die because I already like him.

Commonwealth Shakespeare 2017 Romeo and JulietRomeo and Juliet are … well, annoying. Overacting every word.  And I’m totally ok with that.  I am of the “Romeo and Juliet are two stupid kids who think the world is ending around them” school, and kids in that situation *are* annoying, even if it’s Shakespeare they’re reciting.

The soundtrack. I don’t know how to explain it, it just worked.  The party scene was hopping.  The fight scenes were ominous.  With my kids at this one I was especially aware of anything happening that would help make it obvious what is happening on stage, and when the music suddenly switches when Tybalt walks in, you know something’s about to go down.

There were also bits of interaction with the audience that were pretty cool, and kept my kids entertained.  Several times the Friar actually motioned to the audience to complete his lines.  Granted this had the effect of really killing the mood because he was enunciating the first part like Inigo Montoya playing rhyming games with Andre the Giant’s Fezzick the giant (“You have a great gift for ….rhyme…”) but hey, it was fun.  I’m not holding this production up to any high standard.

There’s also a funny bit in the beginning where Romeo and Benvolio are arguing about Rosaline, and Romeo’s got his line, “Show me a mistress that is passing fair,” so Benvolio hops down into the audience, picks out a woman to stand and show off for comparison to Rosaline.

It was little stuff, but it worked.  The party scene at the Capulets had the dancers all come through the audience to enter, but then back out into the audience to dance.  There were even these little mini stages set up around the edges that they made their way toward, which I even commented at the time seemed like a lot of effort because they were there for just that scene, and delivered no lines (just regular dancer/partygoers).  Strange amount of extra effort for that little effect.

A word, too, for the overall visual presentation of this production. I thought it was absolutely beautiful. Totally traditional, but that’s fine, there’s a reason why it’s iconic.  There’s a moment when Juliet’s up on the balcony in her nightclothes and the wind is blowing them just ever so slightly, I found it quite near perfect.

Stuff Not So Much

The pacing of many scenes was off.  Fred Sullivan, the most senior actor of the group, plays Lord Capulet as I expected. I go into every show wondering what role Fred will play, because I know he brings everything he’s got.  Saw him as Nick Bottom years ago and never forgot him. But it felt like all of his scenes this year were this sort of zero to sixty ride where one moment he’s laughing and jovial and the next HE’S RANTING AND SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS LIKE HE’S GOING TO HAVE A STROKE and then he’s back to being his jolly old self.  This was true at the Capulet ball where he had to yell at Tybalt, but it was really obvious when Juliet tells him she doesn’t want to marry Paris.  He’s talking to her so softly and quietly that you barely realize he is…taking off his belt.  The next thing you know he’s chasing her around the scene trying to whip her with it, screaming the whole time.  It got so bad that when he finally delivers the “My fingers itch” line, with his hand poised above his head to strike, I’m thinking, “Dude, the belt was way scarier.” Later when she apologizes and he goes back to being the loving father. He basically seems bipolar.  Which I think is an oversimplification of his personality (seems to be a theme here).

Same with the opening scene.  I like the opening scene to build and be mostly comedy, so the audience can get into it and feel the transition between the humor and the violence at any time.  Not here, here it is all loud screamy violence all the time.  We all know the Baz Luhrmann version, right? The scene in the gas station with all the screaming?  I liked that one better. Here it just felt like the actors couldn’t bring any more depth to their roles than, “These guys just want to fight because they hate each other so much.”

Worse, though, was Mercutio’s death.  Above I said I sadly looked forward to it, because I liked the character, and I think that the whole mark of a tragedy is you can know what’s going to happen and still be sad about it because you feel something for the characters.  Here I didn’t get that.  First, it was over way too fast.  They fight, Romeo dives in, Mercutio is struck and then immediatelydelivershisnextthreelinessofastIwasn’tsurewhatwashappening.

I like a good dying Mercutio. I want him struggling for breath, on the ground, uttering his dying words like a curse. This Mercutio was running around the stage during the whole thing.  It wasn’t even obvious that there was any blood on him until the end of the scene, and if you didn’t know what was going on you might have missed it. He even walks out practically under his own power.

I did like (and I realize this should go in the section above but they go together) Romeo’s reaction.  I’ve always thought that his line about “Mercutio’s soul is little ways above our heads, and you, or I, or both must go with him” is underrated.  I like a Romeo that’s a combination of fire-eye’d furious and yet also terrified because he thinks there’s an equal chance that he’s going to die, too.  I got that.  That was cool.

Bonus?  The rest of the scene plays out, and at some point, as the lights go down, Tybalt’s body is borne off.  But not before Benvolio taps one of the Capulets on the shoulder and takes his spot, helping to carry him.  Loved the idea of that.  Easily went past many people – it was dark, they were getting focused on their intermission bathroom break, no words are even spoken.  But it shows that Benvolio, who just replayed the scene as “Romeo didn’t do anything wrong, he came here trying to make peace,” maybe realizes, unlike the parents, that this is an opportunity to bring the families closer, not farther apart.

Conclusion

I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I ended up describing it to a co-worker this way: “It’s way better than any school or community performance you’ll see, but at the same time, it didn’t feel like the professional standard you might expect. I’m glad it was a free show. If I’d paid fifty bucks to go see it, I think I would have come away disappointed. There were things I liked, a lot, but there were many things that I felt could have been done so much better.”

It disappoints me to say that, but I’m just being honest. I’ve seen more than a dozen of their shows, and I’m not going to say each one of them moved me to tears. They’re quite capable of it. I’ll never forget the image of Kent in the storm, calling out for King Lear.  I loved the play so much I wrote two posts about it- part one, part two.

Of course, everything I’ve said above – the traditional interpretation, the oversimplification of the characters, the over acting – all made it the perfect show to take my kids.  So there’s that!  I just hope that next year when it comes around again, whatever show they may choose – because I’m going! – that I bring it up to the kids and see whether they want to come with us again.

 

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Coffee Break : Romeo and Juliet Songs

Thank you Google for “randomly” serving me up this cool bit of content!  I wasn’t even googling, this was just in my recommended links today.

“The Current”, which I guess is a Minnesota public radio station, decided to do Romeo and Juliet songs yesterday. While the “article” itself is short and only lists the 8 songs they played, it’s in the comments where the gold lies.

No special constraints were given, so there are some songs that tell the story, some that just reference the characters, and some who knows what the connection is.

This could well be the definitive list.  Surely many in this one that I hadn’t known for their Romeo and Juliet references. I’ve got to put together a new playlist!

I haven’t been able to vet all of these for accuracy, just the ones that made me scratch my head and say, “Wait, really? I thought I knew that song.”  Make corrections or add more in the comments!

Romeo and Juliet Songs

Dire Straits – Romeo and Juliet

Indigo Girls – Romeo and Juliet

The Reflections – (Just Like) Romeo and Juliet

Madonna – Cherish   (* really? I never noticed)

Bruce Springsteen – Fire

Michael and The Messengers – Romeo and Juliet

Basement Jaxx – Romeo

Blue Oyster Cult – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper   (now with more cowbell)

Arctic Monkeys – I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor

Radiohead – Exit Music (For a Film)

Garbage – #1 Crush

Lou Reed – Romeo Had Juliette

Pointer Sisters – Fire  (had to look that one up, but it’s there)

Michael Penn – No Myth

Ratt – Round and Round

Peggy Lee – Fever

Semisonic – Singing in my Sleep

Butthole Surfers – Whatever

Tom Waits – Romeo is Bleeding

Taylor Swift – Love Story

Van Morrison – Domino

Emmylou Harris – Boy from Tupelo

Neil Sedaka – Calendar Girl

What Romeo and Juliet songs did I / they miss?

 

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First, Let’s Kill Tybalt

Without Tybalt, would there be a Romeo and Juliet?  My preferred interpretation of the “ancient grudge” is that it’s on its dying days, if not for Tybalt single-handedly keeping it alive.

  • The Prologue tells us, “from ancient grudge break to new mutiny.”  I’ve always taken this to mean that during the play we will see the grudge reignited.
  • Sure, the opening scene is a fight between Montagues and Capulets, but it’s also a comedy scene, isn’t it?  None of the four (I just realized, Balthazar is in that scene but doesn’t appear to have any lines?) comes off as a genius.  It’s all talk, and doesn’t turn into a fight until, you guessed it, Tybalt shows up.  Tybalt’s not there, maybe they exchange some heated words and go on their way.
  • Also worth pointing out here is that not only is the Montague (Benvolio) trying to stop the fight, he tries to reason with Tybalt to do the same. He doesn’t just attack Tybalt.
  • Enter the heads of both families – both men wielding (or calling for) their swords, but both women holding them back and talking to them like they’re idiots for even thinking about it.  Nobody assumes that either Lord Capulet or Lord Montague is going to join the fray, it’s just posturing to not show weakness in front of the other.
  • So, maybe without Tybalt escalating this one, we don’t need the Prince to lay down the law because they’ve thrice disturbed the peace.  Who knows, maybe it was Tybalt instigating it every time?  The Prince wants to speak with Capulet first, so maybe he’s planning to say “Dude, what are you going to do about Tybalt? He’s the trouble maker here.”
  • Next time we see Lord Capulet:  “’tis not hard, I think, for men so old as we to keep the peace.”
  • Then there’s the masquerade ball.  Who calls out Romeo?  Tybalt.  Lord Capulet doesn’t care, and even yells at Tybalt for ruining the party.  Imagine if Gregory or Sampson from the first scene was the one to bust Romeo.  Lord Capulet says don’t worry about it, they say fine, they don’t worry about it.  But because it’s Tybalt, we get what reminds me of the scene from Karate Kid II where the constipated uncle learns his lesson but the hot-headed nephew can’t get over losing his honor.  “NOW……TO YOU……I AM DEAD!
  • Of course we know what comes next. Tybalt comes seeking Romeo to avenge the stain on his honor, and whether Mercutio drew first or not, the body count climbs and the rest is history.  Very different from the Karate Kid II ending.

So, what’s your position on the grudge?  If there was no Tybalt, would the story still play out the same?  Somebody else would simply step into his shoes and, like any other sci-fi time travel story, whatever was destined to happen will still manage to happen?  Or is the story really all about Tybalt?

 

 

 

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Reddit’s Favorite Shakespeare

Hello /r/Shakespeare!Anybody that knows me knows that when I see a post titled 1000 Most Mentioned Books on Reddit (or, really, anywhere), the first thing I’m going to do is search it to see where Shakespeare shows up.  Any guesses?

I’d love to say more about who made the list and why and how, but there doesn’t seem much to go on. The post, on Medium, was made by BookAdvice.  Have to look more into that, see what other cool lists they have.  All we know about the methodology is, from the summary, “Sorted based on the number of upvotes and the number of different users linking to them in post and comments.”  I suppose that’s got a certain chronological bias — a book that came out last year couldn’t possibly compete with those that have been around since before Reddit.  But it does say “most mentioned” and not “best” or “most loved” or anything like that, so I suppose it’s accurate to say that a book that has existed for ten years will typically be mentioned more than a book that’s only existed for one.

Much of the list is highly predictable, if you know anything about Reddit.  Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Hitchhikers’ Guide To The Galaxy all rank in the top ten.  I’m pleasantly surprised to see To Kill A Mockingbird in there, and The Count of Monte Cristo (though not so pleasantly Catcher in the Rye.  Really, reddit?)  Thrilled to see J.K. Rowling’s name not appear until well after the 250 mark.  Not that her work is bad, just that I’m tired of seeing such brand new books always top the lists of “all time classics”.

Ok, you want the data?  Drum roll, please. Presented in reverse order, from least to most mentioned, we have …

905. The Taming of the Shrew

754. The Tempest

674. Merchant of Venice

625. King Lear

578. Much Ado About Nothing

568. Othello

371. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (*)

295. Macbeth

237. Romeo and Juliet

and the most mentioned work of William Shakespeare on Reddit is……

144. Hamlet

What do we think, any surprises?  Surely not the great tragedies, I think those became self-fulfilling long long ago.  Is Romeo and Juliet popular because it’s so good, or is it considered so good because it’s popular?  Little surprised about Othello, that one doesn’t usually get much love, and I’m kind of wondering if they took the time to rule out references to the board game.

When I first made this list, searching for the word “Shakespeare”, I was surprised to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream not make the list.  I had to go back and double check.  It’s because they’ve got it listed by, and I’m not kidding, SparkNotes.  I wondered if there were many on the list marked this way, but it turns out that’s the only one.  Glad I checked, I almost missed it!

Anything you think should be on the list that’s not there?  Hey, wait … where’s Twelfth Night?

 

 

 

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Review : Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

What about Romeo and Juliet?
Shallow, confused, then dead.

Eleanor and Park : Romeo and Juliet?I honestly thought that Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell as a new release, after seeing it on some random “must read this summer” list.  It had some sort of Romeo and Juliet connection, so I thought, “I’m in.  Maybe it’ll be something my kids will like.”  Turns out it’s published in 2013 so I’m late to the party.

The first line of the book is, “He’d stopped trying to bring her back.”

Interesting!  I immediately wondered whether the book was taking a page from Romeo and Juliet and giving us ye olde “star-crossed lovers take their life” right there in the prologue.  So I was hooked for the rest of the story thinking, “When’s it all gonna go down?”  The boy (Park) is still narrating so I guess he doesn’t die, but then again, no one says that we’re starting at the very end.  This could be the middle.  He could be telling us the equivalent of standing in front of her tomb holding his own poison.

Eleanor and Park does have some Romeo and Juliet in it.  On the surface, it’s just the standard “boy and girl decide they like each other to the backdrop of high school English class,” where of course they’re studying Romeo and Juliet. This gives us a chance to learn about the modern teenager’s interpretation of love at first sight:

 

‘I just don’t think it’s a tragedy.’ She rolled her eyes again. She knew Mr Stessman’s game by now. ‘But he’s so obviously making fun of them. Romeo and Juliet are just two rich kids who’ve always gotten every little thing they wanted. And now, they think they want each other.’

‘They’re in love …’ Mr Stessman said, clutching his heart.

‘They don’t even know each other,’ she said.

‘It was love at first sight.’

‘It was “Oh my God, he’s so cute” at first sight. If Shakespeare wanted you to believe they were in love, he wouldn’t tell you in almost the very first scene that Romeo was hung up on Rosaline … It’s Shakespeare making fun of love,’ she said.

The rest of the book, of course, is two teenagers from different worlds (he from the nice happy family, she from the broken home with the abusive step father) who fall head over heels in love and can’t bear to live life without each other.

I still can’t figure out if it’s supposed to be a Romeo and Juliet story or I’m just looking for parallels.  It’s got some weird gender flippy things going on, with the weird girl who likes to dress in boys’ clothes and the longer boy who discovers he really likes how he looks in makeup.  I thought that would be cool to run with.  But the girl’s still got violent family members and her boyfriend couldn’t be caught dead at her house, so I guess she’s still playing the Capulet role. She’s welcome at his house, though, which was the motivation for my earlier post “Dinner At The Montagues.”

Without the Shakespeare? I suppose it’s good, but maybe it’s too far removed from my world to fully appreciate.  I get what it’s like to be young and in love, I’m not that old.  The author does a great job of painting that slow, slow crawl from “Oh god I hate you” to “I hope that girl I hate sits next to me again” to “Maybe today I’ll tell her I liked what she said in English class” to “I should ask her about those song lyrics written on her book cover…” until one day you’re deciding whether or not you’re boyfriend and girlfriend and should you tell anybody? Eleanor and Park ride that entire rollercoaster right before our eyes.

I was expecting a Bridge to Terabithia twist through the whole thing. I thought I knew where it was going.  I was mistaken.  I think I would have liked my ending better.

 

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