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Tag: romeo and juliet

What’s In a (Book) Name?

It was Wild Bill Shakespeare himself who once penned the words “What’s in a name. That which we call a rose/By any other name should smell as sweet.” The words are spoken by one of the Bard’s more famous female characters, Juliet of House Capulet. She’s telling the hours-old love of her life that she doesn’t care that his last name of Montague brands him an enemy of her house. Whatever his name was, she would love him anyways.

image via Flickr User Leeds Museums and Galleries
CC v. 2.0 image via Flickr User Leeds Museums and Galleries

Once you’re able to part the curtain of deep sighs and introspective smiles at this grand romantic gesture, however, you find that you can’t count on Juliet’s statement as book recommendation advice. And really, shouldn’t that be what’s most important here? I mean, that play would be even better if it was about Juliet recommending books to Romeo rather than “falling in love” in the course of three days and faking her own death and being dumb and…and…and…

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New Takes on Star-Crossed Love

…these hot days is the mad blood stirring…

These words from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet have always made me think that Romeo and Juliet’s frenzied, wildly hopeful, passionate, and fateful/fatal love affair would have been a different story if it was set in a cold climate. Not that there isn’t probably a wintery version of the story out there. Romeo and Juliet has captivated audiences for centuries with its universal themes of forbidden love, loyalty, and family pride.

The book adaptation of West Side Story is consistently on the summer reading list in my library’s community, which may be another reason I’ve been thinking of the theme of star-crossed love in literature and the way this eternal story has been used to reflect current culture. West Side Story tells the story through the clash between the Puerto Rican Sharks and the Polish-American Jets in 1950s New York city. Fifty years later, new adaptations present thoughtful, challenging, and very current twists on the classic theme.

Farizan_IYCBM_300dpiIn If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan (available August 2013), Sahar is a teenager living in Iran, dedicated to her widowed father, her studies and hopes for entry to medical school, and her best friend Nasrin, with whom she has been in love since she was six years old. But in Iran, their love is illegal. If it were discovered they could be imprisoned or even executed. The stakes are raised when Nasrin’s family announces her engagement to Reza, a handsome doctor who seems like a brilliant match for their daughter. Sahar is broken-hearted, and it is the tenacity of her love that both leads to the central contradiction of the story and gives its universal appeal, because Sahar learns that while homosexuality is illegal in Iran, gender re-assignment surgery is not only legal, but even funded by the government. To be a man trapped in a woman’s body is viewed as nature’s mistake. To love Nasrim openly, would Sahar sacrifice who she is?

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From Classic to Contemporary: Romeo and Juliet to Warm Bodies

Classics — whether they are novels, plays, or epics — offer us great characters, interesting plots, and lots of things for discussion … but sometimes they can be a little tough to tackle. Sometimes we adore them, but sometimes we can’t get past page 3, let alone the requisite 50. That doesn’t mean that we should give up what they have to offer, though, does it? Many of today’s authors try to use these classic works as a starting-off point to write a more modern version. If done well, these contemporary versions can have a huge impact and impart the same wisdom that made the earlier story gain its classic status. Jessica Miller and I decided to find and examine some great pairs of classics and their contemporary rewrites to see if they are successful … or maybe not.

The Classic:  William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

romeo and juliet folger shakespeare library coverBy the time you’re in high school, you’ve probably been overexposed to this story and all the literary analysis that goes with it. You’ve seen both the Franco Zeffirelli film from 1968 and the Baz Luhrmann one starring a much younger Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, and Paul Rudd. And there’s another version slated to be released later this year in the UK, adapted by Downton Abbey favorite Julian Fellowes. If for some reason, you’ve never read it — not even the Wishbone version — here’s the breakdown.*

There are two families in Verona, a town in Italy (where Shakespeare set most of his plays. There’s a lot of talk about how he stole a bunch of these stories from Italian stories, but we’ll save that for another day). These families, the Montagues and the Capulets, and all of their servants, friends, and allies, have been at each other’s throats for as long as anyone can remember. When we enter the story, the violence between the youths of the families has escalated to the point where the Prince of the city has had to intervene.

Meanwhile, some of the Montague cousins (and family friend Mercutio) have discovered that the Capulets are having a party and decide to crash. They implore Romeo, the son of the Montague patriarch, to join them. He’s lovesick over some girl named Rosaline — whom we never see — and reluctantly decides to go. There, he sees and immediately falls for Juliet, who, it turns out, is the daughter of the Capulet patriarch. Much drama ensues, confusion prevails, and what everyone in 1597 thought was going to end up like a comedy (well, what they thought if they weren’t listening to the prologue) ends in tragedy and death.

The Contemporary: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

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