Tragic lovers, they’ve been on my mind lately. I re-read William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as research for a short story I wrote called “Howlin’ at the Moon Kind of Love”.
The master playwright just couldn’t leave it at true love found. Oh, no, he had to go and make it all fateful by including a double suicide. (His play was inspired by stories written by 16th century Italian authors.)
But, Melissa, you say, the story is a tragedy. The characters are supposed to die.
Ever since its creation circa 1597, the play’s DNA has been passed down through most boy-meets-girl love stories. To satisfy the 21st century reader’s tastes, the true love gene has been modified to block out the play’s unbearable ending. After all, if the hero is dead, it’s kind of hard to imagine the character stumbling into another adventure after turning the last page.
Author Anne Fortier manages to satisfy both the literary elite and the common reader in her book Juliet (published 2010). She creates a story true to the original format of tragedy and woe and a companion happily-ever-after tale. Similar to Lauren Willig’s The Pink Carnation series, Ms. Fortier’s novel uses a double narrative format with chapters alternating between present day and 14th century Italy.
In chapter one we meet young Juliet Jacobs who directs summer plays for pre-teen thespians. When Juliet is called home to Virginia to bury her dearest great-auntie Rose, she is presented with a mysterious letter informing her that her real name is Giulietta Tolomei and her future awaits her in Siena, Italy. Off she goes in search of fortune and, perhaps, true love.
Like her main character, Juliet, Ms. Fortier has a devoted love for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. At times, her prose feels as if the Bard himself directed her fingers as they must have flown across the computer’s keyboard.
If you’re looking for a modern love story with a classical pedigree, Juliet is the stuff. To heighten the experience, humor your inner geek and read the play as a companion to Ms. Fortier’s delightful novel.