Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whole misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
~Prologue of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
As a child we had an eight-track tape of the soundtrack of Franco Zefirelli's 1968 film Romeo and Juliet. It included most of the dialog from the movie, which is how my siblings and I came to be familiar with Shakespeare's most famous tragedy. At one point we saw the film, either on television or in the theater, and I recall it making Renaissance Italy come alive for me, with all the heat and dust and violence. Watching Zeffirelli's production as an adult, I am again awed by the perfection of every scene, the authenticity of the sets and costumes- it was filmed on location in Italy- and the skill of the actors who communicate with subtlety and power every nuance of emotion. It is impossible to say which scene is most beautiful; I suppose it is the banquet scene, with the dancing, the swirling gowns, the laughter, the torchlight, and the first fateful glance.
What is a youth?The theme song forms the background to the meeting of the lovers, whose passion seems to flare up out of their very innocence, and made all the more intense when the two discover that their parents are enemies. How glorious when Romeo runs in ecstasy through the morning light to Friar Lawrence's cell and herb garden. We are reminded how religion was such an integral part of life back then. (Herbs were a big part of life, too.) And then the wedding scene is among the most haunting of all film weddings. The pair kneel surrounded by a soft light, in an ancient church with a mosaic floor. (They did not have pews and kneelers, people just knelt on the floor.)
What is a maid?
Ice and desire.
A rose will bloom,
it then will fade
So does a youth.
So does the fairest maid.
The death scene I could see a thousand times and still cry. It is amazing how Shakespeare's lesson on the destructive force of hatred and vengeance have meaning, not only after the decades of my life, but after the many centuries since it was written. The impact of evil, any evil, clung to by parents will effect their children, no matter how much they try to protect them. Share