Wednesday 8th June 2016

Welcome to my Wednesday international writings' blog. Today I'm delighted to welcome the wonderful Sue Barnard, editor and writer extraordinaire. She has that magic touch which can transform Shakespeare's Verona to today's world.

Here's a scene from Romeo and Juliet, followed by Sue's take on it.

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-crossed lovers take their life,

Whose misadventured piteous overthrows

Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife…

So begins William Shakespeare’s tragic tale of Romeo and Juliet, the story for which the city of Verona is justly famous.  In fact, more than one-third of Shakespeare’s plays are set wholly or partly in Italy, but Verona has definitely made the most of the association.  Fans of Romeo & Juliet can now visit several sites in the city which claim to have links with this timeless and iconic love story.

The best-known and most popular of these is the Casa di Guilietta (Juliet’s house), situated in a small courtyard just off the Via Cappello.  The attraction is a twentieth-century invention, but the three-storey period house is tastefully and sensitively furnished, and includes some of the costumes and furniture which were used in Franco Zeffirelli’s wonderful 1968 film.  The courtyard, which is free to enter, is home to a bronze statue of Juliet (no doubt a reference to Lord Montague’s promise to “raise her statue in pure gold”), and is overlooked by a small balcony which is accessible from inside the house.

A couple of blocks away, on Via Arche Scaligere, is the Casa dei Montecchi (Romeo’s House).  This impressive-looking fifteenth-century building is believed to have been the original home of the family who became the Montagues in Shakespeare’s play.  It is now a restaurant.

The other main attraction is the Tomba di Giulietta (Juliet’s tomb) – a fine red marble sarcophagus which can be found in the medieval cloister of a former Capuchin monastery.  This is the scene where, in the original play, Friar Lawrence’s plan to reunite the lovers goes so horribly wrong.  In my version of the story, however, events take a slightly different turn…

But Verona isn’t just about Romeo & Juliet; visitors who can tear themselves away from the story of the star-crossed lovers will find lots of other things to entertain them.  The amazing Roman Arena, which flanks one side of the Piazza Brà, is now home to the annual Verona Opera Festival.  Other attractions include the Giardino Giusti  gardens, the Roman Theatre, the historic Castelvecchio, and an awesome array of fascinating churches.  One of my favourites is San Zeno Maggiore - a spectacular medieval basilica boasting some amazing frescos of the Last Supper, at which the Disciples appear to be eating roast scorpions washed down with pints of Guinness.

My personal favourite place in Verona is the discreet spot where tasteful homage is paid to the English playwright who placed the city so firmly on the literary map.  In one corner of Piazza Brà, adjacent to the large arched portal which marks the start of the road to Mantua, is a small bronze bust of Shakespeare himself.  Alongside, in English and Italian, are inscribed the words spoken by Romeo on receiving the news of his banishment from Verona:

             There is no world without Verona walls,

But purgatory, torture, hell itself,

Hence banishèd is banished from the world,

And world’s exile is death.

Although the other venues may be spurious, this one provides a genuine and tangible link to England’s greatest writer – and a sign that his works are truly appreciated in the city which provides the setting for one of his most famous and best-loved works.

So, Sue, what's the name of your novel about Romeo and Juliet?

Yes, I can recommend The Ghostly Father as a very good read, easily available on Amazon in both ebook and paperback formats.
Author of the award-nominated historical fantasy The Ghostly Father and the romantic intrigues Nice Girls Don't and The Unkindest Cut of All.

The Ghostly Father: Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, NookApple iBooks
Nice Girls Don’t: Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, NookApple iBooks

The Unkindest Cut of All: Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, NookApple iBooks


Thanks Sue for sharing a slice of Shakespeare and Verona with us.

1 comment:

Sue Barnard said...

Thank you for hosting me, Olga! :-)