Category Archives: Romeo and Juliet in Verona

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet in Verona

"Juliet's balcony" at the Casa di Giulietta. The house was built in 1835, but that doesn't stop the tourists coming.

“Juliet’s balcony” at the Casa di Giulietta. The house was built in 1835, but that doesn’t stop the tourists coming.

“There is no world without Verona walls!”

Verona is, of course, the setting for one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, Romeo and Juliet. I studied it at school for O level (the exam you took when you were 16) so know it quite well. It is an astounding, universal play. A great love story, naturally, but besides this it’s also about human conflict, the clash between the generations and much more. No wonder it has been produced in any number of modern settings ranging from Northern Ireland to the Middle East. There is a “Romeo and Juliet” bridge in Sarajevo, where a couple were killed in 1993 trying to flee the besieged city so they could be together. (He was Serb, she was Muslim). I don’t know how many times I’ve watched news reports of the Middle East situation or various conflicts around the world and been reminded of Mercutio’s dying words: “A plague on both your houses. They’ve made mincemeat of me.”

"Juliet's balcony" from above.

“Juliet’s balcony” from above.

"Juliet's balcony"

“Juliet’s balcony”

If you don’t have a chance to see a production on stage before you go to Verona, it’s worth watching Franco Zeffirelli’s excellent 1968 film of the play, with its haunting music by Nino Roca (who also wrote the score for the Godfather). Watch the fight scene in the market place at the beginning, and notice the woman with the baby screaming and trying to get out of the way. That could be Syria in 2014. Zeffirelli uses the advantages of cinema to great effect. So we see Friar Lawrence’s messenger, an old monk on a donkey, plodding along on his way to Mantova to tell Romeo that Juliet isn’t really dead. Romeo has already heard the news of the supposed death of Juliet and is rushing back to Verona on his horse. We see him storm past the messenger without realising. My mother taught English literature and showed this film to her students, some of whom used to shout “stop!” at this point. It’s that dramatic. Continue reading