"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;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents' strife..."
The Italian city of Verona is plagued with violence in the streets. The Capulets and the Montagues, two powerful and wealthy houses, have let their rivalry erupt into all-out war. Yet when young Montague heir Romeo sneaks into a Capulet celebration to disrupt it from within, he meets the Capulets' daughter Juliet. The two begin their love affair, doomed from the start, but beautiful enough to transcend fate.
Adults looking for a dramatically abridged version of Shakespeare's tragic love story with some lovely backdrops of Verona may find something to savor in Early's (Sleeping Beauty; William Tell) picture-book rendition. She gives a nod to several medieval fresco artists and to such Renaissance painters as Michelangelo and Botticelli, whose ornate patterns and borders may well be the inspiration for her paintings. A sharp attention to detail-- including the exquisite geometric designs of palace floors, elaborate period dress, authentic Verona streetscapes and the delicate strands of Juliet's golden tresses--distinguishes Early's art, but the lovers' faces are mask-like, and even the most dramatic of scenes appear to be static. Early's narrative paraphrases the action of this drama while showcasing some of the most legendary lines from the Bard's quill. But these clunky juxtapositions detract from Shakespeare's own words, as in this example: "Lord Capulet replied that Juliet was too young . Why not wait a little longer? `Let two more summers wither in their pride ere we may think her ripe to be a bride,' he entreated." Children will be better off waiting for the original--and adults better off returning to it. All ages.