An Apple Books Classic edition.
Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy has inspired musicals, ballets, operas, and, of course, countless movies, including Italian director Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 classic and Australian director Baz Luhrmann’s stylish remake starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. The Bard’s play is so fundamental to our culture-and to the popular trope of star-crossed lovers-that we all feel like we know the story of Romeo and Juliet’s doomed love affair.
And yet, have you ever read the original? And if yes, perchance was it a long, long time ago? The beautiful lyricism of Shakespeare’s storytelling makes poring over his words such a complex treat:
What light in yonder window breaks?
Parting is such sweet sorrow.
O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
These are just a few of the play’s immortal lines. And it’s this masterful storytelling that makes the doomed lovers’ untimely deaths that much more poignant.
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.