Juliet at Lammas Eve

 

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My name is Juliet and I was born to the House of Capulet in fair Verona where my story begins.  My birth was on Lammas eve in the night, or so says my wet Nurse, and she ought to  know, having suckled me from her own teats, changed my dirt rags and weaned me with wormwood before my second name day.

The good Master Shakespeare would have you believe I stabbed myself to death for love, unable to live without the lad Romeo after he had foolishly swallowed a measure of poison. Suicide?  Me?  Well now.  If that were true I would not live to spin this tale, would I?

Come closer.  Sit by my side and I will tell you what really happened.

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It was my wet Nurse that cared for me most, for in those days aristocratic women were lack to give attention to their children, save for our wedding prospects and the marriage mules we eventually became. My true mother, the Lady Capulet, had none of me.

“Juliet,” my Nurse told me. “You were born under the star of Leo, on the thirty first day of July, the eve of Lammas or Lughnasadh as I call it.   Because of this your heart will be overwhelmed with love, for Leo the lion knows no boundaries.”

This was my blessing and also my curse.   For better or worse my affections were boundless. Deep as the sea. The more love I gave the more I had for me.  This is the one truth I have always known: love is infinite.

And so it was I fell madly and deeply in love with young Romeo of House Montague.

I had been raised as an aristocrat and it was understood that I be wed before my sixteenth name day. There was a fine man that bid my hand, name of Count Paris. A good enough match this would have been, but when I saw the young Romeo at my father’s masque I was completely smitten. It was as if Cupid’s very arrow had struck my back, never to be released.

 

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Romeo and his cousins had attended my father’s ball in false pretense, for everyone knew a Montague had no business delving in the affairs of Capulet!  Our families were arch enemies. Our feud, however, was so ancient none could remember whence it started, nor what it was even about.  And so when I fell in love with young Montague I could see no reason why we should not be wed.

Romeo had his surname and I had mine.  Montague and Capulet. What of it?  What’s in a name?  A rose, were it called by any other name — say ‘lily’ or ‘weed’ or even ‘shit’ —  would still, of its very essence, smell as sweet.   There was nothing to a name, and none could convince me otherwise!

It was the good Friar Laurence, a well meaning (but somewhat vacant headed) man of the cloth who agreed to wed us in secret. We had a proper ceremony in a proper church, with only my Nurse as a witness.

 

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Alas, after our wedding the real troubles began.

Street brawling was forbidden in Verona. Yet a fray could easily start with a malicious word, a wayward glance, even a biting of the thumb!   Anything at all could bring out the temper in  dramatic  rival foes such as our families were.  So often I had begged the men not carry blades in the street!  But  what was I? A mere female, a fluffy thing of ornament. My requests were dismissed, quickly as the sun sinks a horizon or the wind whistles a breeze.  Yet all who lived would regret this!

 

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It was my cousin Tybalt who acted first, slaying Romeo’s friend Mercutio,  who fell to the ground shouting “Worm’s meat! They have made worm’s meat of me!”    With his quick temper Romeo then chased Tybalt, pursuing him to the top of a cobbled road, finally stabbing him straight in the heart.  Tybalt was instantly dead.  Our Prince Escalus, keeper of the peace, was enraged.  Escalus then banished Romeo from Verona, the act of murder  unforgivable.

The benevolent Friar Laurence and my Nurse, in their mercy, arranged that Romeo and I could spend one night together in my chamber before his banishment. For that I have always been grateful.  My maidenhead was hitherto untouched and our act was one of purity.  Lust unfolded, slowly and delicately, flesh touching beneath those bed sheets, later marred by my own blood and the reek of his salt and sex.

With much grief I let him go as the sun rose and the morning lark sang.  If it were not for the strict orders of Escalus, I would never have released my dear Romeo from the passion of our bed chamber.

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My father, in his sadness and panic (and knowing nothing of my marriage to Romeo)  then insisted  I marry the Count Paris immediately. With Tybalt slain I was now the sole heir of Capulet blood, and my father wanted I bear children in haste.  Naturally I refused.  “If you’ll not marry the Count Paris,” my father bellowed, “you shall go to a nunnery! Or live in the streets. Die, starve, I care not what happens to you!”

All of this, mind you, occurred before my fourteenth name day at Lammas eve.

Friar Laurence then came to my aid. Or so he thought. His plan was a silly one at best. Listen close, for this twist in the tale will surely cause you amusement: The Friar bid I take a potion that would make me appear dead!  He said I would lie comatose, without breath for three days.  My family, thinking me no longer quick, would bury me above ground in Capulet’s tomb. After those three days, the potion would wear off and I would rise again,  like Christ himself.  During this time, Romeo would be informed of all and he would ride back to Verona to claim me.

When my Nurse heard this preposterous idea, she would have none. “A fake death?” she scoffed.  “The Friar!  Though he fancies himself a worker of dark arts, he is naught but an amateur.  Juliet my child, you will leave this to me,” she said, her cool eyes deep in thought. “I have a much better plan, one that will serve us well.”

 

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My Nurse then told me of the doppelganger.  This being a double spirit that takes on human countenance.  The doppelganger would look like myself, act as myself, seem in every way to indeed BE myself.  But I, the real Juliet, would be elsewhere.

It was my Nurse who gave me the true potion, a noxious mixture of tansy, vervain and mugwort, with frog sperm and another secret ingredient she refused to reveal.  Upon drinking the potion I could feel my body split, like two halves of a walnut shell.  Then, standing  before me was my double Juliet, a picture of myself in every way; the same hair, the same wide eyes, the same birthmark upon my shoulder. Myself but NOT myself!  Had I not seen this with my own eyes I’d not have believed it.

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The doppelganger was obedient. She could  do only as she was told, for that was part of the Nurse’s spell.  This worked out well, for my father adored the docile new Juliet who would adhere to his will.  This Juliet could easily forget the Romeo she had never known, swallow the Friar’s death potion without a blink, even be buried alive in Capulet’s tomb.

As for the real me, I was sick. Devastated.  I wanted my Romeo back and I knew not the outcome of all this.

“Your situation here is hopeless,” the Nurse told me. She peered in a stone of crystal and continued.  “The Friar has sent a messenger to Romeo in Mantua but I assure you, he will not arrive in time.” The Nurse put down the crystal and grabbed my hands. “Juliet, hear me! Your Romeo will never get this message. He will die of grief , and at his own hand.  Yet you can still save yourself!  We will journey to Venice.”

The Nurse’s prophecy came true. Romeo was told only of my so-called death. So distraught was he that he purchased a poison from an unscrupulous apothecary in Mantua.  He then rushed back to Verona. Upon seeing the doppelganger in Capulet’s tomb and thinking it was me, he hastened to imbibe the poison, and so, killing himself.

It was the doppelganger who awakened and, seeing Romeo dead, in turn stabbed herself with his sword.  Her purpose, I must admit, served well; it brought an end to the feud between Capulet and Montague.  Our parents agreed to have us buried side by side, forever ending the silly war that had caused so much grief to all.

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As for myself, I stayed on in Venice with my Nurse. She taught me all her tricks of prophecy and potion. Together we created a thriving business.  Oh! The price men would  pay for a doppelganger, one that allowed them to be in two places at one time! The price men would pay for a prophecy, as we scryed our crystals, predicting the future with accuracy.  Soon my Nurse and I acquired a fortune much bigger than all of Capulet and Montague put together.

My one night with Romeo had left me with child. A boy whom my Nurse delivered, though I suckled him myself, changed his dirt rags and vowed never to partake in the cold ways of  my mother, Lady Capulet. My boy grew strong, and I vowed also to teach him of prophecy and potion, just as my Nurse had taught me.

 

Through all of this I still missed Romeo terribly. Then on one rare, rainy day  as we not often had in Venice, there appeared at my door a stranger dressed in  a hooded cloak and robes.

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I thought at first it was the Friar, come to beg my forgiveness. But no. The stranger moved closer and whispered in my ear, “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?” There was no light on this gray day, but I’d know the voice anywhere. With haste I removed his hood.

“It is the east,” I answered boldly. “And Romeo is the sun!” With that I fell into his arms. My own dear Romeo! But how so?

Unbeknownst to me, the good Nurse had given Romeo a doppelganger of his own!  It was that who drank the poison from Mantua, that who now lie in the coffin with my double.  When enough time had passed so none be suspicious my Nurse arranged this reunion.

I was shocked in joy and ecstasy.  I could not be angry with my Nurse, for her plan had worked only to my benefit.  My love, as ever, was boundless as the sea.  The more I gave of it, the more I had for me.

Ah Master Shakespeare!  If only he’d known the truth. Then mayhap he could have written a tale worth reading!  For you see, I was never the star-crossed lover who took her own life. Oh no.  I am Juliet, with Romeo and our son by my side, with potions and prophecies, my great Venetian mansion and enough gold to last  a lifetime!  I am  Juliet —  who in time and with experience became known as none other than the true Merchant of Venice.

 

Romeo and Juliet

 

 

 

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Queen Bess Commands the Wind

 

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Could Queen Elizabeth I, who was in many ways a force of nature herself, actually command the elements?

Here is a scene from one of my favorite movies Elizabeth: The Golden Age.  Queen Bess confronts her ambassadors about impending war with Spain. As it turned out, Bess did command the wind — she had the last laugh when fierce hurricane-like gusts actually overtook the Spanish Armada, bringing victory to England.

Was Bess a witch?  You decide 🙂

 

 

This post is in response to the Daily Prompt Wind

Quote Challenge: Day 3

 

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For the third day of my Quote Challenge I have chosen these words from the Bard. The metaphysical nature of this quote is very, VERY deep.  It is one that changed my life.

The line is taken from Hamlet. Prince Hamlet, in deep depression and much mental anxiety, describes his native country of Denmark as a ‘prison’. His friends, college buddies Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, disagree. Hamlet then replies:

“Why, then ’tis none to you; for there is nothing either good
or bad but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.”

Of course, Prince Hamlet has good reason to see his country as a prison. Hamlet’s uncle  Claudius has recently murdered Hamlet’s father, taking over the crown  (which should rightfully belong to Hamlet.)  His mother Queen Gertrude  has married Uncle Claudius in what was then considered an incestuous relationship. Talk about injustice! Oedipus complex! Fratricide, regicide and Hamlet being tormented by the ghost of his father…

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No wonder the poor guy is half insane, depressed and contemplating suicide. (The famous soliloquy “To be or not to be” quickly follows.)

But back to the quote. One man’s trash is another’s treasure; the glass is either half empty of half full.  However, true wisdom comes in recognizing that there is innately nothing good nor bad in anything, but what we BELIEVE about it makes it so.

If, for example, I have a peanut allergy, then I better not eat peanuts. Unless I want to swell up, break out in hives and possibly die.   But if I am a vegan, peanuts might be my life blood. Unless I want a  protein deficiency and the myriad of diseases that go with it.  I would actually take this idea one step further and say the peanut allergy ITSELF is a result of fear based thinking. The adherence to vegan principle ITSELF is  also a result of fear based thinking. “The thinking makes it so.”

We live in a dichotomy (not to mention a propaganda machine)  that teaches us to believe in the well defined nature of GOOD and BAD.  For example —  Life GOOD: Death BAD.  Justice GOOD:  Crime BAD.

Fair enough.

However, death might be good for one who is suffering a disease, or better still, one who recognizes that in the bigger metaphysical picture, there actually IS no death. Regarding crime and justice, who defines it?  A lot of stupid laws have been written and a lot of innocent people have been wrongly punished. Conversely, a lot of criminals with great lawyers have committed heinous crimes and gone free.

Take politics. (I realize this is a dangerous limb, and  the views expressed are NOT my own.) But let’s just say.  Guns GOOD: Enemy BAD.  Fetus GOOD: Abortion BAD.

Fair enough?

But what if a gun gets into the hand of a child who accidentally shoots himself?  Abortion might be a good choice for one who knows she cannot adequately support a child in the current economic system. (Or better still, one who recognizes that in the bigger metaphysical picture, there actually IS no death.)

However, if you are not going to be able to sleep at night without a gun beneath your pillow, then by all means, keep a gun!  If having an abortion will cause you emotional anguish for the rest of your life, then by all means, have the baby!  Even the Bible itself quotes Jesus as saying ‘Judge not lest ye be judged.’ Because, the TRUTH is:

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

 

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Tripping the Green Fairy

 

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To the audience who watched us upon the stage we must have appeared carefree, smiles of red wax plastered to our faces, legs high in can-can kicks. We moved in synchronicity like mechanical scissors while the orchestra led a bombastic dance.  The men clapped and cheered, often losing their oculars as we stretched our thighs. exposing loins beneath fish netted garters.  Our breasts jiggled like soft melons. The Moulin Rouge was a playground. But not for me. Oh no!  I was no better than a trained pony, a paid concubine who did all but the prurient deed itself in my tiered skirt and high heels.

Monsieur Toulouse attended the cabaret nightly, perched at his table side stage, top hat askew.  He was, apparently, a very important person for he received not only the best seat in the house, but the best of service. It was later that I found out he had been commissioned to design a series of posters.  He sketched constantly, ever bent over his charcoals and parchment, stopping only to sip his absinthe which was brought to him in jar sized glasses with regular replenishing.  Monsieur Toulouse carried a cane and — strange as this may sound —  he sipped from the cane as well.  Later I was to discover he had hollowed  out the middle and filled it with absinthe also, so as to never be without the beverage.

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Monsieur Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec ingested liquor as if it were the very air he breathed. Yet for some inexplicable reason he never appeared intoxicated.

As for his commissioned posters, he took no interest in them. It was portraiture that  he considered his true art.  And so it was one rainy evening that Monsieur Toulouse approached me on Montmartre and asked if I would  consider posing for him.  I  did not like the idea. Toulouse was a spooky, peculiar little character. It disturbed me to even speak to him.  I refused but he persisted, approaching me every night until finally out of sheer exhaustion I agreed.

I followed him to his chambers which  served as an art studio.  Large water color drawings and half finished canvases filled the room, which reeked of oil and turpentine.

Toulouse asked me to disrobe. This was not offensive to me as I knew he often painted nudes. Can-can dancing had made me free with my body and I had no qualms nor embarrassment as I removed my garments.

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Toulouse, however insisted that I must have something to calm me and offered his liquor.  This was ridiculous and I told him so. “Brigitte!  Mon cher!  I insist,” he said, handing me a flute of green absinthe.  It looked so pretty, shining with an odd, preternatural glow. I  became quite mesmerized with the sight of it and I could not refuse.  Upon the first sip it was so delicious that I quickly finished it off.

After drinking the liquor I immediately felt lightheaded and dizzy. Silently I cursed myself for accepting this peculiar man’s peculiar hospitality. I knew well the dealings of his sort!  He was known to frequent the street girls , dirty and syphilis ridden. I was much better than that, certainly! If he planned on procuring any service from me, he’d pay for it,  and he’d pay handsomely,whether he drugged me or not.

It was then that the dizziness subsided and there appeared in the room an entity. She was female with green skin that glittered like the dewdrops at dawn and chartreuse hair that sprouted from her head in tendrils. “Coletta!” Toulouse greeted her, as if this were the most ordinary of circumstances.

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I’d have thought this was a hallucination, but I pinched myself to make sure I was awake, then realized if I’d had the wherewithal to pinch myself, how inebriated could I be?   The woman he called Coletta pulled  a vile from her pocket. She shook it, unscrewed the top and poured to her hand what appeared to be glittering grains of sand. She sprinkled them upon me. My eyes and head burned in fever. The room appeared blurry but I saw Toulouse throw away his cane. He commenced to dance with the green woman, both of them waltzing around the room as some orchestra played through the open windows.  They then tumbled to the bed, pawing one another and laughing the laugh of the insane. The ringing of their voices was the last thing I heard. The two immersed in bed sheets like white waves of an ocean was the last thing I remembered seeing.

When I awoke I was on the stage of the Moulin Rouge. I snapped myself alert, for I was now dancing the can-can in line with the others!  My skirts were green. I kicked my legs higher than I remembered ever kicking them. I looked for Monsieur Toulouse  but he was not seated at his usual table.

During my break I asked the manager what had become of Toulouse. “Monsieur Henri?”  He arched his eyebrow as though I had uttered some obscenity. “Why, he passed away last week!  You stood graveside at his very funeral!  Brigitte, are you quite well?” He looked at me, narrowing his eyes as though I were some strange creature. “You do not look  like yourself.”  He advised I take the rest of the night off. That, of course, was ridiculous!  I had never felt better in my life and I told him so!

Later that night, my body craved absinthe and I ordered a carafe from the Maitre d’.  Upon drinking it I felt my legs go weak and rubbery. The skin on my hand turned a shade of  dark emerald, the exact color of the liquid.  My hair sprouted in tendrils that fell down my back. It was then I heard the voice of Coletta. “My duties here at Moulin Rouge  are done Brigitte,” she said. “You will now carry on and you will be quite good at it.”

I was confused. “But what are my duties?” I asked.  Coletta smiled. “Only to assist our good clientele in the tripping of the green fairy,” she answered. “You are adaptable. You shall soon master this talent.”  She curtsied and then vanished into a stream of green glitter.

Coletta was right. I adapted well to my new duties which sometimes involved life and sometimes involved death.  I never danced the can-can again.  I never felt more carefree.

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This post was inspired by the Daily Prompt Carefree

 

 

Quote Challenge – Day 1

 

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I would like to thank Married With a View  for nominating me for this challenge. I love quotes and I think this will be a lot of fun 🙂

Rules for the Quote Challenge:

Thank the person who nominated you.
Post 1-3 quotes a day for 3 consecutive days.
Nominate 3 bloggers to do the same. 

My quote for Day 1 is:

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I am a huge fan of the Bard and I have always loved this quote. The line is from Hamlet. It is spoken by  the character Polonius as advice he gives to he son Laetres just before Laetres leaves for France.  (Actually, Polonius is a bit of a wind bag — taken completely in context the speech was possibly meant to be more annoying than profound. Plus Polonius has some dirty dealings of his own, like sending a spy to France to keep an eye on Laetres…)   But no matter. They are still great words and they fit well into the sound byte world of today!

“To thine own self be true.”  It means do what is right for YOU regardless of what others think.  Be yourself.  Your cup of tea is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea and that is fine. That is actually necessary. Imagine what a boring world it would be if everyone were homogenized.

“And it must follow, as the night the day; thou canst not then be false to any man.”  If you are true to yourself, it will follow that you are honest and authentic with others.  People will be able to trust who you are. This has something to do with directness.  People who are authentic then  give others permission to be themselves as well.

Words of wisdom from Mr. Shakespeare, the master, Bard, swan of Avon,  playwright pontificate and keeper of all keys 🙂

For my 3 bloggers I will nominate:

Mad as a Hatter

Sinister Dark Soul

Harmony Autumn Wood

 

Rhetorics and Politics

 

 

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That’s a bit out of your depth, don’t you think? 

Ever hear that voice? The one that says  Oh  no.  Not you.                                                                      Not good enough not smart enough                                                                                                      who the hell                                                                                                                                                    do you think you are                                                                                                                                  that YOU                                                                                      

 should be allowed to do THAT

 

They will tell you all kinds of things. Philosophy, theosophy                                                       Nietzsche and Sartre                                                                                                                                    Kant and Descartes.                                                                                                                                   Rousseau and Plato.                                                                                                                                   constitution institution politics and rhetorics

But in the end

They are nothing

but a pack of cards.

 

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This post is in response to the Daily Prompt Depth