The Montagues and Capulets
(A retelling of Romeo and Juliet where their families conspire for them to marry.)
The Montagues and Capulets,
In Fair Verona's streets,
Had thrice disturbed the peace,
And chastised by their angered Prince,
Had sworn their ancient enmities would cease.
In truth, new vows,
More moving than a lover's tryst,
Had passed their bitter, wrinkled lips,
When both their treasurers did quite insist
That these sudden bloody brawls,
Were bad for business.
But how to seal the pact,
They did not know,
Until their wives conspired
To wed sweet, hapless Juliet
To the oft-besotted Romeo.
A gathering of an hundred kin
Was soon prepared,
With peacocks, sweets and mandolins,
To introduce their heirs.
But brash Mercutio was the first to speak.
"Montague and Capulet,
"With this love you seek the peace,
"I, my prince and all Verona hope you cease
"Those arguments that last 'til dawn,
"That have disturbed our sleep for far too long."
"But ponder this,
"When your fine men have met
"Upon the midnight hour,
""Even just their swords have
"Made the night to shower
"With meteors bright.
"Think what other, heavenly light
"Might softly glow
"When you two meet as lovers
"Not as foes."
The crowd gasped at his eloquence,
In part, of course,
Because he spoke, as kinsman,
Of their noble prince.
"But one last word,
"From my cousin strong and clear,
"He sends apologies that some new cares
"Of state mean he comes not here."
"In his own words,
"Love must ever be a guest,
"Ushered in with open arms,
"Love's door cannot admit duress
"Or entertain false charms
"Conjured by an easy word.
"A lover's pleas must sound absurd
"Unless they strike a stirring chord,
"In the lover's lady's breast."
"And so, dear Romeo,
"Give this love your best,
"And if you pass the test,
"Warm days of sunshine will be
"Yours and hers.
"But if proud puffs of artifice
"Should cloud the countenance
"Of one so young and fair,
"You should admit defeat,
"And leave the courtly square,
"Long ere your quest so bold,
"Should end with forcéd frosty kiss,
"And in a bed grown cold."
Montagu thanked Mercutio much for this,
And wondered at the motives of his Prince.
Young Romeo looked quite the part,
Handsome, slender, full of smiles,
But he'd already lost his heart
To Rosaline, a temptress
Filled with sensual wiles.
Juliet, it seemed to him,
Was shy and paler in her gilded throne.
And not as lusty in her heart,
As older ladies he had known.
He'd wager, were he to deftly climb
To her chamber window
In the dead of night,
She'd cry out
With agitated fright,
And call her nurse,
Fleeing his advance,
And fearing worse.
Romeo took a heavy breath,
And bound by duty,
Like a clinging death,
Summoned up his verse.
"Can it be day, and Juliet is the sun?"
A groan went round the room,
For fear celestial rhetoric
Had been too overblown.
But Romeo pushed on.
"The nightingale sings false,
"Thinking his merry work is done,
"And whispering fountains weep with joy
"That icy night has run."
"And see how the fires grow dim,
"When chided how to glow
"By those fair cheeks.
"The wistful moon now seeks
"A softer hill on which to rest her gentle head,
"Knowing that Endymion,
"Despite his vows of love,
"Has feasted on a greater light instead."
"And Juliet's brilliant, conjuring eyes,
"Could, with a smile, when open wide,
"Make my spirits swell, with hope and pride,
"And cause them to rise up, with airy gusts,
""Even to the gilded gates of heaven,
"Or with a frown, cause all to tumble down
"In darkest deep despair, until they fell
"Into the dismal fiery pits of hell."
Romeo's potpourri of amorous lies.
Had quite enraptured Juliet's nurse.
But Juliet greeted him with grim reprise,
That upbraided his sweet-seeming verse,
"Can my shy looks do even this?
Then what disasters might a kiss
Bring to poor Romeo's heart?"
"Were you to grant such bliss,
"And I could play my part,
"Naught could go amiss.
"When shall we start?"
The ladies in the crowd
Laughed prettily at his jest.
But Juliet turned a darker shade of red,
And raised her angry fists.
"These pretty songs of praise you say so well,
"Are they quite mine?
"For I heard, when at shrift,
"In Friar Lawrence's cell,
"You claimed you loved the lady Rosaline."
Romeo shot the wincing friar a curse,
And touched his dagger, contemplating worse.
"And those words you speak,
"Like lines writ in a play,
"Perhaps you whispered even these to her,
"Not for three weeks!"
The crowd heard foolish Romeo protest.
Lady Montague and Lady Capulet
Exchanged a knowing look,
And began to usher out
Their doubt-filled guests.
Juliet commenced again,
"And what's more, withal,
"My loyal cousin Tibalt,
"Who stands there proud and tall,
"Avows you are apt to lose
Your temper in a brawl."
Though secretly she'd love to feel her self
Soft-wrapped in Romeo's arms,
She decided to resist his charms,
And leave the tempting apple on the tree.
" And so, I must abhor your lover's plea,
A man so charming and so changeable,
Is like to be the death of me."
An uproar filled the house 'til dawn,
The parents fumed, and then they raged,
The relatives glared with daggers drawn.
The nurse excused, invoked her age.
The guests all gathered round the throne,
"Such insults made by one so young!"
"She's deaf to love."
"Perhaps the girl should be a nun."
Only Tibalt, said with sword and tongue,
That he would rather die, and murder too,
Before his tender cousin Juliet,
Should be deflowered by the likes of Montague.
The others threatened grievous harm,
But Juliet stood there,
Brave and calm,
"Kinsmen, put up your swords and part
"When I marry, it will be with my heart,
"Not this false and hasty scene,
"In which my parents' scheming crime,
"Forces me to act a part."
"If you ever hoped for love,
"Or have your sweetheart by your side,
"Return your swords into their gloves,
"And let me be not forced a bride."
As dawn's light flowed upon
The now congealed meat,
The guests all left,
Muttering much about the time.
Romeo, lost in glum defeat,
Went off to find his Rosaline.
Just two alone,
The nurse sang to the ruined girl
A soothing English rhyme,
That all the troubles
Of this angry world,
Will yield to thought,
And heal in time.
For near an hour,
Juliet was paler than Selene, the moon,
But then she summoned up her power.
"I will be a woman soon.
"Perhaps a better match
"Will quench my father's fire.
"When policy is wedded to a higher cause,
"And coupled with desire."
The nurse looked up.
"The County Paris is a handsome man.
" You should grab him,
"While you can,
"Before tonight's vile crowd,
"Slanders you abroad."
This speech left Juliet unmoved.
"No more young men!
"They know not what they do,
"And when they claim they love,
"Young girls should hit them with a shoe."
The nurse and Juliet laughed.
"Who then?" the old crone asked.
" Paris fancies fortune more than me,
"He seeks my father's love,
"Well, let that be,
"But now he's seen a hawk made from a dove.
"I think his latest thought is how to flee."
"I vow that if I marry,
"It will be,
"To the one gentle man in
"All of Mad Verona
"Who can talk some sense.
"Why settle for a paupered count,
"When you can love a prince?"
True to her word,
Within a year,
Juliet's wedding with the Prince drew near.
The bridegroom, new-suffused with love and pride,
To have such clever beauty at his side,
Summoned Capulet and Montague
To kneel in his court,
And hold each other's hands,
Two and two.
"My wife and I both love you dear,
"As I do all my kin,
"And it is with that gentle thought,
"That you must swear
"A mortal oath,
"Though I know you are both loath
"To act as friends,
"That time must end.
"For if you, or your band of men,
"Should not uphold the law,
"In any way,
"That hour will be your death."
"Now take this knife
"And with a cut
"Mix blood with blood,
"As with Juliet I will do,
"And then when looking in a glass,
"You will see Montague and Capulet,
"And Capulet and Montague."
The wedding was a rapturous delight,
With new cuts, healing old,
When mixed with fright.
And Juliet layered happy thoughts with sleepless nights,
And thanked her lucky stars that she'd been right.
Romeo, the father of more kin
Than single men quite should,
Was nagged by Maria, Kate and Rosaline
In jealous angry torrents.
Foreswearing all of woman kind,
He lived with Friar Lawrence
Like a hermit in a wood.
And as for Tibalt,
The hero of the hour,
He proved to be Fortune's fool,
Dispatched, by quick Mercutio
In a pointed, pointless duel.
The prince winked at his kinsman's crime,
But just to make his cous. repent,
He banished him for no less a time,
Than when his golden purse would all be spent.
Within a month, the news reached home,
That Mercutio's lightning blade
And ready wit,
Had made him quite the hit in Rome.
Isabella, was born and grew,
Pretty, gentle, sweet and kind.
Dancing in her crystal shoes,
The courtiers gasped "She's so refined".
But more than this they knew, by far,
Blessed with such a brilliant mind,
As made the heavens weep new stars.
Her mother had taught how constellations
Each contain a story fair,
As she wove a diadem,
Into her daughter's raven hair.
She studied rather more than prayed,
And asked that for her sixteenth year,
A new invention should be made,
A telescope to make the skies more clear.
Night after night she peered.
Eyes reddened by the cold night air.
"That's no way to find a prince,"
Her father sneered,
But Isabelle was not convinced,
As darkly through the glass she stared.
One night she cried in shrill delight,
Which gave her ancient nurse a fright,
"What is it, now, my little mite?"
"I see a light! I see a light!"
Isabelle, the astronomer princess,
Praised by lord and courtly poet,
Was quite a dazzling success,
With her new-discovered comet,
Emblazoned on her wedding dress.
From palace roofs she used her 'scope,
To spy the people's dire distress,
She gave them food and coins to cope,
Her husband chided her excess,
But when her husband's brother eloped,
She found herself the Empress!
Europe stood upon the brink,
Of bloody war and civil strife.
Not knowing how to cope with fear,
The Emperor turned humbly to his wife.
Imperious, she summoned kings,
To make a conference in old Verona's Hall,
They dared not miss her calling in,
Or lose their treasure, life and all.
Isabelle, with inward shake, but outward strong,
Told the story of her mother's home,
How, not fourteen, she'd tamed a rowdy throng,
And made two families act as one.
"If my mother did this, when just a girl,
"Imagine how I will pursue my cause,
"And force a calm upon you all,
"And make you bow with loud applause."
"This act will spare you all great cost,
"Of brother's maimed and daughters lost.
"My guards will now bolt all the gates,
"Until you kneel with faithful tears,
"And make a parley of the peace,
"Designed to last a hundred years."
And so they did, with not a whine,
When faced with governance so bold,
And Isabelle still trembling,
With love this time,
Raised a statue to her mother,
Cast in solid gold.
And what of Juliet?
She gathered scholars to her court,
And all with ancient manuscripts were taught,
To waken knowledge from a thousand years of sleep.
Sly Venice and querulous Florence could not help but peep
With envious eyes at the thoughts of Greece reborn so wise,
And Juliet's famous, lovely eyes,
Inspired poets and painters to surprise,
As her hair of chestnut turned to grey,
Each day they loved her more and more.
She built the first great hospital,
For the orphaned, sick and poor.
And of Juliet's early house?
An English poet was near one day,
To visit two young gentlemen
About a lovers' fray,
And catching sight of that fine railing up so high,
He fancied it the stage-set for a play.
But had he looked more carefully above the door,
He would have spied
A withered iron plaque inscribed,
"Montague and Capulet,
Councilors at Law,
By high command of Princess Juliet.
© 2014 Gavin Miller. All rights reserved.