Where are you Juliet?

Verona is Juliet’s home in my mind.

Romeo is there too, but Juliet! It is incidental to me that she did not exist and Shakespeare made it all up borrowing from several other sources. (Students: it is plagiarism unless you make it so much better people are honored you took their stuff.)

So my problem with Verona is not that they acknowledge this fact: Shakespeare made them immortal in the English, and then entire, world. The problem with Verona is that they took a potential gold mine and turned into a plastics factory.

Verona honors the tourist potential of Juliet with ugliness. They have taken a house of a family with a name like her own and turned it into a shrine of romantic love…. If you think sticking gum in a wall and writing your name on it romantic. The courtyard is always packed with tourists eager to grab the breast of a Juliet statue for good romantic luck.

Pickpockets fleece the unwary.

The entire thing makes a mockery of Eros by making it more than it is and so less than it could be. Eros is not a great god, but a great impotence to find Love.

Erotic love can be heavenly, but this tribute is worse than Vegas. It is as far from Shakespeare as it is possible to be. It is Eros for talking animals, not the beasts of Narnia, but Homeric or Miyazaki might imagine them.

Or perhaps we are as far from fair Verona and Shakespeare as a culture can be. I looked at the groping, graffiti, garrulous groups and saw my own defective soul, the purity of the love of Romeo and Juliet, a love that would not flout Holy Church and would die for the beloved is hard, sometimes too hard for me.

Eros has never been easy or safe in a fallen world, but pagan philosophers knew this fact. We now treat eros like a marketing tool.

Such love might require tragic sacrifice and today why bother? It is, I think, a measure of the justice of a city: can pure love flourish? Strife ridden Verona, true enough to history, was unfit for love. If you saw a prostitute and dallied, you lived. If you loved with a pure love the wrong person from the wrong family, you had to die.

No city can survive the death of such love, but not city can afford to give blanket approval either.

And yet no real Romeo would bring his Juliet to the house of Juliet in Verona now, it has become ugly, cheap, and common.

Sometimes, this side of paradise, erotic love does not work out. We love the wrong people at the wrong places at the wrong time. We cannot help the feeling, only how we act.

Queen Victoria and her Prince Albert understood that erotic love was best when it grew out friendship, practical needs, and the desire to create a family. Eros first sometimes works out, but only if the friendship, practical needs, and family follow. It is sin when divorce from the entirety of life. Eros is good as far as it goes, but that it is not very far. No relationship should be defined by it . . . and this is why time is a necessary element to love.

We may have made a wrong cultural turn when we said: “first comes love, then marriage.” Perhaps we should have said: “first comes sense, then marriage, and love with a baby carriage.” I see no evidence we are happier in this new regime.

Teen suicide is up in a world where Romeo is told to go for it, just as it was fated when the city utterly forbade a licit union. Both Vegas and violent Verona are bad cultural models for the formation of whole souls in happy marriages.

Shakespeare’s violent Verona pitted violence against eros and these two passions brought havoc. Modern Verona worships Eros as a god and breeds an empty ugliness.

Dante, who actually lived and did great deeds in Verona, has a statue almost ignored by most tourists. Juliet is manhandled by mobs.

That may be all we need to know about the future of our culture: crude, impotent, and without poetry . . . except that of Jeremiah.


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