Though R&J is all about love, it has that sad, tragic ending. We so want those two to live happily ever after, and finally bring the feud between the Capulets and Montagues to an end. What kind of romance is it that instead of giving us a happy ending gives us death for two young lovers?
So I’m here to change that.
What follows is an alternate ending for Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. In this version, Friar Laurence arrives before Romeo has a chance to drink the poison that ends his life. The result is, I hope, more relatable to today's high school readers.
When we pick up the scene, Romeo has snuck into Juliet’s tomb, only to find Paris there. The two fight, and Paris is killed. Romeo then kneels by his fallen love (that would be Juliet, not Paris) and begins soliloquizing, phial of poison in hand:
Here will I remain
With worms that are thy chambermaids: O, here
Will I set up my everlasting rest;
And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars
From this world-wearied flesh. — Eyes, look your last!
Arms, take your last embrace! and, lips, O you
The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing death! —
Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide!
Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on
The dashing rocks thy sea-sick weary bark!
Here's to my love!
[Lifts phial to lips as Friar Laurence enters, short of breath.]
Hold fast, young Romeo!
Be still and living whilst I catch my breath.
[Bends forward and wheezes.]
Good Friar Laurence, what doth bring you here
|Romeo and Juliet with Friar Laurence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
[Still breathing hard]
The lady . . . Juliet . . . the angels shan’t…
Do spit it out, apothecary, for
I have but little time to kill.
The angels shall not have her soul tonight!
Her death is false!
What sacrilege is this?!
You make her play the ghost? The poltergeist?
The undead vampire waiting here for night,
Whose sparkle dare not see the light of day?
Just look how pale, how still she lies like stone.
I ought to run you through, I should!
A potion, not a poison, by mine hand
Hath drawn the masque of death upon her face,
But it will fade away, in time, as light
Returneth to afford you all Love’s grace!
A potion, eh?
Yes, ’twas our secret scheme —
Well, hers — to show her kinsmen naught but death,
To give young love a better chance at life.
Huzzah! Alas! It’s unbelieveable
That I shall live again within her light.
How quickly doth the potion work? How soon
Until our hearts again be joyful?
Exactly when, I do not know, but I
Did follow to a tee the recipe
For forty-two-ish hours of falsity.
Didst thou say forty-two-ish?
Give or take.
To loiter here too long might prove mistake
If any Montague shouldst come to mourn.
I know that I should flee and wait for love’s
Return into my happy heart. But yet,
To know the truth, to know she will awake,
Brings hope unto my soul! I cannot wait
To hear her sigh! No, I cannot! I kiss
Her deep in sweet anticipation now!
The scrunchy face you make, what does it mean?
I would expect this tomb to smell of death,
But it’s a rose compared to her foul breath!
’Tis but a side-effect of time!
What are these marks I find upon her face?
Th’ affliction of the skin that visits all
The adolescent girls. We call them zits.
Are they a sign of sickness? Doth death come?
If anything, they indicate a lack
Of proper hygiene. Juliet herself
Has suffered from this blight for nigh two years.
’Tis true? I ne’er had noticed it 'til now.
Our meetings, though, were harried, and occurr’d
At night, the only light from off the moon.
But as she grows to womanhood, the zits
Will fade. Unless, that is, this bumpy flesh
Doth indicate French pox.
|Photo credit: Corrado Cambiaghi|
French pox! You mean
The ailment spread by beasts with double-backs?
It might be thus, but acne’s likely it.
Do you imply my Juliet hath...
[Makes a V shape in front of his crotch]
They say a stranger to the baser joys
Young Juliet is not; a Friday night
Spent pining in her room, a rarity.
’Tis rumored, sir, that she is known — and you
Know what I mean — by sailors, slaves, and boys
Down by the docks. Or so they say, my lord.
Yes. ’Tis rumored, Romeo.
But dost thou trust the idle, braggart chat
Of louts, slubberdegullions, scalawags,
And boastful jerk-offs? Hast thou any proof?
[Pauses to think]
Well, Paris, laying here so newly slain,
Didst run through all my prophylactic stock
Within the nearest fortnight past—
I heard a sound! What sound is this? What — Oh!
What new, more wretched stink assaults my nose
Methinks the lady farted, sire.
I thought her breath smelled bad, but this! Like Hell
Hath open’d up betwixt her cheeks, expell’d
The pungent odors built o’er eons past!
Oh sulphur! Brimstone! Eggs left in the sun!
Who knew my Juliet could so exhale
|Photo credit: clevelandsurfkid|
Too much, good sir! 'Twas but a tiny toot!
What was I thinking?! Married at my age?
Betrothed unto this thing of cratered face
And epic flatulence? I killed a man
For her? Too quickly did I fall for love.
I yet have wild oats to sow abroad!
What madness here! Good Friar, hast thou pen
Yes, of course. But why?
To pen my last goodbye to her, the slut
Whose perfum’d scent had brought me to the brink
Of ruin but who now reclines in stink.
[Writes on parchment.]
I prithee that you’ll stay to see this through?
I will. The lady hasn’t paid me yet.
Here, take this letter. Juliet will wake
And wonder where I am. These words will tell.
And what of you?
Oh, I don’t know. Perhaps
I’ll go to Venice, for I hear that there,
Along the coast, the goddesses descend
In summertime, their oily, curv’d back ends
Just barely cover’d o’er in brightest silk.
Perhaps I’ll find a rich one I can milk.
Good luck, my friend. I hope you get a piece. . .
…That fills your burning loins with much disease.
[Friar waits, peeking into coffins and sarcophagi, pocketing any jewelry he finds.]
The morning comes. It worked! Yes, I awoke!
Good Friar! — but where is my Romeo?
He was to be beside me when I woke
And bring an end to all our days of woe.
He left a bit ago. He left this note.
A note? His words already pen my soul!
But first, there is the matter of my fee.
Ne’er have I been paid for your false death.
Th’ingredients comprising what you drank
Are not your common herbs, and they’re not cheap!
You’ll get your fee, you sod! Give me my note!
My dearest Juliet: When first we met
You were the stars that led me through the night.
But ev’ry night must end, the moon must set
And sun must rise in harshest morning light.
The morning shone when mourning died, and I
Saw truth within your face I’d failed to see:
Our love would not endure the by and by.
(But rest assured: It isn’t you; it’s me.)
Too young were we to launch this loving plan,
But maybe, when we’re older, we could date —
Once time has passed and I’ve become a man,
And you have dropped a little bit of weight.
Naïve we were that we refused to see
That I was not for you, nor you for me.
Postscript, feel free to pawn my mother’s ring.
Oh, friar! What douchebaggery is this!
And zounds! Didst he just call me fat?
Where hath my husband gone?
He’s off to live
Where maidens, barely dress’d down by the sea,
Inebriated, scamper through the surf
And offer up their bodies there for free.
He went to Venice?
These adolescent games just make me sick,
And Romeo's the worst. God, what a dick!
I’ve had it with these hormone-driven boys.
I need a man who knows what I am worth
And understands a lady’s needs. No cad,
No kid, no Romeo nor Paris knows
A single thing about relationships
And what it takes to make them last. I'm through!
From now until I die, it’s older men
For me. Here, take this ring and be consideréd
I will, my lady. Thank you so.
But tell me how you feel now, after death.
I don’t feel bad, although my stomach growls.
Two days you haven’t eaten! Let me help.
I know a place just down the street to dine
That has a great, romantic atmosphere.
I wouldst be honoréd if you would let
Me buy you dinner.
Sure. Whatever, dude.
And then, after we’ve eaten, I would think
That we might go to my place for a drink.
This post grew from an idea sparked by @Mededitor and encouraged by @AllisonLCarter, and I thank them both.