Monday Muse: The Side Effect of Mercutio

Hey, guys! Welcome to today’s Monday Muse. It’s going to be short because, once again, I am not prepared to write this.

Sorry, guys. I really am going to start writing down my ideas when I have them instead of assuming I’ll remember them. This is a cautionary tale for everyone, I think.

In answer to the questions I’ve been getting: no, I probably won’t be watching Still Star-Crossed. But lest anyone thinks that maybe I have a real problem with POC being cast in a Shakespeare-era show (which, if you know me at all… c’mon, people. Really?), it really has nothing to do with the show itself. Though, to be frank, it hinges on the part of Romeo and Juliet I always liked least: romance (or what passes for romance in R&J).

A and I will be the first to tell you that we’re not huge fans of Romeo and Juliet. Not the writing, of course, which is top notch Shakespeare, but the story. It’s full of idiotic kids being idiotic and the adults who should know better (looking at you, Friar Laurence) making it worse. If I want a great couple, I have Much Ado About Nothing‘s Beatrice and Benedick. If I want tragedy, well… Hamlet. Duh. But Romeo and Juliet has always been just sort of… not my favorite. And A, though maybe for different reasons, agrees. It’s the reason we wrote Killing Mercutio.

For those of you who don’t know, Killing Mercutio takes all the so-called romance out of the play and ages everyone up. Juliet, the youngest character, is eighteen. Benvolio and Mercutio are both in their thirties. At no point are Romeo and Juliet interested in one another except as compatriots in their shared cause. Really, their individual friendships with Mercutio and the way those relationships shaped them (Romeo and Juliet, I mean) is way more important than any connection between Montague and Capulet. Oh, and the rivalry between the families?  Dealt with by the Venetians, who have made Verona a vassal (which is historical). Some of it remains–you don’t just start being buds with your political enemies–but it certainly isn’t a driving force to the characters’ relationships. The Montagues don’t even play a big role in the politics of Verona anymore, having retired with their fortunes to the country.

Obviously, I don’t want to spill everything. And readers will still be able to see the play within our novel. But having lived with versions of the characters that are, shall we say, the truth behind the curtain, it’s a little hard to go back to versions of the story that keep the curtain firmly intact. I’m not interested in a Benvolio who may-or-may-not fall in love with Rosaline (I actually have a very small inkling what Still Star-Crossed is about, but with a name like that… some people better die. Y’all do know that star-crossed means doomed to tragedy, right? Not just falling in love with someone from the opposite side of the tracks.) because my Benvolio doesn’t give a damn about that sort of thing. Having thought about it a lot, I’m 99.9% convinced the Benvolio I wrote is aro/ace, so sex and romance are just out of the question. He is also, again, in his thirties. And Batman.

Did I mention he’s 15th century Veneto’s very own (not nearly as rich or techy) Batman?

Not to mention certain characters we left alive in our version are very much dead here.

So… no, I probably won’t be watching Still Star-Crossed. Which is just another of Shonda Rhimes’ shows I’ve never seen and I’m beginning to feel like a complete outsider to the realm of television phenomena (thank you, Game of Thrones, for giving me fandom street cred). But it has very little to do with being about Romeo and Juliet. It’s just that, when you’ve lived with a character in your head for as long as I have, seeing a different version of that character can feel… wrong. Especially the way Killing Mercutio works. Or maybe it’s just me. I’m well-versed in being a weirdo. I’ve never seen a single Shonda Rhimes show, remember?


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