A poignant tale to make the heart of the true romantic tremble: The New York Times has a story today about the many letters to Shakespeare's Juliet left at the tomb believed to be hers (if she existed at all) in Verona, Italy.
"Dear Juliet, I live on the third floor. My parents don't allow my boyfriend to come to my house. So I have to sneak him in. ..."
"Dear Juliet, my name is Riccardo. I am 10 years old." Riccardo is in love with an older woman, 14. He saw her in Verona the summer before. Does Juliet have news of her?
Hundreds of letters arrive each week, some addressed only to "Juliet, Verona". The letters have been delivered for decades to the headquarters of the Club di Giulietta, a group of interested people who staff the house in Verona where Juliet is purported to have lived. (Although the existence of Juliet is debatable, her legend is pretty important to tourism in Verona...)
For many years a man who was the custodian of the tomb believed to be Juliet's wrote courtly and chivalrous answers to the letter writers. Every letter is now answered by staff members at the Club, sometimes with the help of translators living in Verona. Lately, some letters in Chinese languages have begun to arrive. But the main bulk of letters are from young people and are in English, probably because Romeo and Juliet is included in curricula for high school students in many English-speaking areas.
Two American sisters, Lise and Ceil Friedman, are collecting some of the letters and responses in a new book called Letters to Juliet, along with the story of the Club di Giulietta and some background notes on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet itself. The book will be published this coming autumn.