Literary Hotties: Juliet

Literary Hotties: Juliet

Well yes, we have no idea what she might have looked like originally when she was probably a young and pretty boy dressed as a girl on the London stage (16th century London: original den of sin and good times).
However, since I am newly in love with Claire Danes in Homeland, here she is, perfectly cast, as a young, wholesome Juliet with a cheeky glimmer about her.

I’ve been working on tutoring prep tonight for my students’ exams next week, which meant re-reading Romeo and Juliet. I now feel I could sit an exam on this play. I mean, I may not get an A, but I think I could pass. Reading Shakespeare for my uni finals made me fall, big time, for his cynical political wranglings (Julias Caesar) and eccentric, liberal, cross-dressing comedies (12th Night! Love) but I’d always thought of Romeo and Juliet as a bit gaudy and shallow. How shallow I was. Its amazing (I know, everyone knows that already). Juliet is a character with some serious poker face: assured, duplicitous, determined. Her declarations of love for Romeo are eerie and lovely:

‘Come, loving black brow’d night, give me my Romeo, and when he shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars, and he will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night, and pay no worship to the garish sun’.

It’s all very intense, just as star-crossed loving should be. Just before Romeo sets eyes on her for the first time, his friends tell him that he talks of love as if it wasn’t tender. ‘Is love a tender thing?’ he asks. We can just feel some bloody demise on its way…

Toward the end a minor character sombrely warns, ‘for now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring’. Its a shivery moment.

Here’s the moment that starts it all:

Secret Style Icon No.3: Nabokov

Secret Style Icon No.3: Nabokov

I’m pretty sure that most (or, some) people who like reading books go through a very serious and important phase of reading solely about unrequited love affairs, painful memories and champagne drinking. It usually starts with The Great Gatsby. It’s a gateway book. It often leads to Nabokov. that’s what happened to me, and although I’ve drifted away recently (I got lost somewhere around The Luzhen Defence because, well, it’s a book about chess) I still think Nabokov could write better than (almost) anyone. Which is pretty galling for every native English-speaking writer, because he was Russian.

Anyway – he wrote pervy books full of lust and memories, and for a straight man he had an excellent eye for lady fashion. The character of Lucette in Ada or Ardor gets all the best outfits, from her ‘emerald-studded cigarette case’ and ‘very short evening gown in lustrous cantharid green’ to her bright copper hair and series of black silk handbags that ‘click’ open. What a dame. (Cantharid is a kind of beetle. I had to look that up.)

Check out this sustained passage of serious chic:

‘He headed for the bar and made out, through the optical mist, the girl whose silhouette he recalled having seen now and then, passing alone, drinking alone, always alone. For a minute he stood beside her, sideways in remembrance. She wore a high-necked, long-sleeved romantic black dress with an ample skirt, fitted bodice and ruffy collar, from the black soft corolla of which her long neck gracefully rose. We know, we love that high cheekbone and the forward upsweep of black lashes and the painted feline eye’.

There must be other literary hotties that I’ve missed out on. Let me know about them. I need their unattainable glamour in my life.