By André Bastos Gurgel, OAB
Before one accuses the author of anachronism and incoherence, I beg you to give me leave to commit those two deadly sins for a writer, because this tale could not be written otherwise. Therefore, I must make it absolutely clear that you will hear dialogues between characters who lived in different ages, spoke different languages and would never have met! At the end of this narrative, you will understand the reason.
We were in a medieval tavern. Unlike many bars and pubs we have in our age, our inn had innumerable gastronomic options, and one can hear divine songs and poems in Latin, Old French, Old German, etc. As for drinks, one could find everything: wine, beer, mead, etc, which, it’s worth mentioning, are consumed in due moderation. The clients know that wine consumed in excess is the father of all vices.
Therefore, we were in a place full of bliss and joy. At the entrance, there was a sign with the Latin saying “Vinum et musica laetificant cor”. The minstrels were performing Karl Orff’s version of the poem “In Taberna Quando Sumus”, from the Carmina Burana. No one would act like the immortal Portuguese poetess Florbela Espanca who once said “I drink to drown my sorrows … too bad they’ve learned to swim!” That’s why the innkeeper thought it very strange when he saw a gentleman, a foreigner, apparently immersed in boundless melancholy. The customer had drunk several bottles of not so expensive wine, but the innkeeper knew he would be unpleasantly surprised when presented with the bill.
Our drunkard didn’t seem to care much about the amount of alcohol he was drinking. The innkeeper was no Sherlock Holmes, but he had some knowledge of the noble science of deduction. He could tell from the client’s clothes and accent that he had once belonged to the Italian aristocracy, maybe from Milan or Verona. The innkeeper observed him for some more seconds and wondered what was causing him so much pain. He couldn’t contain his curiosity any longer and decided to ask the young man the reason for his woes:
– Good evening, sir. Sorry to disturb, but don’t you think you have already had enough? Can I do something for you? Do you need help to get home? Shall I call a carriage?
– Inkeeper, mind your own business…and bring me more wine! You know who you are talking to?
– Sir, we are all equal here. I often say that taverns are the only place on earth with real isonomy among men. I am guessing from your clothes and your accent that you belong to the aristocracy, but that does not give you the right to be rude. In this place, there is no difference between the King of England and a lowly peasant. Perhaps it might do you good if you told me your story. I have been in this business for many years and I know when someone is drinking to forget a great pain. Tell me what is going on. I know you will tell the truth. I believe it was the Romans who said “in vino veritas!”
– I’m sorry, innkeeper. Please accept the apologies of this poor bastard for his ill-chosen words. But you really don’t know who I am?
– No, I don’t. Should I?
– Alas! When my story was written, I thought my name would be known to all posterity. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case! My name is Romeo and I was born in Verona, the beautiful Italian city which inspired so many plays by my creator, the immortal bard William Shakespeare. In my youth, I went to a ball and fell deeply in love with a pretty lady. However I realized I was “fortune’s fool” when I learned her name: Juliet. Ah, Juliet, wherefore art thou? She was the daughter of the patriarch of the Capulets, a family who harbored a bitter hatred towards mine. However, I challenged everything and everyone to make her my wife. My confessor, Friar Lawrence, sent me a letter with a cunning plan which would allow us to join our lives forever. Juliet took a potion which caused her to be in a state of mors putativa, and everybody thought she had died. When her body was placed in the mausoleum of the Capulets, she woke after a few days and there was I, ready to be her beloved husband and be happy ever after.
– Well, I must confess it’s a reasonable melodrama. However, why are you grieving so much?
– I wish we had lived happily ever after! After our wedding, things went awry. My wife made my life a living hell! And I thought the lovely words I uttered on Juliet’s balcony would be immortalized by literature! Everything about me reminds her that I am a useless wretch, especially since my parents disinherited me, leaving me penniless. She still accuses me of having murdered Thybald, a relative of hers, who, I suspect, was more than a dear friend. I have already protested my innocence a thousand times by saying I did what I had to do in order to avenge the death of my friend Mercutio, who, Juliet believes, wasn’t just a dear friend! Innkeeper, my marriage is a complete fiasco! We can’t even agree on what to name our children. She insists on Juleo and Romiet, but that would sound awfully plebeian. Heavens, just because we are no longer part of Verona’s jetset!
– Ah, I read the book. I must say the style is quite good and there are nice poems in it as well. But, to be honest with you, Romeo, I expected more from your creator. That certainly wasn’t his magnum opus…
– It’s true. That book had no success at all! The play was staged only three times in London. I’ve repeatedly requested a meeting with my creator, but he always has a servant say he is busy with a certain Macbeth. But it gets worse. My wife’s family still thinks she is dead, but she sent a secret letter to her old nurse to come and serve her again. Ah, innkeeper, I could put up with five mothers-in-law and eight brothers-in-law, but not with Juliet’s maid! You can’t believe how much nonsense that creature speaks every day. My creator must have been drunk when he decided to put this character in the play! Now she won’t leave me alone for a second! She keeps saying things would have been better for Juliet and the Capulets if only she had married Count Paris…
Here ends the first chapter of our novella. In the next, you’ll be introduced to some new characters. Two of them are star-crossed lovers, and one of them is from Scotland, lads!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
André Bastos Gurgel, OAB (Order of Attorneys of Brazil), Academic Advisor for the Carmenta Online Latin School, is a life-long student of both modern and ancient languages. Mr. Gurgel is fluent in English, Portuguese, Mandarin, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Latin (the last of which he learned with Carmenta) and has a working knowledge of Danish, Hebrew, Ancient Greek, and Sanskrit. Mr. Gurgel is currently studying Old English through Carmenta as well.
Click here to read Mr. Gurgel’s full profile.