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Letters from the Lovestruck and Lovelorn to Shakespeare's Juliet in Verona
By Giulio Tamassia
Read by Brittany Wilkerson
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Format:Audiobook Download (Unabridged)
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 1, 2019. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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Letters have always been an important form of connection, used for both correspondence and documentation. In Latin, littera meant “a writing, document, record,” and its plural litteræ means “a letter, epistle, missive, and also literature.” We have traditionally used letters as a way to share thoughts, express feelings, and deliver news. Letters can tell us about love, friendship, and gratitude. They can be hopeful or full of surprise.
Today, apart from gas bills or junk mail, writing and receiving letters is an unusual occurrence. According the Universal Postal Union, there are 663,000 postal offices, which deliver 368 billion letter-post items a year. However, postal workers calculate that out of one hundred pieces of mail, only two or three contain personal correspondence.
But there is a place where people still handwrite and receive thousands of letters every year. In Verona, more than ten thousand letters arrive annually from every corner of the world—all written to Juliet Capulet, the famous Shakespearean heroine who has become the worldwide confidant of happy and heartbroken lovers alike. The letters are received by the Juliet Club (Club di Giulietta), the very special office where “Juliet’s Secretaries” collect, read, and respond to countless messages of love, all in the voice of Juliet.
In addition to the content’s richness, the aesthetic expression and style of each letter to Juliet is also wonderfully varied. No letter is like another. Sometimes accompanied by drawings, photographs, or poems, they are written on refined, colored stationary, simple notebook pages, or, in the case of messages left at Juliet’s House, on the back of a table cover or train ticket.
We owe Ovid (43 BCE–17 CE) for giving us the first Greek–Latin love letters. In Heroides, he interprets the female soul by assuming the roles of some of mythology’s greatest heroines. In imaginative letters written from Penelope, Helen, Medea, Ariadne, Dido, and Phaedra, Ovid captures these women’s strengths and their often misunderstood feelings. With this work, Ovid gave life to a new literary genre—poetic letters of love.
Nowadays, we send texts and emails through our phones and computers rather than letters. Yet, there are still thousands of people who pick up a pen and write to Juliet. Perhaps when you want to reach a mythical character, you prefer paper and pen.
Writing a letter is therapeutic, and, by confiding in someone you don’t know, it is even easier to open up and discuss deep, intimate sorrows. In these letters to Juliet, there is a magical, mythical, and literary element, which lets us reveal our inner romantic and passionate sides.
A letter also has the allure of uncertainty. Historically, letters were hand carried by often unreliable messengers and tired horses, prevailing against Mother Nature and treacherous roads. Many great works of literature are filled with letters that were never delivered or received too late. Often these letters determined the fate of the characters. A famous example is the failed delivery of Romeo’s letter, which causes the final tragedy in Shakespeare’s famous love story. A letter sent today by snail mail (a word that captures this perfectly!) is heightened by the unpredictability of its arrival.
The letter itself is a magical object. You can touch it. You can hold on to it. You can sense the hand that wrote it. From the handwriting to the little details on the page—a flower drawing, a lipstick kiss, or a fingerprint—every letter is different, a surprise. Letters can be kept as precious memories of your life and relationships.
The letters sent to Juliet tell about dreams and hopes, but also heartbreak and pain. They ask for wisdom, courage, and strength. Like your best and wisest friend, she listens and understands like nobody else. She is someone to whom you can confide your most personal troubles.
Today, Juliet is a symbol of pure love. Her spirit is still alive in every heart. She inspires people everywhere to speak and write from the heart, just as we have done for centuries. Although the existence of Juliet is not certain, her story is more real than the surrounding myth; she is more than just a character in a play. Her myth is real. Like Juliet, Verona has transcended its geographical boundaries. Verona is a place of love and romance, a place of yearning for the ones you have and the ones you cannot have. It is a place that celebrates the ephemeral and timeless quality of love.
The rich archive of the Juliet Club now contains hundreds of thousands of letters written in all languages. The letters are often simply addressed: “Juliet, Verona.” This unique heritage reveals the extraordinary strength of Romeo and Juliet and the universal language of love, the true element that unites human beings from all corners of the world.
CLUB DI GIULIETTA
(The Juliet Club)
Do you remember when I came to you with my broken heart and told you that love does not exist? Oh, Juliet! I was so disappointed . . . I loved, and I was so young and innocent.
I am sorry now that I said so many bad things, but my heart hurt too much thinking about the eleven years I thought I had thrown away in the wind, like leaves in autumn that fade in the cold winter . . .
I spent months in tears and sadness, but then I decided that the time had arrived to think about myself and to make an old dream come true: get to know Italy! After this trip, I thought, I would know which path to take in life.
I spent the following days noting all of the things I wanted to do and places I wanted to visit: walk down the ancient streets, eat a real pizza, try actual gelato, ride a bike, visit the museums in Rome and Florence, and . . . music . . . listen to a lot of music! One of my dreams was to go and see where Vivaldi once lived. While planning my journey, I discovered that an important orchestra was going to play the famous Four Seasons where Vivaldi lived most of his life. My heart was full of joy and expectations!
I flew to Italy. I lived every day to the fullest on that journey, and every day I prayed to God that something special would happen. I tried to take note of every little detail. Everything charmed me, and everything was an answer to my prayer.
You know, Juliet, I did not even want to come to Verona. The town of love? Me? Better not. After what I had experienced, love made no sense to me anymore. My heart was destroyed by disappointments, a lot of sad memories, and the fear of an uncertain future. But alas (or luckily), the Opera Festival was in Verona, and of course it was obligatory for a person in love with music, like me, to go. And so, when I set foot in your town . . . I felt a shiver, an unexplainable sensation.
I remember I said out loud, “I want to live here.”
I forgot that I was in the town of love. I felt so good that I forgot all of my problems that were left at the other side of the world. When I had to say goodbye to Verona, like any good tourist, I went and visited your house. There, I was in a bad mood because all those red hearts had no meaning to me. But, after all, I had come from Brazil, and I had to respect the ritual. So although I was annoyed, I left my message for you.
I then went to Venice, but I had the feeling I was leaving something behind—as if a link was breaking, a feeling of emptiness. But I had to go. The final step of my journey was waiting for me: Vivaldi, his music, his violin, the concert. I did not even imagine that my life would change at all.
- On Sale
- Oct 1, 2019
- Chronicle Books