The Transformation of Juliet Capulet.
In the run up to our dramatic reading of Kill Shakespeare on Friday 27 July, co-creator and co-writer Conor McCreery has given us an insight into the development of Juliet Capulet for the comic book universe where all your favourite Shakespeare characters collide.
One of the things we’re most proud of with Kill Shakespeare is the legion of fans,
largely female, who come to us saying some variation of the following:
really love what you’ve done with your Juliet. I used to hate her so much, but
I love reading your take – you totally reinvented her.’
Obviously, it’s an ego boost when people
tell you that you’ve somehow managed to improve on the work of the greatest
storyteller in English language history, but it’s not true. We
don’t think we’ve “re-invented” Juliet. Rather, Anthony, Andy, Corin and I just
brought into relief what was already there about the character.
But let me take a step back here first.
For those of you unfamiliar with the
when Hamlet meets Juliet it’s seven years after her ordeal with Romeo, and the
young woman is not only alive, she is leading a rebellion against Richard III!
On the surface, taking our favourite
star-crossed lover and making her Joan of Arc, but with slightly fewer delusional
visions, might seem like a big change. After all, isn’t she kind of a drip? She
just meets this guy and in a couple of days she’s so in love with him that she
enters a suicide pact?
We’d argue though that Juliet is
misunderstood. Instead of being seen as the ballsy take charge kind of girl
that we see, people think of her as passive, or weak.
Here’s our quick case for Juliet as
Elizabethan bad-ass (yeah, yeah, she was supposed to be 14th
- In Juliet’s time she is not
legally a person. She is the property of her father for him to do with as he
pleases. Shakespeare makes a point of
showing that her father, at least when it comes to the Montagues, is quick to
anger, and willing to use violent force.
- Juliet openly defies her father
by refusing to marry Paris. A bold move for any woman of the time, and especially
when she knows her father has a temper. And, sure enough, Lord Capulet is
enraged. While Capulet threatens to disown Juliet, it wouldn’t be totally out
of the picture for him to change his mind, and kill her for sullying the family
name – especially if he finds out she’s lost her prized virginity to a… Montague.
- Speaking of that prized
virginity – another great moment that shows how Juliet is more active than we
realise comes in the balcony scene. Romeo, basically, wants to climb that
balcony to prove to Juliet he loves her, by showering her with affection and,
well, getting it on. Juliet manages this incredibly difficult feat: she tells
Romeo she likes him, is interested, but also knows he was just mooning over some other girl, refuses to let Romeo get too hot or bothered, definitely refuses to let him climb the balcony to make love to her, and does that all without upsetting the fragile ego of the teenage boy.
(I’ve never been a fourteen-year old
girl, but that seems like a pretty difficult path to navigate and a total win
And lastly… after it all goes horribly
wrong, Juliet stabs herself to death with a dagger. To death!
(Our Juliet is no stranger to showing other people the
business end of a dagger.)
So yeah, I’d say Juliet gets a bad rap
as this passive girl with no gumption. That made it easy for us to re-imagine her
as someone who, if she survived, would want to channel all that passion and
self-confidence into something to atone for all the people who had died because
of her actions.
It’s important to note that what Anthony
and I did not want to do, was make
some soulless “terminator” version of Juliet. Yes, she would be trained to
fight. Yes, if she had to, she would kill for her rebellion, but the key thing
to us, was that Juliet was still identified with what she always has been –
It may not be romantic love – in fact, when
you first meet Juliet romantic love is something she’s sworn off. I
mean, she did that, and look what happened – death and heart-ache. But love for your fellow human beings – a love that demands you do something to help them have a better life – that love
Juliet still has in buckets.
It’s a key element to our Juliet’s motives.
She isn’t blind to the criticisms we level at her today. She sees herself as someone
who was once callow, foolish and self-absorbed. That’s why in
she leverages the fact
that she was a child of privilege to find ways to support the nascent Prodigal
(rebel) movement dedicated to overthrowing tyrants like Richard III and Lady
Macbeth. It’s her passion, love for people, and keen mind (as well as getting
taught to kick ass by Othello – read book 5!) that sees her become worthy of
leading a rebellion.
I’m excited that you will get to see our
take on the Bard’s most famous heroine. Because another thing that made me
incredibly proud was when the actress who played our Juliet when the Kill
Shakespeare show played in New York came up to Anthony and me, and told us that this Juliet was perhaps the best role she’d ever played. Because this Juliet, while a rebel and a
fighter, didn’t lose the passion and love she had for those in her life.
Or, as she put it: ‘she didn’t have to give up what makes her a woman, to become a hero.’
Couldn’t have said it better myself.