A little while ago I read both Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, and a retelling of the story by Rachel Caine, The Prince of Shadows. After the experience I had reading Hamlet (I LOVED it!), I was shocked by my dislike for Romeo and Juliet.
Now my reason for almost hating this work is not the fact that they get married so young. Or because its sad that they don’t get a happily ever after. First of all, it’s important to consider a work in its historical context, and considering that the play takes place between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and that the legal age for marriage in the fourteenth century for girls was twelve and for boys was fourteen, it is not that far-fetched that Romeo and Juliet get married. Second the play is a tragedy: don’t expect a happily ever after, just lots of death. My real problem with this play is the rash actions, I understand that maybe Shakespeare wanted to highlight the fault in taking rash action, but seriously, a week! It’s just not as polished as Hamlet or even Cymbeline, at least that had an interesting heroine.
Now, instead of following Romeo and Juliet directly, Prince of Shadows follows their story of Benvolio. As in the original play, Benvolio is Romeo’s friend, relative, and confidant. During the day he watches out for Romeo and hangs out with Mercutio, their other friend, but at night he’s a thief who steals from the wealthy to teach them a lesson and because he’s bored. Let me just say now that Rachel Caine is a Bloody Amazing author!
The setting is enchanting and the character development is well thought out. Prince of Shadows gives the events of the original Romeo and Juliet a more solid reason for happening than star-crossed love, which, I must admit, I didn’t think was well developed in the original text. I love how I got to see what becomes of the Montagues, the Capulets, and just Verona in general. And while I do suggest you read the original play first in order to understand some of the nuances and jokes in the story, I do love Prince of Shadows way more than Romeo and Juliet because it completes the other half of the story told in the play.