Saturday, February 14, 2015

Quote of the Day (Ovid, on Love—for Valentine’s Day)

“It is not safe to despise what Love commands. He reigns supreme, and rules the mighty gods.”— Ovid, Heroides, IV, 11, quoted in Kate Louise Roberts, Hoyt’s New Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations (1922)

If love “rules the mighty gods,” then what chance do mere mortals stand? Let alone a pair of headstrong teenagers?

The picture accompanying this post is, of course, from Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. One of my most vivid memories of freshman English class in high school was a showing of the movie in Assembly, when a classmate let out a war-whoop upon beholding Olivia Hussey’s Juliet leaning over the balcony. (He went on to become an actor himself. I’m still convinced the two actions weren’t completely unrelated.)

The level of realism displayed in the movie—the notion of teen actors in the roles, rather than middle-aged leads such as Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer in the 1936 version—was, at the time, revelatory. But I had forgotten, until I just saw the latest episode of Shakespeare Uncovered, just how good the movie really was.

I’m thinking of a scene difficult to visualize, at least for me, just from the printed page, but which makes perfect sense as filmed. It’s a throwaway scene, in a certain sense—Milo O’Shea as Friar Laurence, agreeing to perform the wedding ceremony for the two—but it says everything about what ties them together. They are all over each other, to such a point that he has to physically separate them.

At that point, you understand perfectly what the cleric means when he warns, “These violent delights have violent ends.”

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