Once upon a time, so I am told, I was a thirteen-year-old girl. And I took my paperback copy of Romeo & Juliet camping with me and that copy was so well-worn and well-loved that it naturally fell open to Romeo & Juliet’s first meeting at the Capulet party:
If I profane with my unworthiest hand…
Once upon a time, it was suggested to me, I was a thirteen-year-old girl and my drama teacher told me, “You’re already too tall to play Juliet.”
And Gods above, what a simple little introduction to so many of the things I’ve come to despise, particularly the suggestion that my body needs to be a particular way to be worthy of my job, to be worthy of my skill, and in this specific case, to be worthy of being called beautiful.
If I profane with my unworthiest hand, this holy shrine the gentle sin is this…
Once upon a time, I was, I think, 23 or so and my boss- the artistic director of the theatre company whose programs and ticket stubs I dutifully tacked up on my high school bedroom wall said to me, “I’m always on the look-out for a tall Romeo for you.”
Oh, okay, I see. Because Juliet has to be smaller than Romeo, right? Because Shakespeare’s subtext is that she is lesser, that her capacity to be loved comes from her need to reach up on tiptoes to get a fucking celery stick from the tallest cupboard. Surely that’s Will’s actually meaning behind this line:
My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep, the more I give to thee, the more I have for both are infinite.
You’re too tall. There’s too much of you. Where would we ever find enough fabric to make you a costume?
Why do we still do these plays if not to challenge our own perception of infinity? If we have condemned Juliet Capulet to be immortal, shouldn’t we afford her the right to take on as many faces and forms and shapes and colors and anything as she deserves? Do we love her because she is conventionally beautiful? Is her death so much more heartbreaking because of her symmetrical, unblemished face?
Or did she trust us with the knowledge that her bounty is as boundless as the sea and did we remember the first time we ourselves felt a love that had the capacity to drown us and buoy us at once and did we gasp into the darkness and say Juliet, I love you?
What’s in a name anyway?
That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet?
Perhaps it is a matter of taste, but I do not trust a Juliet with the perfect shade of lipstick any more than I trust a Romeo who can do a perfect smooth pull-up onto the balcony. Give me sweating, bleeding, wobbling dorks who love each other because they choose to and not because the world has told them there is no other way, this is your perfect, height-appropriate match.
And when he shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars…
If Juliet is meant to be so small, then why do we expect Romeo to climb?