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My friends call me Elldee. And breaking the half century mark has been highly motivating: happy wife, mother, writer, teacher, day dreamer.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Narrative Mode ~ #16 Romeo & Juliet


Wherefore art thou Romeo

This narrative framework has been used by the best: Shakespeare and Banadello , so why shouldn't anybody else?  However, though many are familiar with this story, it is often viewed as having a simple plot.  Sure Romeo and Juliet are the main characters, but the nurse, the friar, Benvolio and Mercutio are essential supporting cast that could become stories worth fleshing out more, even shifting the focus from the two star-crossed lovers to one of these four.  My students groaned when they learned we would be reading Romeo and Juliet, but they loved the sword fighting scenes and the word play between Mercutio and other characters.  Finding Benvolio to be such an honest, caring fellow was another benefit and examining the paired scenes in the garden between Juliet and the nurse kept them quite entertained.  The storyline runs well, especially when the other characters are considered.
  • Avoid the Shakespearian give away summary at the start and shoot straight into the story.  Two servants of the Montague family begin a street fight with two servants from the Capulet side. Their loyalty for the family requires this response and of course, they must get the other fellows to throw the first swing so the blame lands squarely on them. 
  •  Benvolio, best friend and cousin to Romeo, tries to stop the fight, but his actions are misinterpreted by hot head Tybalt Capulet who jumps into the fray.  Now the town joins in, and the Prince arrives to break up the fight and threaten to kill the next person to disrupt his peaceful town again.  This seemingly natural response on the part of the prince is the initiating action that leads to all the other conflicts.  Without the promise of death should a next fight occur, Romeo and Juliet would have never found themselves separated. 
  •  Romeo meanwhile is suffering from the standard teenage angst. He loves a girl, but she won't even look twice at him.  Most people forget that he was nuts about Rosaline before he ever laid eyes on Juliet.  In fact, he won't look at another girl until his cousin Benvolio and friend Mercutio drag him to a party they plan to crash.  Then he sees Juliet and forgets Rosaline in record time. 
  •  Of course, there is another meanwhile: Juliet's father is considering betrothing her to the County Paris.  Juliet is expected to meet him at the party and determine if she could come to like him. 
  •  So you see there is a lot more going on than just two teenagers who cannot be together because their parents have an ancient feud between them.  At the party, Tybalt sees Romeo and determines that he needs to be taught a lesson, which brings us to the most serious hurdle the two lovers must deal with. 
  •  Tybalt in his search for Romeo runs into Mercutio and Benvolio.  Mercutio ends up in a sword fight with Tybalt which Romeo then tries to break up.  This only leads to the death of his friend when Tybalt presses his sword under Romeo's arm and into Mercutio's breast.  He dies cursing Romeo for getting in the way.  Tybalt and Mercutio were fighting a staged dual, all bluff to save face.  Now Romeo must fight Tybalt to make up for Mercutio.  In his anger, he kills Tybalt and too late realizes he has killed Juliet's beloved cousin.  And that is the second event that tips the remaining dominoes. 
  •  How can Juliet love someone who has killed her cousin?  How can her family raise her from her grief?  How can Romeo give her reason to forgive him?  
  •  Juliet's father's response is to betroth her to Paris and plan the marriage for just a few days away.  Romeo is banished and has left the area.  Juliet acquires a potion from the friar which will cause her to appear dead, but Romeo does not get the message that would clue him in.  He learns instead that she has committed suicide rather than marry Paris.  And everyone knows what happens after that.  (My students would yell, "And everyone dies!")

So let's break it down to simple plotting:
·       Boy wants girl but can't get her.
·       Family of boy hates other family.
·       Friends of boy drag him off to a party at the other family's home
·       Boy falls for another girl in the enemy family.
·       Girl falls for boy
·       With the help of loyal servant, girl and boy plan to wed
·       Girl's cousin goes after boy and kills his friend instead
·       Boy seeks revenge
·       Girl is expected to hate boy and love another
·       Boy must hide to avoid "justice"
·       Girl's death is faked, but boy does not get the news and kills himself.  She awakens to find him dead and kills herself.
·       Family learns the hard way to get along

Two colonies on an alien planet.  Two companies in commercial competition selling the same product.  Two schools in the same city.  Two software programs in the same mainframe.  Two ranches in the old west.  Each applies it own influence on weapons, fighting styles, rulers, values, and how much the end will twist.

 The Little Handbook of Narrative Frameworks available on Smashwords and Amazon.
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