Have you ever wondered what happened to the middle ranking characters in Shakespeare plays ? If it’s a comedy, the principal characters get married- Beatrice and Benedick, for example. And if it’s a tragedy, they die- Hamlet in a duel, Macbeth in a brawl, Lear of shock and old age.
But what about the characters left behind. What kind of a marriage do Sir Toby Belch and Maria have ? What happens to Seyton ( or is it Satan ?) Macbeth’s sinister bodyguard ? Does Horatio just go back to being a university don after the death of his friend ?
I’ve been thinking about Rosaline, the girl Romeo is passionately devoted to- at least until he meets Juliet. What happened to her ? And just suppose Romeo didn’t die of poison after all and….just suppose it all happened in the 21st Century…just suppose….
Have a look at this poem and let me know what you think….
We’re very comfortable- he’s a lawyer,
a specialist in conflict resolution. Senior partner
at Montague and Capulet. The old man died
ten years ago but still he kept the name.
I wish he wasn’t so fastidious.
At first we thought of moving from Verona
but we were brought up here-
childhood sweet hearts you might almost say.
I find that I still hate her, which is strange
for thirty years have gone and I’m not prone to hate.
A leggy girl with eyes like bright jade chips
and hair- I envied her the hair- a cloud
of red gold sparks where mine was merely black.
She grabbed love from him like a greedy child
while I held back, not daring to believe
that everything he said, he meant.
That business at the tomb- the poison bottle-
I shudder when I think of it.
That first night in the hospital. His skin
corpse cold. And later the long months
of therapy at that clinic in the Alps.
Then he was good as new- almost.
We married- it was a kind of reflex action.
No talk of love-it was an understanding-
something altogether more reliable.
He’s gentle and considerate-. Separate bedrooms.
That side of things was always a formality.
He sees his Roman mistress once a month
and I pretend a placid ignorance.
In thirty years we’ve only argued once-
in the clinic after I’d given birth
to our only child- a daughter.
Weeping, he begged to call her Juliet
but I refused. She has my mother’s name.
He drives into the office every morning
the house is left to me- it’s my domain.
A cook and gardener see to all my needs.
We have a small apartment in Geneva
and fly off to the Maldives every summer.
By the way, Susan Daniels has written a cracking Ophelia poem. Punchy, economical, it brings Ophelia into the present day. You can find it here: