I am juliet, p.14

I Am Juliet, page 14


I Am Juliet

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  A place setting at a formal meal would have a plate (not the trenchers of bread more common in earlier times), a spoon and probably a knife. Forks were a new fashion, arrived from Italy, but even the most fashionable people were only just beginning to learn to use them. Men carried knives as a matter of course, and might use them to cut their food as well as to dispatch an enemy. A knife sometimes had prongs or a prong on one end to help in picking up food from the common dish. But usually food arrived at the table already in pieces that could be eaten with the fingers or a spoon, or as great joints that were carved at the table. In simple households, the male head of the house would carry out the carving. In wealthier homes, it might be done by a professional carver, who would also add sauces or seasoning to the pieces he had carved.

  A spoon might be hand-carved wood, or silver, or an alloy of gold, depending on your status. A sucket spoon was a small spoon with a hollow handle used to eat moist sweet dishes, like stewed quinces.

  Most Elizabethans used their fingers to pick up their food. Washing your hands before a meal, and wiping your fingers during it, was an important part of table etiquette. A host provided a basin and jugs of warm or scented water for their guests before they sat at the table. There would be bowls of scented water on the table to dip your fingers into during the meal, before drying them on the tablecloth or linen napkins.

  The servants would serve wine or ale into the cups (wood, tin, pottery or expensive glass, or pewter, brass, silver or gold) at the sideboard, then serve each person individually; or the women of the household would serve the men. Food was put on the table for everyone to help themselves to. It wasn’t good manners to reach across the table. You waited for your neighbour to ask if they could help you to a dish, or you asked for some of it, though the latter wasn’t acceptable for a woman or a young person. Nor was it good manners to pick the most delicious bit for yourself, to wipe your face with your hand or sleeve, to dip your sleeve into the stewed apple or sauce, or brush it against the roast. If you didn’t have the grace to make your long sleeves fall away from your wrists, it was best to discreetly pin them back before you helped yourself to food.

  The wealthier you were, the more food you had in front of you. You weren’t expected to eat it all, or even to taste each dish. In a household like the Capulets’, the servants would eat the family’s leftovers. In the royal household, royalty ate first, and it was an honour to eat the leftovers from the royal table.


  Few people had carriages at the time when Romeo and Juliet was first performed; nor were most of the narrow roads suitable for carriages to travel on. People rode horses, donkeys or mules; or were carried in chairs, or in litters where they lay on cushions.


  A young Elizabethan girl of good family wore her hair loose, perhaps with the hair next to her face plaited and drawn back, and decorated with flowers or jewels. A married woman swept her hair up into a bun or other style, and covered it with a veil, wimple, hairnet, hat or cap, depending on who she was and what she might be doing. A servant’s hair might also be covered. A poorer woman might keep her hair covered much of the time to try to keep it lice-free.


  The poor wore dull colours, and the rich wore bright ones. The richer you were, the brighter your clothes, unless you wore black for mourning. The dyes came from insects, lichens and plants, and were costly. Most dyes faded quickly.

  Bright pink was a popular colour for men as well as women. Only royalty or those closely related to royalty, like Paris, were allowed to wear gold or silver, although the law was often disobeyed.


  This is taken from Thomas Morley’s First Book of Ballets (1595). The song in I am Juliet has been changed slightly to fit the scene. This is the original:

  Now is the month of maying,

  When merry lads are playing, fa la,

  Each with his bonny lass

  Upon the greeny grass.

  Fa la la! Fa la lala, la la.

  The Spring, clad all in gladness,

  Doth laugh at Winter’s sadness, fa la,

  And to the bagpipe’s sound

  The nymphs tread out their ground.

  Fa la la! Fa la lala, la la.


  Paris’s song in the banquet scene of I am Juliet is meant to be the kind of song Shakespeare lampooned in this poem. Well-born men composed poetry, songs and music, and would perform in company, partly as entertainment, and sometimes, probably, to show off their wit and cleverness. The explicitness of Paris’s song — and his making such an open claim on Juliet in public — would be insulting today, but expected in the 1590s.

  My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;

  Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;

  If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;

  If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

  I have seen roses damasked, red and white,

  But no such roses see I in her cheeks;

  And in some perfumes is there more delight

  Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

  I love to hear her speak, yet well I know

  That music hath a far more pleasing sound;

  I grant I never saw a goddess go;

  My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:

  And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare

  As any she belied with false compare.


  A manuscript is sometimes like an almost made cake, with still a bit of mixing, as well as baking and icing to be done.

  I am Juliet was remixed as well as spiced by the superb editing of Nicola O’Shea, who smoothed out the lumpy bits where the combination of Shakespearean and modern language didn’t quite mesh, the whole guided and shaped by the wonderful Kate Burnitt of HarperCollins.

  Lisa Berryman as always gave me the confidence to contemplate a marriage of my words and Shakespeare’s (I didn’t realise until I was well into it how ambitious a task it would be). Lisa calmly beheaded the book, removing the last unnecessary chapter. When I lack the courage or clarity to evaluate my work, Lisa is there. She shared the planning of the next two books in this series: Ophelia, Queen of Denmark (2015) and Third Witch (2016). As always, there are no words enough to thank her.

  Enormous gratitude to Angela Marshall, for yet again taking a mess of badly spelled words and turning them into a readable manuscript, and in this case, sharing her knowledge and love of the play to help fit text with the book.

  To the teenagers who first inspired this book, complaining about Romeo and Juliet’s unrealistically long speeches: I hope by now you have travelled far beyond the teacher who discouraged you from expressing what were well thought out and valid opinions, even if you hadn’t been taught how to transfer them to a page. With luck you have discovered that most teachers are not like yours (I eavesdropped on your teacher’s conversation in the staffroom, and was grateful yet again that I was blessed with superb teachers, not ones who muttered, ‘I don’t know why we turn up, really’ — I’m not sure why they turned up either). I hope you have found teachers with enthusiasm, insight and compassion. But if you haven’t, and if you did leave school, thinking there was no point staying any longer: you are not stupid, despite your teacher’s claims. If you still need to know how to write an essay: just write it down, exactly as you told me. I hope you will seize the most wonderful of futures, and perhaps even look again at Shakespeare and find beauty in his words.

  And — belatedly — to the Brisbane Arts Theatre of my youth, who gave a teenager the privilege of playing third witch in Macbeth. One of my most treasured teenage memories is of sitting on a pile of scenery, dressed in black robes, warts and hunchback, studying for the next day’s economics exam while Banquo in red velvet breeches lectured me on Marxist economics (I just wanted to work out how to calculate GNP). Without the Ar
ts Theatre, and the magic of feet upon the stage, I too might have thought that Shakespeare was just ‘all those words’.

  About the Author

  Jackie French is an award-winning writer, wombat negotiator and the Australian Children’s Laureate for 2014–2015. She is regarded as one of Australia’s most popular children’s authors and writes across all genres — from picture books, history, fantasy, ecology and sci-fi to her much loved historical fiction. In her capacity as Australian Children’s Laureate, ‘Share a Story’ will be the primary philosophy behind Jackie’s two-year term.

  You can visit Jackie’s website at:


  Books by Jackie French


  Somewhere Around the Corner • Dancing with Ben Hall

  Soldier on the Hill • Daughter of the Regiment

  Hitler’s Daughter • Lady Dance • The White Ship

  How the Finnegans Saved the Ship • Valley of Gold

  Tom Appleby, Convict Boy • They Came on Viking Ships

  Macbeth and Son • Pharaoh • A Rose for the Anzac Boys

  Oracle • The Night They Stormed Eureka

  Pennies for Hitler • Nanberry: Black Brother White


  Rain Stones • Walking the Boundaries • The Secret Beach

  Summerland • Beyond the Boundaries • Refuge

  A Wombat Named Bosco • The Book of Unicorns

  The Warrior — The Story of a Wombat • Tajore Arkle

  Missing You, Love Sara • Dark Wind Blowing

  Ride the Wild Wind: The Golden Pony and Other Stories


  Let the Land Speak: How the Land Created Our Nation

  Seasons of Content • A Year in the Valley

  How the Aliens from Alpha Centauri

  Invaded My Maths Class and Turned Me into a Writer

  How to Guzzle Your Garden • The Book of Challenges

  Stamp, Stomp, Whomp

  The Fascinating History of Your Lunch

  Big Burps, Bare Bums and Other Bad-Mannered Blunders

  To the Moon and Back • Rocket Your Child into Reading

  The Secret World of Wombats • I Spy a Great Reader

  How High Can a Kangaroo Hop?

  The Animal Stars Series

  1. The Goat Who Sailed the World

  2. The Dog Who Loved a Queen

  3. The Camel Who Crossed Australia

  4. The Donkey Who Carried the Wounded

  5. The Horse Who Bit a Bushranger

  6. Dingo: The Dog Who Conquered a Continent

  The Matilda Saga

  1. A Waltz for Matilda • 2. The Girl from Snowy River

  3. The Road to Gundagai

  Outlands Trilogy

  In the Blood • Blood Moon • Flesh and Blood

  School for Heroes Series

  Lessons for a Werewolf Warrior • Dance of the Deadly Dinosaurs

  Wacky Families Series

  1. My Dog the Dinosaur • 2. My Mum the Pirate

  3. My Dad the Dragon • 4. My Uncle Gus the Garden Gnome

  5. My Uncle Wal the Werewolf • 6. My Gran the Gorilla

  7. My Auntie Chook the Vampire Chicken

  8. My Pa the Polar Bear

  Phredde Series

  1. A Phaery Named Phredde

  2. Phredde and a Frog Named Bruce

  3. Phredde and the Zombie Librarian

  4. Phredde and the Temple of Gloom

  5. Phredde and the Leopard-Skin Librarian

  6. Phredde and the Purple Pyramid

  7. Phredde and the Vampire Footy Team

  8. Phredde and the Ghostly Underpants

  Picture Books

  Diary of a Wombat (with Bruce Whatley)

  Pete the Sheep (with Bruce Whatley)

  Josephine Wants to Dance (with Bruce Whatley)

  The Shaggy Gully Times (with Bruce Whatley)

  Emily and the Big Bad Bunyip (with Bruce Whatley)

  Baby Wombat’s Week (with Bruce Whatley)

  Queen Victoria’s Underpants (with Bruce Whatley)

  The Tomorrow Book (with Sue deGennaro)

  Christmas Wombat (with Bruce Whatley)

  A Day to Remember (with Mark Wilson)

  Dinosaurs Love Cheese (with Nina Rycroft)

  The Hairy-Nosed Wombats Find a New Home (with Sue deGennaro)

  Good Dog Hank (with Nina Rycroft)



  An imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, Australia

  First published in Australia in 2014

  This edition published in 2014

  by HarperCollinsPublishers Australia Pty Limited

  ABN 36 009 913 517


  Copyright © Jackie French and E French 2014

  The right of Jackie French to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her under the Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000.

  This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced, copied, scanned, stored in a retrieval system, recorded, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the publisher.


  Level 13, 201 Elizabeth Street, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

  Unit D1, 63 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand

  A 53, Sector 57, Noida, UP, India

  77–85 Fulham Palace Road, London, W6 8JB, United Kingdom

  2 Bloor Street East, 20th floor, Toronto, Ontario M4W 1A8, Canada

  195 Broadway, New York, NY 10007, USA

  National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication data:

  French, Jackie, author.

  I am Juliet / Jackie French.

  ISBN: 978 0 7322 9798 5 (pbk)

  ISBN: 978 1 4607 0086 0 (epub)

  For children.

  Juliet (Fictitious character)—Juvenile fiction.

  Shakespearean actors and actresses—Juvenile fiction.


  Cover design by Christa Moffitt, Christabella Designs

  Cover image by Lucia Rubio

  Author photograph by Kelly Sturgiss



  Jackie French, I Am Juliet



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