Click here to read Part I.

(That afternoon, on the outskirts of Verona, at a Club, getting in an afternoon’s worth of pheasant shooting, having needed to get out of town and “think about things;” although presently eating peanuts and breaking at the bar… Capulet is also there.)

O Capulet, you bastard, have you heard?
Your daughter has popped out a little bird.
I heard it through “The Grapevine” from my wife
who’s been a member of that Club for life.
You know the way the women gossip, Cap.
I don’t know what I’m filled with. Is it sap?
and sentiment. I hear my son now works
in Mantua, a landscaper. He forks
the soil with a hooking thing. With paint
he brushes canvas, in spare time. They’re quaint,
these landscapes that he recreates, the trees;
he always loved the sycamores, the seas,
the skies like fields of lavender and suns
like oranges and lemons: fruity ones.

Of course I’ve heard, you heathen; it’s a boy.
My wife, as well, is of that vine, deploy
your family, fellow. We will have a fête.
We have to end this puerile, savage hate
and get along— I guess they’re doing well.
Julie, at first, I guess she cooked like hell;
but now she cooks a mean pesto and fish.
My wife, herself, has never cooked a dish;
and though your son has always been a queer,
a weirdo, an eccentric; I don’t fear
that he will hurt her any longer. Yes,
his paintings are top-notch; they sell, I guess,
which supplements his income potting plants.
It’s not a bad life wearing denim pants.

I totally agree; I can’t believe
they named him what they named him. Let us leave
for Mantua tomorrow smoke a stoge
with Romeo, who once was such a rogue,
conspiring with that old foge to ’nap
your lovely daughter. I am sorry Cap.
I hope we can get over this impasse
and see the motes in our eyes too, alas!
We did not do a hell of a clean job
at raising kids and families. We did rob
them of their Christian virtues. Neighbors love
to bash their neighbors. It’s condemned above.
We have to turn a new leaf. Let’s begin
to start forgiving. We have lived in sin.

I know; I know; I’m getting over it.
I miss my pretty daughter who would sit
upon my lap when she was small. I would
convey to her sweet stories. Oh we should
collect our wives, compose a caravan,
and get to Mantua as fast as can
be done succinctly, end this whole charade
of feignéd ire on our parts. The rod
I snap and toss. Our kids are grown adults
despite the fact they jumped the córral. Colts
who deigned to feign my Juliet’s demise.
We put her in the grave. I cried my eyes
out of their sockets. It was a sick prank;
but like you’ve said, it was our fault: We stank.

Lady Montague 
(The next morning, rather early, after Montague and Capulet have returned to Verona and have rendezvoused with their wives at a chic breakfast place.)

We’ll have the fête when we return; let’s go.
I cannot wait to hold my grandkid, show
him off to everyone I see and meet:
It is the Grandma’s job to be the seat
of irksomeness and bothersome concern.
She thinks her grandkid’s all there is, will burn
with jealousy if there is a young tot
who outdoes hers, is potty-trained, sans snot,
while hers increases Huggies Wall Street stock,
and doesn’t talk but only goes “bawk bawk.”

So, my dear Lady Capulet, prepare
to show Mercutio off everywhere…
It’s forty something kilos to their flat.
Pheidippides could run it. Think of that!

Lady Capulet 
(The morning after that, having traveled thirty kilos the first day, having rested themselves and their horses at an Inn, and the final fourteen kilos the next morning, the two grandmother’s barge through the door to find the three exiled Mantuans—Romeo, Juliet, and little Mercutio—all still in bed together. Montague and Capulet follow behind the women demurely.)

O! O my God! O! O my God! O! O!
O! Juliet, my love! O Romeo!
We’re sorry, darlings, miss you, love you, yes!
(To Capulet): “Their flat is such a mess…”
It’s been so long! We’ve missed you ever since—
O where is he? O where’s the little prince!
Please hand him over, Juliet, my love!
O look at him! Just like a little dove!
The peaceful lad, who’s bringing peace as well
to our two families whose lives were a hell…
I’ve got him, darling. Let me kiss his lip!
(I can’t believe you bare your budding nip!)
That’s so progressive, Jewish, peasant-like,
but good for you! He is a healthy tyke!

Lord Montague
(Looking embarrassed, shakes Romeo’s hand, who has quickly thrown on some sweats, and the three men, including Lord Capulet, go outside on the small balcony to smoke a cigar…)

Congratulations, Romeo, my son.
As you must know, this hasn’t been much fun.
You’ve always had an all or nothing bent.
You wanted once to make your home a tent;
you burned your money, went out on a trip,
and when I tried to stop you, gave me lip.
You’re hot; you’re cold; you’re tense; you’re lax. I love
you nonetheless. I thank the Lord above.
I must admit I was rather the same.
I was distracted ere I found my dame.
I’d exercise and go and run a mile;
I’d cycle, swim, and it would make me smile.
But the next week, my smiles full of sags,
You’d see me idling and smoking fags.

(picking the dead petals off of the potted flowers pensively and dropping them down onto the street)

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree;
for here we are, smoking cigars, us three.
O let us turn a new leaf in our book.
Quit nagging on each other let us look
at our own selves and try to change at last.
I do not want to think about the past.
I want to press my weight against the plow
and keep on plowing. I don’t need you now.
I know that we can make it on our own.
Given the choice, Mantua’s now my home.
I’ve bled here, sweat here; here my family is:
here is my occupation. Mind your biz
and I’ll mind mine. I love you still; but do
please pluck the Past’s black petal it is through.


Reid McGrath lives and writes in the Hudson Valley Region of New York.

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6 Responses

  1. Kathy F.

    Very clever and witty, with great imagery! I look forward to reading any future installments!

  2. Amy Foreman

    I agree with Kathy F. You should definitely keep doing these takes on Shakespeare. Maybe a whole play! Your iambic pentameter is a pleasure to read, engaging and entertaining. One of my favorite lines, quite chuckly-worthy:
    “We’re sorry, darlings, miss you, love you, yes!
    (To Capulet): “Their flat is such a mess…”

    This is great stuff, Reid–

  3. David Watt

    Beautifully written piece making clever use of the vernacular. Reminiscent of C.J. Dennis’ style in an Australian comical take on Romeo and Juliet from early last century, entitled “The Play.”

  4. Lew Icarus Bede

    Mr. McGrath, this is a remarkable piece, with an interesting vantage—predominantly from the grandparents’ points of view, in which you neatly capture generational tension. The diction is snappy and rich, “Pheidippides could run it. Think of that.” Your humour, like that of C. J. Dennis, is Falstaffian. David Watt’s critical observation is brilliant. “The Play” is an extr’ordinary poem. Both McGrath now and Dennis then, a century ago, handle iambic pentametre couplets with consummate skill. I’m also very much impressed with the stanzaic form Dennis used in “The Play,” the fourth line dimetre contrast with the iambic pentametres. I look forward to more work from Mr. McGrath and David Watt as well.

  5. Reid McGrath

    Thank you all for your kind words. I have not read “The Play” but I will certainly look into it as soon as possible. Perhaps there will be more adaptations in the future.


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