A Reinterpretation That Could Use A Little Innovation
Romeo, Romeo, oh we know all about you Romeo. Or do we?
Nadd Wellgreen invites his readers to peek deeper into the lives of two of the most well known characters in history and one of the least well known, Rosaline. Romeo and Juliet before the Mask adds a fun and interesting element to the age old love story. Readers actually get to hear from the mysterious Rosaline, who (in case you don’t remember) is the woman who first sets Romeo on his tragic romance by rejecting his offerings of love. Wellgreen paints her as a clever character. She also displays a pinch of sneakiness as she convinces her cousin Juliet to adorn herself with finery in order to “… be fairest to all eyes. / (Especially, as I would have it so, / The eyes of my annoyance, Romeo!)” Wellgreen immediately makes this once forgettable character someone worth reading about, but if the poet is going to study Rosaline, why not simply focus on Rosaline?
Readers are also made privy to Wellgreen’s imaginings of the romantic lessons given by the loyal Friar Lawrence to Romeo as the young man schemes how to win over Rosaline at the Mask. There are some lovely verses to be found in that little scene, but it doesn’t really pay off since Wellgreen cuts his work to only five pages. Wellgreen’s text is short and snappy, which is exciting news for readers who like works that are quick to get to the point, and yet, it is a bit disappointing.
Romeo and Juliet before the Mask contains the makings of a far more enticing collection. Wellgreen could easily follow in the footsteps of writing legend John Updike and write a work solely devoted to a character who sets massive tragedy into motion while somehow remaining essentially invisible.
The poet leaves readers starving for more – more of this new corner of the world he’s created, more of Rosaline. Wellgreen’s adept hand at the writing in the style of Shakespeare could lead to a collection that invigorates an old masterpiece. Hopefully he will not leave the fair Rosaline shrouded in mist forever.
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