Last week, I posted the first letter in my Shakespeare “fanfic” where Juliet’s best friend, Livia, is writing her letters to give her advice. Here Livia advises an alternate plan for avoiding marriage with Paris. If only Juliet would have listened …
April 17, 1592
I heard the bad news about Romeo being banished to Mantua. I’m so sorry (even if you didn’t take my advice about marrying Romeo). I also found out that your parents are forcing you to marry Paris. Oh, Juliet, that’s terrible! Although quite wealthy, he is a thoroughly unattractive man. But don’t worry, your faithful Liv has a plan! It’s pretty risky and a little crazy (like me!), but I think it will work. I swear you won’t have to drink nasty tasting potions that may or may not be effective or wake up in a grave. What you must do is first write a letter to Romeo explaining the plan (which I’ll share in a minute), then confront your father and refuse to marry Paris, and finally escape Verona. If everything goes as planned, you’ll be happily living with Romeo and not Paris!
The first thing you’ll need to do is write a letter to Romeo. Explain to him what is going on, how your father is forcing you to marry Paris, and that if you don’t, you’ll be disowned. Tell Romeo that the night before the wedding, you will refuse to marry Paris. Instruct Romeo or a trusted servant to meet you at Verona’s south gate at dawn on Wednesday. He is to take you to Mantua where you’ll live happily ever after. Once you’ve written the letter, secretly give it to a messenger and have him take it quickly to Mantua where Romeo is. Or if you can’t, I, of course, can always send it. One last thing, make sure you get a ladder and a pair of breeches. Don’t ask why right now. It’s for Step 3. Now that you’ve completed the first step in the plan, we move on to Step 2.
Step 2 is better suited for my personality than yours because you were always the obedient daughter, but I’m sure you’ll do just fine. This may be quite shocking and not in the least bit proper, but trust me. Have I ever steered you wrong (except for that one time with Benvolio, but we won’t review past history right now)? I need you to go to your father on Tuesday evening and bluntly tell him you will not marry Paris under any condition. Tell him as forcefully as you can that he can disown you if he must, but you will not marry Paris. He will probably threaten to drag you there himself, but don’t worry about it. You’re clever Juliet, and I’m sure you can come up with some witty response back. Besides, you won’t be there in the morning for him to drag you anywhere. At this point, he’ll probably be ready to explode. I would suggest getting out of there. Go up to your room, and lock the door. Under no circumstance let anybody in. Get your belongings together. Pack as little as possible, but if you have anything really special go ahead and get that organized. You can leave a note for your nurse if you’d like, but don’t say where you’re going or when you’ll be back. More importantly, don’t tell her who put you up to this! Change into the breeches. Finally, if you can, get some rest. The final step demands quite a bit of energy.
Step 3 will require you to be very, very brave. An hour before dawn let the ladder down off your balcony, just like you did for Romeo on your wedding night. Now climb down. I know it’s scary, but trust me. If Romeo could climb up the ladder, you can climb down. The breeches will make the descent much easier, and besides, what’s the worst that could happen? So you have a little fall into the bushes below. Isn’t a bruised backside better than marrying Paris? Anyway, climb down the ladder and into your garden. Now, make your way out and follow the map of Verona I sent along with this letter all the way to the south gate. Once you are there, wait by the gate for Romeo or the servant to come. When he comes, follow him to Mantua. There you can start a new life with your Romeo!
Juliet, I hope you’ll take my advice this time. I have checked on everything, and I believe this plan will work. Please don’t be stupid or rash like you were in marrying Romeo. I swear that if you follow the plan, everything will go just fine. I think you’ll like Mantua. I’ve heard it’s very nice and a lot like Verona. In fact, if I were you, I’d make room in my new house for a guest, because I might join you if I’m forced to marry Paris!