When the Capulet/Montague feud continues to escalate, Rosaline and Benvolio find they have little choice but to marry (despite their own desires). Get a sneak peek of Monday’s Still Star-Crossed.
In all honesty, Still Star-Crossed is just as amazing as I thought it would be. Shondaland taking on period drama might seem unexpected, given their other smash hits. But, from the beginning, Still Star-Crossed is imbued with that special *something* that hooks us on Shondaland shows. The plot is quick-paced and full of drama from several sources−secret romance, political scheming, family discord. While the premiere begins with the Romeo and Juliet narrative we’re familiar with, the series inserts some key twists that turn the episode into a launchpad to explore some interesting dynamics in and around Verona.
Yes, there are several tropes in play, but let’s be real, these days, everything is derivative in one way or another. And as long as the story is entertaining, what’s the harm?
Plus, Still Star-Crossed is simply gorgeous: the cast is stunningly attractive (of all races and ethnicities, thank goodness!), the costuming is sumptuous, and the set locations are breathtaking.
“In Fair Verona, Where We Lay Our Scene” does just that, starting with the parts of Romeo and Juliet’s story we know and using it to set up previously unexplored parts of that world.
We open with Romeo and Juliet’s wedding, conducted by Friar Lawrence. We seen that they are joined by two witnesses, Romeo’s cousin, Benvolio Montague and Juliet’s cousin, Rosaline Capulet. Both Benvolio and Rosaline are extremely reluctant to let their cousins get married in the face of the giant obstacle of the Capulet/Montague rivalry. But Friar Lawrence is determine to see a love-match breach the divide between families. After the ceremony, the group parts ways, with Romeo and Juliet promising to break the news to their fathers.
Interestingly, Benvolio and Rosaline are in similar places. They’re both orphaned and now living with their uncles/aunts. Benvolio and Rosaline are also resented by their relations. Lord Montague believes Benvolio to be a whore and wastrel, while Lady Capulet treats Rosaline and her sister Livia as servants. (In this case, we soon learn that Lady Capulet’s disdain arises from jealousy of Rosaline’s mother. She wanted to marry Rosaline’s father, younger brother to Lord Capulet, but sacrificed love to have a title by marrying the older brother.)
Elsewhere, Prince Cosimo, leader of Verona is dying. His daughter, Princess Isabella is with Cosimo in his last minutes and soon Escalus (who has just returned to the city after a long trip) joins them. In his final moments, Cosimo wants nothing but to protect Verona from falling prey to the Capulet/Montague feud. He passes a proclamation that anyone who commits murder will be executed without trial. Cosimo asks that Isabella marry to strengthen the city and that Escalus should always put the city first. When Cosimo dies, Escalus is immediately named Prince of Verona.
To celebrate becoming Prince, Escalus hosts a ball, which Lady Capulet (grudgingly) allows Rosaline and Livia to attend. (Incidentally, Juliet gets out of going by claiming to be ill and tired. But really, she’s consummating her marriage with Romeo 😉 ). At the ball, we see that, despite being friends when they were younger, there’s a tense relationship between Rosaline and Isabella, mostly on Rosaline’s side. However, she totally thaws when she greets Escalus…
Later, in the midst of celebration, Tybalt Capulet (Juliet’s cousin) seeks vengeance for Capulet fields being burned and begins a fight with Romeo and Benvolio. Romeo’s friend Mercutio intervenes and is killed (“a plague on both your houses”) and in retaliation Romeo kills Tybalt. Given the Prince’s new edict, Romeo is forced into hiding. On top of that, Lord Montague arranges for Juliet to marry Count Paris, future Prince of Mantua. Things are getting complex and Romeo and Juliet become desperate.
Juliet and Rosaline go to Father Lawrence for help and he gives them a potion that will allow Juliet to fake her death. Friar Lawrence will send a note to Romeo about the ploy so they can meet in the crypts and run away together. The potion works, but Romeo never gets the note. He’s totally distraught when he arrives at the crypt and sees a “dead” Juliet. Romeo kills Paris (who is at the tomb to pay his respects, claiming to be Juliet’s fiance). Then Romeo kills himself with a potion. Juliet wakes up to see her husband dead beside her, and then kills herself too. Rosaline arrives in the aftermath of the whole thing.
For me, the most OMG-twisty twist is that Lord Montague knows about Romeo and Juliet’s relationship the whole time. He encouraged it! Apparently Lord Montague likes the idea of his house being strengthened by Capulet blood, uniting the families under the Montague name.
The Capulets and Montagues have a joint funeral for Juliet and Romeo, and Escalus takes the opportunity to call for peace between the families to honor their children’s love. The Montagues have even commissioned a statue of Juliet as sign up good faith. But when the statue is unveiled, someone has painted “harlot” across it. Lady Capulet screams “a curse on the House of Montague” and then total mayhem breaks out. (Romeo and Juliet haven’t even been buried!)
In the danger, Escalus breaks free of his guards and rushes to make sure Rosaline is safe… 😉 She eventually leaves to make sure Livia is alright and once they get home, Rosaline makes plans for them to run away. But Livia reuses to leave the only home she’s known. Before Rosaline can get too far, she receives a letter to come to the palace.
When she arrives (after an attack that Benvolio saves her from), Escalus makes his plan known. The Capulets and Montagues will unite with Rosaline and Benvolio’s marriage. We know Lord Montague likes this plan and even Lord Capulet seems onboard. However, Benvolio doesn’t want to marry a harpy and Rosaline doesn’t want to be forced into a loveless marriage.
She flees the room… and Escalus chases after her. The furtive, longing looks all lead to what we’ve been guessing: Rosaline and Escalus are in love. (Epic kiss with camera circling is EPIC.) Yet, he has to put the city first and Rosaline’s marriage to Benvolio would help achieve the peace he needs. Plus, with this marriage, she will no longer be a servant and be restored to her status as lady. But what about love??? In any event, Benvolio sees the kiss, and now the drama can really begin.
Other notable points:
(1) Speaking of tropes, this Rosaline/Escalus/Benvolio triangle is giving me life! Now, I usually hate (HATTTEEEE) love triangles, but I’m really attracted to this one. If you’ve been following the We So Nerdy Tumblr, you probably already know my affinity for this triangle. I really like both ships. Roscalus have been in love since childhood and the passion persists. Yet, I adore the idea of Rosvolio becoming friends and developing an affection in their arranged marriage. They could be the ones to end the animosity between their families.
(2) Paris lives and Livia is now nursing him back to health. Does anyone else see potential here? Livia is determined to find a husband and have a family of her own…perhaps Paris, once he’s healed, might offer that to Livia. (And Lord Capulet would still get the bride price Paris originally intended to pay when marrying Juliet.) So now I’m shipping LiviaXParis. (P.S. Why must the fact that Paris is alive be a secret?)
(3) When are we going to find out the source of the animosity between Rosaline and Isabella?
In Monday’s episode “The Course of True Love Never Did Run Smooth” (written by Raamla Mohamed, directed by Jonathan Jones):
THEY SAY LOVE CONQUERS ALL, UNLESS THE CAPULETS AND MONTAGUES ARE INVOLVED−With Verona in crisis, Rosaline and Benvolio have no choice but to follow Prince Escalus’ decree to marry one another in an effort to restore peace, which Rosaline struggles to accept. Lady Capulet continues to mourn Juliet’s death, but unsettled by the way she died, is determined to figure out what or who influenced Juliet’s decision. Meanwhile, Livia and the nurse work tirelessly, hiding a secret of their own. (via ABC)
So the Rosvolio wedding is happening… take a look at two clips from the upcoming show. In the first, Lord Capulet moves Rosaline into Juliet’s old room, now that she’s to be treated as a lady instead of a servant. In the second clip, Escalus hosts a dinner to announce Rosaline and Benvolio’s engagement, and once again, a moment meant to inspire peace completely falls apart:
— Still Star-Crossed (@StarCrossedABC) June 4, 2017
Yep, Rosaline is well and truly a captive. Although… Escalus may have already taken care of that virtue thing, no? 😉 I have to say, I’m really looking forward to learning more about Benvolio. I think he and Rosaline could become partners and help one another through a situation they both despise.
Check out 40+ images from “The Course of True Love Never Did Run Smooth” and remember to live tweet with me (@WeSoNerdy) Monday, June 5 at 10:00pm ET on ABC!