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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

Happy Birthday, Shakespeare!

Guest Post by “Twisted Lit” Authors Kim Askew and Amy Helmes

Today is Shakespeare’s 450th birthday! Huzzah! To help celebrate, the authors of the Twisted Lit series (young adult adaptations of the bard’s plays), Kim Askew and Amy Helmes have stopped by to share some very interesting facts about Romeo and Juliet. Now, anyone who knows me well knows that R&J isn’t my favourite of the bard’s play… but that doesn’t mean I’m not a huge trivia fan, and I definitely thoroughly enjoyed the facts that Kim and Amy provided!

Considering our latest novel, Anyone But You, is an updated twist on Romeo and Juliet, it kind of goes without saying that we’ve learned a lot about the “greatest love story ever told.” In honor of Shakespeare’s 450th birthday this week, we’ve compiled a “Top Ten” list of Romeo and Juliet fun facts that just might surprise you!

10 Fun Facts You Might Not Know About Romeo and Juliet

  • Romeo and Juliet died because of the Bubonic Plague, in a manner of speaking. The letter Friar Lawrence wrote to Romeo explaining Juliet’s “fake death” scenario never got to him because the plague prevented the messenger from delivering it!
  • The Beatles’ Paul McCartney was almost cast as Romeo in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 version of the film. Leonard Whiting ended up winning the role, instead.
  • Author Stephanie Meyer has said that her Twilight sequel New Moon is inspired by Romeo and Juliet.
  • Ewan McGregor, Christian Bale, and John Leguizamo all auditioned for the role of Mercutio in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet.
  • Though Juliet’s nurse is referred to as “Nurse,” many suspect her first name may be Angelica, since Juliet’s father references this name when speaking to her. The Nurse had a daughter named Susan who died in infancy.
  • Shakespeare originally called the play The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (which sounds a bit like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, if you ask us).
  • Shakespeare did not originate the story of Romeo and Juliet. Other writers had first written about young lovers who suffered a similar tragedy, but he took it to a whole…’nother…level.
  • Juliet would have been played by a dude when the play was originally performed (seeing as how women weren’t allowed to be actresses in those days).
  • In Elizabethan England, the legal age for a girl to get married was 12-years-old, making Juliet’s marriage to Romeo (at age 13) totally kosher.
  • There really is a “Juliet’s balcony” in Verona, Italy, but few tourists realize it was only added onto the building in the 20th century.

About Anyone But You

Anyone But YouTwo Italian restaurants, both alike in dignity, in Chicago’s Little Italy where we lay our scene… After her family’s struggling eatery, Cap’s, falls prey to another of the Monte clan’s vicious and destructive pranks, sixteen-year-old Gigi Caputo finds herself courting danger during a clandestine encounter with Roman Monte, the very boy whose relatives have brought her family such grief. When the daughter and son of these two warring factions fall for each other, their quest to mend this bitter family feud turns out to be a recipe for disaster. Their story is irrevocably linked to the summer of 1933, when two twelve-year-olds, Benny and Nick, hop the turnstile at the Chicago World’s Fair. While enjoying some of the fair’s legendary amusements, Nick has a “love at first sight” encounter with Stella, a young girl who unintentionally causes a lasting rift between the two boyhood pals. Deftly winding its way through past and present day, this modern take on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet has much to do with hate – but more with love.

About the Authors

Kim and Amy
Amy Helmes and Kim Askew are the authors of the Shakespeare-inspired YA series Twisted Lit from Merit Press. For Amy and Kim’s own take on Romeo and Juliet, check out their most recent novel, Anyone But You, which USA Today called “heartbreakingly lovely.” For more about the books in their Twisted Lit series, including their spins on The Tempest and Macbeth, check out You can also follow them on twitter @kaskew and @amyhelmes.


Anyone But You on Amazon and Goodreads
Tempestuous on Amazon and Goodreads
Exposure on Amazon and Goodreads

Posted by Guest Post @ 7:26 am April 23, 2014.
Category: Guest Posts

  • Jenn vanOosten

    1. I have to say, I’m glad that he cut the title to Romeo & Juliet.
    2. Baz Luhrmann’s R&J was my fave movie from about gr 7 – gr 10. I had half the play memorized. It was totally weird for me to see Mercutio in LOST…though it did take me about 1/2 season to realize that R&J was where I knew him from!

  • Courtney Wilson

    Even though I don’t like the play, I loved Baz Luhrmann’s R&J… It was just so beautiful! Or maybe that was just Leonardo DiCaprio… :)