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Shakespeare Guide To Italy (PHOTOS)

Posted: 08/10/11 09:33 AM ET

For lovers of Shakespeare who simply love his plays, "The Shakespeare Guide to Italy: Retracing the Bard's Unknown Travels" by my late father Richard Paul Roe is an absorbing, insightful, easy-to-read journey into the ten plays set in Italy. A reading will make your playgoing experience richer, and you'll have a much better understanding of what was happening in and around the Mediterranean during the 16th century; and it can be left at that.

However, for lovers of Shakespeare who are--in addition to the above--intrigued by the pesky "Shakespeare Authorship Controversy," from the facts presented by Mr. Roe, it seems pretty irrefutable that whoever wrote those ten plays knew Italy "up close and personal." After reading this book, wherein Roe has used as his guide only the words given to the plays' characters by Shakespeare to speak (and has then thoroughly checked across Italy for their accuracy)-- it's hard to accept that William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon picked up his detailed knowledge about that country in, say, a pub in London over a tankard of stout from some chatty traveling Italian traders named possibly Luigi or Giovanni--supposing of course, that Shakespeare never traveled to Italy himself. Of course, after many years dealing with this topic, Mr. Roe couldn't help but draw his own conclusions about the controversy.

Mr. Roe, in "The Shakespeare Guide to Italy," simply points to the astounding accuracy of the Italian plays, leaving it to the reader to ponder (if they want to) what such accuracy implies--as they pleasantly travel through one of the most beautiful and inspiring countries of the world.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story didn't disclose that Hilary Roe Metternich is the daughter of Richard Paul Roe. That has been clarified.

SYCAMORE TREES - "Romeo & Juliet"
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In "Romeo & Juliet" Act I Scene 1, in a moment where we catch our breath before this heartrending story rolls over our emotions to its sorrowful conclusion, there is a space where the stage empties (of yet another Verona 'gang' fight). At that moment, almost alone, a relieved, yet distraught, Lady Montague questions Benvolio about her son. "Where's Romeo?" Lady Montague wants to know. Benvolio is Romeo's cousin and best friend, and this is what he says:

Madam, an hour before the worshippe'd sun
Peer'd forth the golden window of the east,
A troubled mind drave me to walk abroad;
Where, underneath the grove of sycamore
That westward rootheth from the city's side,
So early walking did I see your son...

No other version of this tragic old tale mentions sycamore trees. No scene in the play takes place there. We never actually see these sycamore trees. But from the mouth of Benvolio we hear about them. Richard Roe was intrigued. Sycamore trees? Is there really a grove of sycamores outside the western wall of Verona? Roe went to Italy to inspect. He hired a car whose driver took him to Verona's western wall. And so, what type of leafy branches can we stroll under today, as did heartsick Romeo in the 16th century? Sycamore trees. Remnants trees to be sure, but a grove of sycamores nonetheless--"that westward rootheth from the city's side."
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