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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

entry arrow8:07 PM | "Let Lips Do What Hands Do"

I couldn't sleep last night, again. Insomnia is a terrible thing, but it makes for a good prompt to do cinematic excursions. And so I decided, for reasons unknown to me, to make a tour of some of my favorite adaptations of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, focusing on one of my favorite scenes, this one from Act I Scene 5, when our two young tragic lovers meet for the first time. I've always found the scene's playful use of hands and lips and kiss and sin terribly romantic, rich in playful metaphor. The original goes this way:

If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.

Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?

Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.

O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray — grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.

Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.

Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.

[Kisses her.]

Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged.

Then have my lips the sin that they have took.

Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged!
Give me my sin again.

I thought about it, and then asked myself: How did some of our filmmakers render this scene? Because it's a crucial scene, and when it's handled poorly, it will certainly come off trite and corny. Much depends on the tone set by the filmmaker and the chemistry between the actors. And so I ventured into the various renditions of this scene, from Franco Zeffireli's seminal Romeo and Juliet (1969), to Baz Luhrmann's manic and music-laded William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (1996), and finally to Alan Brown's magically sweet gay version in Private Romeo (2011).

So who's the best Romeo and who's the best Juliet of the three?

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