Romeo and Juliet in the Time of Veronavirus — Retellings by Genre
1. The Mystery
"A plague o' both your houses!"
After Mercutio falls, a strange plague settles over the fair city of Verona, prompting widespread fear and a sellout in amulets to ward off curses. Friar Lawrence preaches the plague is God's punishment for incessant feuding, but Lord Montague is unconvinced. He believes the plague to be the work of man—likely a foreign man—and he vows to find the outsider who brought this vile sickness to his town.
Rousing all townspeople to Verona's main square, Lord Montague questions their comings and goings until his eyes fall upon the letter carrier from Lombardy. Due process be damned, he locks the bedraggled man in a border detention facility and shuts the town's gates.
Meanwhile the illness continues to spread.
As the only absentees to the evening's closely-packed event, Romeo and Juliet both evade subsequent infection, and slowly, suspicion shifts to them. Where were they the night of the inquisition? What about the nights before that? (And what maiden blush bepaints Juliet's cheek?) Will they be locked in separate cells until the mystery is solved, or will love find a way to banish them both to Mantua?
2. The RomCom
After having met at a party and hooking up, Romeo and Juliet wake up from their one-night stand to a sudden plague in their fair city of Verona. The two strangers are forced to social distance together in Juliet's bedroom despite finding they are members of rival high schools. Romeo murmurs something about Mercutio's prescience, not wasting your love on somebody who doesn't value it, and despairs he never should've given up on Rosaline. Juliet throws him out of bed, sans his tighty whities, and forces him to live out his quarantine, at first naked, then on the balcony in the rain, until true love, 400 square feet and fourteen days alone, finally bring them together.
3. The Horror
An age-old curse on the town of Verona is invoked when blood is spilled in the town square, splashing a satanic gargoyle rumored to be guarding the gates to hell. All witnesses to the spilled blood turn to flesh-eating zombies intent on mankind's destruction. Romeo and Juliet, sleeping late after a night of wild love-making, are the only townsfolk to escape the curse. They attempt to flee—wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast—but already the pack of zombies have surrounded the House of Capulet and Paris-zombie is scaling Juliet's balcony. Our young lovers attempt to fight off the hungry zombie attacks with but a lute and thorny rose vines. Alas, these violent delights have violent ends.
4. The YA Dystopian
A plague in the fair town of Verona transforms life into four factions: The Immune, the Quarantined, the Unguarded, and the Infected—a secret status dictated by the government and revealed to each citizen through a test on their fourteenth birthday. Young Juliet meets Romeo at a masked ball the day before turning fourteen, whereupon she learns she is, in fact, an Immune, while Romeo, tragically is an Unguarded. Fraternizing between factions is the town's highest crime. With dystopian law intent on keeping true love apart, Romeo and Juliet must find the secret serum (rumored to be in Mantua) that will transform them both into Quarantined so they may live together forever. #AloneTogether.
5. The Financial Thriller
Romeo and Juliet both work at the local fast-food pasta joint before a deadly plague claims their fair city of Verona. All pasta places are forced to close along with all non-essential salons, blacksmiths, brothels and contracting houses for minstrels and knights. Romeo and Juliet are forced apart by draconian social-distancing laws, and the Verona stock market plunges 35% in the first month, sending the Capulets into ruin. But wait, whither art the assets of the Montagues? Somehow tied up in gold bullion, purchasing shares on the cheap? With the clock ticking, Friar Lawrence must decipher the technical signals and somehow stop the market manipulation before GDP falls a staggering 60%.
6. The Medical Thriller
A week after the grand masked ball at the House of Capulet, hospitals are overrun in the fair town of Verona. A mysterious illness has settled over the town, and all sick appear to have attended the Capulet ball. Could it have been the undercooked pheasant, or is some strange plague to blame? Worse yet are the rumors the sickness was cooked up by the apothecary in his secret laboratory, possibly for the Montagues to unleash on their archenemies.
Regardless, Juliet can't get near her sick beloved—he's in the hospital, under quarantine. Shut out from town gossip, Friar Lawrence brings word of the apothecary and the secret potions he sells. The red potion will make Juliet appear to be infected, allowing her to slip unnoticed into the hospital, and the green potion will cure Romeo in a fortnight. Are the apothecary's claims the rantings of a shyster? Will he help the young lovers? Or is he out to poison yet another Capulet? Only a double-blind study can reveal the truth.
7. The Children's Religious Picture Book
Romeo and Juliet are very much in love, but they must abstain from touching each other because they are not married. Even after Friar Lawrence marries them in secret against social distancing laws, they must abstain from touching each other because their bodies carry germs. They must wear masks at all times and always stay at least six feet apart. Because they love each other so much, they teach each other good habits such as thorough hand-washing and surface disinfecting. Only when they both turn twenty-one and have lived together, yet apart, for at least fourteen days (plus another thousand for good measure) may they show their love to each other by hugging and kissing.
Dakota Canon's novel, "The Unmaking of Eden," won the 2019 Caledonia Novel Award and the 2018 Hastings Litfest Crime Novel Contest and placed second in the 2019 First Novel Prize. The novel also reached the finals of the 2019 James Jones First Novel Fellowship and was long-listed in the 2019 BPA First Novel Award and the 2018 Yeovil Literary Prize, among other prizes. She's received mention in the Manchester Fiction Prize and the Writer's Digest Annual Short Story Contest and has recent pieces in Witness, Smokelong Quarterly, Hobart, Moon City Review, Fiction Southeast, Literary Orphans, The MacGuffin
and Citron Review
, among others. She has served on staff for Cease, Cows
. Find her at dakotacanon.com or follow her on Twitter @DakotaCanon