Audio Romeo and Juliet

The Romeo and Juliet quest… the winners and some answers

Well that was quite a journey. I hope you enjoyed it even if I did set some stinkers in there. Sorry… but, well, it wouldn’t be such fun if it was a pushover, would it?

We were overwhelmed with your entries, from all over the world too. Most of you got most things right. The toughest question was obviously the last one since so few picked up on the very important punctuation error there even though I flagged it up twice on Twitter like this.


Punctuation matters, especially in drama.

O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou, Romeo?

That comma shouldn’t be there at all as I explain below.

If you didn’t make it through… commiserations. But come back here in a few hours (or keep an eye out on Twitter and Facebook) and we will shortly have a little present for you all.

And the winners are… Casey Silverstein (US), Laura Välitalo (Tampere, Finland), Vicki Kondelik (Ann Arbor, Michigan), Julia Koksharova (Moscow, Russia) and Ilaria Tomasini (San Giovanni Lupatoto, Italy). You’ll all be receiving codes to allow you to download the work for free from Audible when it’s released at 3pm US EST on December 6. Look out for the email and… congratulations!

Many thanks to everyone who took part. You will, I hope, find our audio drama just a bit more engrossing for the effort.

Here are our answers…


a) Which artist painted the Ursula cycle?

Vittore Carpaccio.

b) Where can you find the paintings now?

In their own room in the Accademia gallery in Venice. If you go to Venice and don’t visit them you need your head examining, and don’t miss Carpaccio’s wonderful dragons in the Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni either.

c) Why, in a few words, might Juliet identify with the saint?

Because, like her, Ursula was being forced into marriage to a stranger by her father.


a) Who is the ancient poet, born in Verona, that Romeo loves?


b) Why might Juliet’s mother ban his work from the house?

Because a good deal of his works is very rude. Try Googling ‘A Latin Poem So Filthy, It Wasn’t Translated Until The 20th Century’ if you want proof that is definitely NSFW.

c) Dante, Petrarch and our unnamed Verona poet all wrote verses devoted to their individual muses, a woman they adored. Can you name the three muses each addressed in their work? It’s the name used in the poems we want, not, in the case of Petrarch and our ancient Roman, any guesses people might have had about their true identity.

Dante was obsessed with Beatrice Portinari (who couldn’t care less about him).

Petrarch’s muse was Laura, who was equally unobtainable and perhaps imaginary.

Catullus referred to his lover as Lesbia. She is generally thought to be Clodia, sister to a controversial chap called Publius Clodius Pulcher who was murdered after getting into the bad books of Cicero among others in the run-up to the civil war that led to the end of the Roman Republic.


a) Who was the woman who ruled Mantua at the time of the book?

The extraordinary Isabella d’Este.

b) Which notorious sister-in-law did she fall out with badly and why?

Lucrezia Borgia, who became her husband’s mistress for a while.

c) Which famous Venetian artist had to turn out a new and more flattering portrait of her after getting into hot water because his original was too true to life?

Titian (Tiziano in Italian).


a) What was the name of the fiery priest who briefly ruled Florence?

Girolamo Savonarola.

b) Can you name the artist and his muse? Since this is far too easy can you also name the muse’s cousin-in-law who ended up having a country named after him? And the country?

Sandro Botticelli and Simonetta Vespucci. Her cousin-in-law was the explorer Amerigo Vespucci who gave his name to America.

c) What was the artist’s most fervent wish concerning his death — and was it granted?

Botticelli wanted to be buried at Simonetta’s feet. And he is, in the lovely church of Ognissanti where people still lay flowers on his tombstone to this day.


a) What purpose did the Piazza Erbe serve in imperial Roman times?

It was the forum — much as it is today.

b) What’s supposed to happen if someone who tells lies walks through the Arco della Costa?

Trick question. Nothing. But if an honest person were to walk beneath it the rib is supposed to fall on their head. Since this has never happened…

c) What very striking emblem in the piazza tells you Verona once belonged to Venice?

The magnificent statue of a winged lion, visible at the top of the questions.


Name the people in the paintings.

a) Something princely about him even if he was a commoner.

Niccolò Machiavelli.

b) This chap was supposed to be saintly but failed that test on many accounts. He also went by two names. We’d like both.

Pope Alexander VI, better known to us today as the infamous Rodrigo Borgia.

c) Brilliant, bonkers or bad boy, this fellow came to a hot and sticky end in Florence. You might have met him here already.

Girolamo Savonarola again.

d) This noble lady from Mantua is also someone you may have encountered hereabouts. Here she is sketched by an artist she knew personally. One Leonardo da Vinci.

Isabella d’Este again.


a) One of the best Garganega wines from the Verona region is a dry and often straw-coloured white named after a small comune of fewer than seven thousand inhabitants to the east, now famous worldwide. What’s it called?


b) When Friar Laurence has married Romeo and Juliet in this version he proposes a toast from a bottle of his own, a wine you might expect a priest to have at hand. Here are a few lines from the script…

It was the oldest, most precious vintage he had… from Tuscany, made from a harvest dried on hurdles set above the ground then fermented slowly and stored. Ten years old this was. Sweet as honey and much the same colour.

‘The grape’s Malvasia,’ he pointed out. ‘Not Garganega or Trebbiano. So I sit in the middle of your two warring houses and pray with this ceremony those pointless battles may be over.’

What wine — Tuscan, a dessert one — was Laurence offering them?

Vin santo — ‘holy wine’.


a) Those swallow-tail features on the Castelvecchio battlements, sometimes made with arrow slits, can be seen in different designs in castles across Europe. The feuding Italian factions called the Guelphs and Ghibellines even identified their loyalties by building them in a particular style — the Verona ones are Ghibelline. What are these features called?


b) Why is it unlikely the players in this story, set in 1499, would call Escalus’s fortress the ‘Castelvecchio’?

Because Castelvecchio means ‘old castle’ and in 1499 it wasn’t particularly old at all. Originally it was called the castle of San Martino in Aquaro.


Why didn’t Charles Dickens mention what we now regard as Verona’s most famous sight, the balcony on ‘Juliet’s house’?

Because it wasn’t there. The ‘balcony’, which is probably a sarcophagus, was placed there in the 1940s by a very canny local council to attract tourists.


a) When he wasn’t on church duties, what hobby, according to legend, did Zeno love to enjoy in his spare time?

The answer is in the picture of his statue — he liked to go fishing by the Adige river.

b) The famous rose window of San Zeno, with its rising and falling figures in joy and despair, depicts a philosophical concept about the capricious nature of fate. One that resonates with Juliet though many people will also associate it with a TV show. What’s that concept called?

The Wheel of Fortune or Rota Fortunae.


Where did the girl in the painting and sixteen other works of art from the Castelvecchio end up on their unexpected journey and why?

In the Ukraine, where they were found after being stolen. They are now home and if you go to Verona and don’t see them you’ve missed a real treat.


In Mercutio’s mind it’s highly unlikely that Cangrande I della Scala would have been laughing at death in his last moments because rumour had it he was assassinated. Was Mercutio right? And if so… how did Cangrande really die?

Mercutio was probably spot on. A post mortem carried out on Cangrande’s remains in 2004 showed that Big Dog died from a lethal dose of digitalis.


O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou, Romeo?

One of the most famous quotations in Shakespeare? Hmmm…

What’s wrong here? Why, briefly,  does it matter?

The real line doesn’t have a comma and should read…

O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?

You’d only need the comma if Juliet was addressing Romeo — she isn’t. Nor is she asking where he is. ‘Wherefore’ means ‘why’. She’s wondering why a name should be an obstacle to their love.