Talk about advice for the ages!
A nonprofit organization in Verona – the setting of William Shakespeare’s famous Romeo and Juliet – has gathered volunteers to respond to letters addressed to the tragic fictional figure, Juliet Capulet.
Letters pour in from around the world to The Juliet Club via snail mail, e-mail, or a special mailbox.
Juliet’s 45 volunteer “secretaries” receive 50,000 of them a year – and they do their best to respond to each and every one!
In fact, letters to Juliet from lovelorn souls have been arriving in Verona for over 100 years.
Now, this group is translating, archiving and – most importantly – responding to the letters.
These volunteers take the task very seriously. And lest you think they’re all teenage girls like Juliet herself, rest assured they’re adults who take special care in giving affirming advice, sometimes to very vulnerable people.
41-year-old Martin Hopley is one of those volunteers and recently told the BBC that sometimes all writers need is a small push to towards love – other times they need more of a gentle warning.
“It’s my job to help people remember to open their eyes as well as their hearts, to follow love but not into a hole of doom,” he said.
While Hopley writes from London, other volunteers gather in their tiny Verona office.
The official location of The Juliet Club is actually very near to the Casa Giulietta that was said to have inspired Shakespeare’s famous “Romeo, Romeo, where for art thou Romeo” scene, balcony and all.
“Because I’m not in Verona at the moment, I’m currently on email duty,” Hopley told the BBC. “It’s less romantic compared to hand-writing a letter… but these people put their heart and soul into the emails so Juliet replies in kind.”
His volunteer work was born of his own letter to Juliet, sent years before after a broken heart spurred him to write out his feelings and send a wish of sorts to Juliet asking her to help his next love story reach a happy ending.
“There’s something about putting your feeling on a piece of paper and putting it into a letterbox that makes you feel sick. You’ve put your heart and soul into a letter for all the world to see.”
Six months later he got a reply and was touched at the personal nature and good advice. And while things didn’t end so well for Juliet, Hopley was told by his response that there was a reason he was alive after a devastating illness – to find love.
While some of the messages The Juliet Club receives are hastily written notes, most are from those who are truly struggling.
“From the woman who’s fallen in love with a close friend, to the man whose wife has passed away, to the boy who’s coming to terms with his sexuality, to the girl who doesn’t believe she’s beautiful enough to find love… Juliet has probably heard every possible scenario you can think of,” Hopley said.
Back in Verona, a team of women gathers at the club’s home base to write back.
A less formal version of The Juliet Club began in the 1930s when, according to their website, “Ettore Solimani, the guardian of Juliet’s Tomb, began gathering the first letters people left at the grave and, moved by this phenomenon, he started replying, thus becoming the first ‘Juliet’s secretary.'”
In 1972, the “club” became a formal organization after a man named Giulio Tamassia gathered a group of Shakespeare scholars and began organizing events dedicated to the couple’s story. The group is now run through Verona’s Council Department of Culture.
While it all sounds whimsical, the volunteers know that what they’re doing is serious work. If one member can’t answer a letter thoughtfully, they will pass it on to someone who can.
And while you might have to wait a few months for a response, it sounds like a great way to get love advice!
(And not to worry, they answer in a 21st-century and far less tragic manner!)
Be sure to scroll down below to see just how this unique “club” works.
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