In 1984 I was lucky enough to spend a year at school in South Africa and we studied Romeo and Juliet inside out and backwards. I was lucky again when, upon my return, I discovered that we were to study it for O-level English literature. I wasn’t very good at analysing great works of literature and had a lot of revision across all subjects to catch up on the first term of O-level work which I had missed, including Pride and Prejudice which I struggled with, so it was a huge relief to know that I would be able to cope with this text.
The most famous quote, from act II scene II, has to be:
O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.
A supplier for Top Shop has put the first line of this onto a T-shirt, according to the Daily Mail. The store has been criticised for spelling the author’s name incorrectly as Shakespere. This is a shame because it has been documented that the great man often spelt it differently but the spelling of his name was standardised in the late 19th century, according to Shakespeare scholar Helen Hackett, Professor of English at University College London.
However, the T-shirt has some punctuation missing too. There are opening inverted commas for the quote but the end ones have been omitted. There should also be a comma after the first Romeo and the w in Wherefore does not need to be in upper case if there is a comma after the second Romeo – I can’t quite see in the image. Some versions of the quotation give an exclamation mark instead and in this case the capital w would be correct.
I probably haven’t been in Top Shop since I last studied Shakespeare and to be honest as my daughter grows older, I probably will venture back in. I’m not that much of a pedant that it would put me off!