Author Lois Leveen talks about the suffering that underpins the main character of her Shakespeare-inspired novel Juliet’s Nurse

“In some ways, I had to stop looking at what the core theme might be for Shakespeare, because I had to discover what it was for Juliet’s Nurse. There are plot points, and certainly characters, and even lines or riffs on lines, that I pull over from Shakespeare. But it really is ultimately Angelica’s, the Nurse’s, story. In that sense, the theme was really clear from the beginning – that line about having her own daughter who died.

©Globe/Opus Arte

©Globe/Opus Arte

“I remember talking to someone I know, a mother of young children, about the experience of having a child die and the mother said, ‘If that happened to me, I don’t know – I would lay down and die too’.

“And that was not an option for Angelica, or other women and men living who loved their children dearly in those centuries and centuries in which the death of a child was quite common. We shy away from suffering, and think of it as something to be avoided, but suffering is inevitable and survival is not something that happens in opposition to suffering. Survival is something that happens because we learn to assimilate suffering into our lives.

LoisLeveenHeadshot by John Melville Bishop
“So again, on a social level what’s present for the Nurse and for the other characters in the novel, because it’s present in the play, is the question of how do you make sense of suffering and how do you find hope in what seems like devastating loss?

“I wouldn’t say that was Shakespeare’s theme in Romeo and Juliet, but it definitely became my theme in Juliet’s Nurse.”

JulietsNurseCover
Want to find out more about Lois Leveen and Juliet’s Nurse?
Read the full interview with her in the latest issue of Shakespeare Magazine.

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