At long last I have compiled all of the references to Shakespeare that I know I put into Bittersweet Creek. This post is going to contain kinda-sorta spoilers, so be forewarned. If you’ve already read the book than proceed.
First, I’ll offer a bounty for any references that I may have missed because writing is a messy process somewhat akin to making sausage. As a writer you put things in only to take them out. You swirl them around. You play with those words a dozen times before your publisher puts the pretty casing of a cover on the book. Serendipity–or maybe it’s the magic of the subconscious and all of those brain cells we’re not accessing–also plays a huge role in how your story goes. Finally, Shakespeare is such a part of our everyday language that I would be willing to bet there are phrases throughout that go to the Bard that I used without even thinking about it.
Without further ado, I give you the references that I found upon further reflection on Bittersweet Creek:
- Romy—obviously for Romeo
- Julian–obviously for Juliet
- Ben Little—Benvolio is Romeo’s friend
- Mercutio/Freddy Mercury—Romy’s cat is explicitly named after Romeo’s friend
- Genie Dix—Dorothea Dix was a famous American nurse, and Genie IS a nurse. She plays the part of confidant that Nurse fulfills for Juliet.
- Richard Paris—is named after Paris, the guy who wants to marry Juliet. What a coincidence that he wants to marry Romy and is influential and powerful just as Paris was.
I played a little fast and loose with who matches up with whom because I switched genders of the main characters. I also based the couples on the Hatfields and the McCoys, hence Satterfields and McElroys. To add to the feud between them and show how nonsensical some of the things that divide us are, I also made them opposites in a bunch of crazy ways. The Satterfields are Methodists who drive Fords and like cats. The McElroys are Baptists who drive Chevy’s and prefer dogs, etc.
- “My kingdom for a skinny venti Caramel Macchiato!” p. 15—This is a paraphrase of a line from Richard III: “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!”
- “Alas! Poor Adidas! I knew them, Horatio.” P. 22—Here Romy mourns the loss of her Adidas by paraphrasing the often misquoted line from Hamlet: “Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.”
- Happenstance in Love: a Comparison of Romeo and Juliet and Much Ado About Nothing by Romy Satterfield p. 25—I thought it would be fun to have young Romy comparing these two plays because Julian sees their relationship through the lens of tragedy, while she sees it, maybe wants it to be, more of comedy. In the end, it’s a mixture of two, but we’ll get to that.
- Beatrice p. 27—Julian named a mare after Romy’s favorite character in her favorite play and intended to give her to Romy as a wedding gift. Also, Benedick says in Much Ado, “I would my horse had the speed of your tongue and so good a continuer.”
- “I can’t believe I managed to screw my courage to the sticking place…”p. 43—Romy’s line is a reference to Macbeth, specifically when Lady Macbeth tells her husband, “But screw your courage to the sticking place, and we’ll not fail.”
- Giles, the pharmacist—You can’t have a Romeo and Juliet story without referencing the apothecary. (“O true apothecary, they drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.” Or I stave off infection with antibiotics. Whichever.)
- “No, I was stuck between two worlds.” p. 116 A big part of Romy’s conflict is that she’s torn between her country past and her city present. Coming home to the country helps her simplify her life even if she didn’t know it needed simplification—this is one element of traditional pastoral literature. As in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, however, rural life has its own complexities. The Forest of Arden isn’t a perfect world; neither is the countryside outside Ellery.
- Romy names the calf Star, which is a reference to the original title of this story and, of course, the prologue to Romeo and Juliet 129—“From forth the fatal loins of these two foes/A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life.”
- “O that way madness lies.” p. 137—Direct quote from King Lear.
- Benedick p. 139—Julian named his own horse after Beatrice’s love interest in Much Ado About Nothing.
- Julian McElroy, wherefore art thou such an asshole? P. 168 Romy may be in a barn loft, but this is a paraphrase of Juliet’s famous balcony scene. Oh, and remember that “wherefore art thou” has more of a “why do you have to be” sort of meaning. (“O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?”) Important also to note that Romy would love for Julian to “Deny thy father and refuse thy name.”
- Orange blossom ring p. 169 and beyond—rings play a huge part in All’s Well that Ends Well and this is just a nod. Romy doesn’t have to get Julian’s ring and get preggers by him as Helena did. For his part, Julian is blessedly the exact opposite of Bertram. That said, rings abound in Bittersweet Creek just as they do in All’s Well that Ends Well.
- “Remember that mess from Romeo and Juliet that you read to me back in tutoring? You would recite some shit about ancient grudges and fatal loins then laugh and call us star-crossed lovers?” p. 217 (See #14 above. This is Julian’s interpretation of the prologue.)
- Anon, nurse. P. 221 A reference to the balcony scene (“Anon, good Nurse!”)
- “After all, the downfall of Romeo and Juliet had been the impatience and impulsiveness of youth.” p. 256—Here Romy reflects on her past relationship with Julian and if they have a future. There are also other references to being “young and stupid” (p. 40, 54, 61, 151, and 179) which might accidentally show this author’s prejudice against Romeo and Juliet as romance. Love story, yes. Romance, no.
- “And with all that bitter past, I couldn’t help looking forward to the sweet.”—This line is a paraphrase of something the king says in the last act and scene of All’s Well That Ends Well: “All seems well, and if it end so meet, The bitter past, more welcome is the sweet.”
Lost references, or Why I Should Make Notes While I Write:
- Coffee, sweet coffee. I swear this is a paraphrase of something I read, but now I can’t find it.
- “Tell me you don’t love me and I’ll go. I swear it.” The dialogue in this scene on p. 218 is taken from one of the plays, also, but I can’t find it.
The first person to find each of these references will get an ARC of whichever book I have coming out next.