Valentine’s Day is celebrated internationally on February 14 , the day of lovers. Why on February 14? Valentine is the name of three or four martyrs and saints from the third or fourth century. Among them is a bishop Valentijn, the patron saint of lovers. He died on the 14th of February and to commemorate his passing, this very day was internationally proclaimed the Day of Lovers. Why did Bishop Valentine become the patron saint of lovers?
The holiday of lovers is based on a legend, a folk tale. According to this legend, a young couple in love once came to Bishop Valentijn with the request to marry them. Their request was special in a sense, for he was a heathen soldier and she, the girl, was a Christian. The church was not so happy with this, but Bishop Valentijn was ahead of his time and thought love more important than the prevailing laws of the time, the laws of Emperor Claudius. It inspired other mixed couples (liberals and Christians) to request marriage to this bishop. Moreover, when people asked the bishop for advice, they always received a flower. Hence the custom of gifting your beloved flowers on Valentine’s Day.
Claudius thought the bishop was undermining his authority too much and had Valentine arrested, tortured and beheaded. History is clear about the day that happened: February 14. There is no clarity about the year. According to a different version of this legend, Valentine is said to have received a request in prison from the jailer, the governor of Rome, to heal his blind daughter. The father tried in vain to stop the beheading. Yet, just before the sentence was carried out, Valentijn managed to get someone another envelope with the request to give it to the blind daughter of the jailer. After the execution, the girl opened the envelope. A yellow flower fell out and a note that read Valentine’s Day. Immediately the blind girl could see again.
Romeo and Juliet
The prototype of infatuation and of impossible love is the tragedy written by William Shakespeare at the end of the 16th century. The original title was: The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet . It is and remains the most popular love story that has since been given many versions in the theater, in the film, in musical symphonies and ballet forms, up to musicals.
One of the more popular movie versions of “Romeo and Juliet” was this 1996 with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in the title roles
The story is now known. It is set in Verona (Italy) and involves two rival noble families: the Montague family and the Capulet family. Romeo is a Montague and meets Juliet, a Capulet at a ball. They fall in love, but it is a forbidden love, due to the rival differences between the two families. Juliet’s father will not consent to the marriage, because he has Paris in mind for her, who belongs to her own species (Capulet), but Juliet secretly marries Romeo anyway. To avoid marrying Paris, Julia takes a sleeping pill that makes it look like she’s dead. Romeo also thinks that Juliet has died, buys poison for himself and travels to Verona to say goodbye to Juliet. At the tomb he meets Paris. It comes to a fight between Romeo and Paris, in which Paris is killed. Romeo kisses the lips of the sleeping Juliet in her tomb and then ingests poison himself. When Juliet awakens, she finds Romeo dead in the tomb. In grief she takes a dagger and sticks it in her heart.
Because there is supposed to be a happy ending to the story, the monarch of Verona comes on the scene, who condemns the events and punishes the two families Capulet and Montague. The two families decide to bury the hatchet and make peace.
West Side Story
To this day, the story of Romeo and Juliet continues to inspire the art world. There are a total of about forty film versions of this piece known, whether or not in modernized (adapted to the times) versions. The most famous film version is that of Franco Zeffirelli in 1968 with Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting in the lead roles. The current generation may be more familiar with the 1996 Baz Luhrmann film adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in the title roles.
Opera composers such as Bellini, Gounod and Delius were also inspired by this love story, but the best-known musical version is without a doubt the musical ‘West Side Story’ (1961) by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, set to music by Leonard Bernstein and text by Stephen Sondheim. . It became a worldwide success thanks to the incomparable ballets of Jerome Robbins and the compelling, alternating melancholic and jazzy symphonic music of Leonard Bernstein.
The most imaginative version of Romeo and Juliet was undoubtedly the musical version ‘West Side Story’ with Richard Beymer and Nathalie Wood in the title roles.