We have just learned that our Michigan Shakespeare Festival presentation which was to occur just before the Festival's July 24 evening production of Romeo and Juliet has been cancelled. That should not prevent me from telling you about David Blixt's Master of Verona, a historical set-piece which would interest Shakespeare lovers as good background reading for the play.
Blixt is the husband of Janice Blixt, the artistic director of Romeo and Juliet at the Festival. He is involved in the production of the play as its "Violence Director," undoubtedly responsible for choreographing the swordplay and other feud business which the play so richly offers. If his book is any indication, Blixt is the right man for the job. It is a page-turner of a novel full of the classic violence of medieval plots, murders, betrayals, and battles on horse and foot with a colorful variety of armor and weapons and plenty of blood. It is a tale of 14th century Verona and the warring city states of Northern Italy with fast paced action worthy of Hollywood. It is a blockbuster waiting to be discovered. It even includes, a la Dan Brown, a villain named Scarecrow.
In the Afterword of the book, author Blixt pays full tribute to Shakespeare as the ultimate source and inspiration for this work which ultimately is meant to lay the foundation for the family feud which enveloped and doomed the young lovers who are at the center of Shakespeare's play. It is of some interest to this reviewer that this tribute also contains a popular prejudice about the Bard which has contributed to preventing Shakespeare lovers through the centuries from appreciating his true genius. Ah, but that is another story. In the mean time, the story which Blixt tells is certainly worth the price of admission, a must read for anyone interested in a good yarn set romantically in a most fascinating period of European history. If I'm not mistaken, that is what Oberon is all about. If you have the chance, pick it up and enjoy a great ride through history.