Romeo, Juliet, and the Fortune Teller

Elias, Camelia. 2021. Tarot for Romeo and Juliet: Reflections on Relationships. Eyecorner Press.

What happens when an English professor goes rogue and becomes a fortune teller? If reading the Tarot is delightfully addictive, so is delving into the classics – Shakespeare, in the first place. Dr. Camelia Elias’ Tarot for Romeo and Juliet is a fortunate product of this double addiction – one whereby talking about love means both mastering Shakespearean scholarship and telling people’s fortune.

“Does he love me?” is the question we cartomancers get asked all the time. With each iteration, our answers end up mapping unique configurations of love; pain; regret; excitement; and yearning. Do this often enough and you will become an expert in the human heart. Add literature to the mix, and you might end up with a book.

What kind of book Tarot for Romeo and Juliet really is, is hard to tell. It is not fiction, yet it features two characters – Romeo and Juliet – whose romantic woes provide a counterpoint to Camelia Elias’ reflections. Juliet is sharp and likes to race her red Mini Cooper; Romeo, instead, is an endearing dullard who talks in cliches. However, Romeo’s and Juliet’s fate is also a pretext for Elias’ kaleidoscopic digressions; these range from Werner Herzog’s cinema to dead sports-car drivers, and from smoking the pipe to Renaissance scholars. If this rollercoaster of musings takes you by surprise, know that, sooner or later, Elias’ focus will always cycle back to matters of the heart.

Throughout the book, the author’s narrating voice is interwoven with that of her querents:  the Everyman and the Everywoman who bare their souls as they ask about love. Each time, Elias pulls three Tarot cards. Shrewd and thought-provoking, her interpretations model ways of reading the tarot and dealing with querents; ultimately, they are exhortations to challenge cliches as we think about love.

What this book is, I cannot tell you. What I can tell you, however, is that it is brilliant. If you enjoy the classics, love the Tarot, and are not afraid of a critical take on canons, this may be just the read you have been waiting for.