The Juliet Club Answers the World’s Love Letters

Juliet Capulet was one of the most romantic heroines ever brought to life by the Bard.

Nov 23, 2019

(Vladimir Sazonov / Shutterstock.com)

William Shakespeare's story of Romeo and Juliet of Verona is one of the most romantic stories ever told and now a nonprofit organization bears her name.

The Juliet Club was formed in 1972 to answer the letters— close to 50,000 letters every year – that are written by love-struck people around the world to Juliet Capulet, the tragically  ill-fated young lover that the Bard brought to life.

Today, thousands of people still mail handwritten notes addressed to Juliet, drop them in boxes located throughout the city, or email them. And every letter is responded to as kindly as possible.

Club volunteers that are called Juliet's secretaries answer every letter according to the nonprofit cultural organization. They are following the tradition of  Juliet's first secretary, the guardian of Juliet's tomb who started replying to the love letters that were left on Juliet's grave beginning in the 1930s.

Based in Verona, Italy, the organization sits just a stone’s throw away from Casa di Giulietta, or Juliet’s House, where tourists visit in droves every year to pay tribute to the young heroine of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet according to the BBC.

Martin Hopley, 41, is a club  volunteer from London UK . He spends hours reading love letters written by people from all over the world. He then carefully responds with his own insights and advice to help guide the love-struck, whether to give the confidence to finally propose or remind them that happiness begins with loving yourself.

"It's my job to help people remember to open their eyes as well as their hearts, to follow love but not into a hole of doom," he told the BBC.

The club members try to spread the workload so that each handle matters most relevant to their own life experiences. Hopley says, "If one secretary can't answer a particular subject, it'll be passed on to someone who can.” 

Whether heartfelt handwritten poems or tediously typed emails, members of the Juliet Club try to write back in the same format. 

"Because I'm not in Verona at the moment, I'm currently on email duty… It's less romantic compared to hand-writing a letter, but these people put their heart and soul into the emails, so Juliet replies in kind," Hopley says.

He added, "From the woman who's fallen in love with a close friend, to a man whose wife has passed away, to the boy who's coming to terms with his sexuality, to the girl who doesn't believe she's beautiful enough to find love... Juliet has probably heard every possible scenario you can think of."

Letters lamenting, "why would anyone fall in love with me?" especially resonate with Hopley. After surviving a brain tumor as a child, a series of 18 risky surgeries to remove the tumors left bumpy scars on his head and cognitive disabilities. Once a point of insecurity, he now views them as signs that show that he is a fighter and a survivor.

Before becoming a volunteer, himself, Hopley told BBC that he sent his own Juliet letter back in 2015. After suffering a break-up, he reached out to Juliet in hopes that his next love story would find a happy ending.

Six months later, a letter arrived with a Poste Italiane stamp that Hopley said changed his life. He shared one line that the writer told him, "You are meant to be alive.”

He says, "That line has never escaped my Swiss cheese mind because there is something magical about it.” 

Inspired by the note, Hopley became an active follower on the Club’s Facebook Page, commenting on posts and interacting with other fans. Soon thereafter, he volunteered to be a Juliet secretary himself. 

Hopley says he feels like a better person when writing on behalf of Juliet. "In many ways, it doesn't feel like me. I'm nice but not that nice.” He added, “She will never mock you; she will never judge you, she will never discriminate against you, she [Juliet] will just be compassionate in her reply… Juliet brings the best out of all of us."

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ALLISON MICHELLE DIENSTMAN, CONTRIBUTOR
Working from her laptop as a freelance writer, Allison lives as a digital nomad, exploring the world while sharing positivity and laughter. She is a lover of language, travel, music, and creativity with a degree in Chinese language and literature.