|Helen and Paris|
Charles Meynier [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Juliet is the perfect Helen, already promised to another, and obedient to that calling, until she meets Romeo and her world is turned upside down. Ovid's Heroides paint us a clear picture of Helen's struggle not to love Paris, just as Juliet argues with herself while Romeo eavesdrops. Helen knows Paris is forbidden to her, knows she should not go to him, even takes offense to Paris' arguments that she should give him "satisfaction," as Romeo also suggests of Juliet ("wilt though leave me so unsatisfied?"). Romeo, like Paris, makes promises of marriage, implies that they will overcome the obstacles in their path, and with the blessing of a religious authority, ultimately persuades Juliet, but in the end it leads both of them into ruin -- and not only the two of them, either, but their friends and loved ones!
It's enough to make me wonder if the choice of the name Paris as Juliet's poor, overshadowed, suitor was meant to signal the intent of this play as a retelling of Helen and Paris's star-crossed love. Or perhaps the theme of star-crossed love, and the themes of that Trojan War Love Triangle are so common, so resonant, that any such tale will offer parallels, if the reader desires to find them.
A new take on an ancient myth, Helen of Sparta is the story of one woman determined to decide her own fate.