If Valentineâ€™s Day for you isnâ€™t all hearts and flowers, if youâ€™ve
ever been unlucky in love, or if the fires of your romance have cooled to
ashes, youâ€™re in good company. Most of the great lovers of literature
and history have had hard times, and often their stories have ended in
Here are a few whose stories speak to me:
Odysseus and Penelope--In the
epic poem by Homer, Odysseus,
king of Itahca, is captured by the
sea nymph Calypso on his way
home after the Trojan War.
Although Calypso offers him
immortality, Odysseus returns to his
wife Penelope. Meanwhile,
Penelope has been resisting the
advances of suitors by making them
wait while she weaves a shroud for
her father-in-law, unraveling at
night what she weaves during the
day. The couple are finally reunited
and restored to their position.
Tristan and Iseult--In one of the
worldâ€™s greatest love stories,
Tristan goes to Ireland to bring the
beautiful princess Iseult to Cornwall
to marry his uncle, King Mark. On
the way back, they drink a potion that
causes them to love each other
eternally. A betrayed Mark shoots
Tristan with a poisoned arrow, and
Tristan clutches Iseult so tightly they
die in each otherâ€™s arms.
Romeo and Juliet--Shakespeare's
tragic tale of young lovers from
warring families who are secretly
married. Romeo avenges the murder
of his friend Mercutio, who has been
killed by Julietâ€™s cousin, Tybalt and
is banished from Verona. Juliet, being
forced to marry Paris, takes a sleeping
potion which makes her appear dead.
Romeo returns and drinks poison at
Julietâ€™s tomb. When she wakes up
a few minutes later, she stabs herself.
Stunned by the tragedy their feuding
caused, the two families make peace.
Jane Eyre and Rochester--Jane Eyre, the
title character of Charlotte Bronte's novel,
is a shy, intense young orphan who
becomes governess for the ward of
Edward Rochester, a moody and violent
man. They fall in love and are about to
marry when the existence of his insane
first wife is revealed. Years later, the
lovers are reunited.
Scarlett Oâ€™Hara and Rhett
Butler --In Margaret Mitchell's epic
novel Gone with the Wind, set
during the Civil War, the daughter of
a plantation owner falls in love with
a riverboat gambler. They escape
the burning of Atlanta, but not the
ravages of war. Strong and
independent, Scarlett eventually
pushes Rhett away.
Johnny Cash and June Carter--
Country music legend Johnny Cash
grows up listening to the Carter
Family on border radio. He suffers
from addictions, but is able to
overcome them with Juneâ€™s
help. They marry in 1968 and
record several hit duets. Kris
Kristofferson calls Cash â€œa deeply
spiritual man who was also a holy
terror . . . a dark, dangerous force
of nature that somehow seemed to
stand for freedom, justice and
mercy for his fellow human beings.â
€� He dies just four months after
Antony and Cleopatra--Antony,
in love with Cleopatra, queen of
Egypt, returns to Rome to patch up
differences with Octavius (later
Augustus Caesar) and Lepidus, the
other two rulers of the triumvirate.
He cements an alliance with
Octavius by marrying his sister
Octavia, but abandons her for the
Egyptian queen. Octavius defeats
the combined forces of Antony and
Cleopatra at Actium. Antony falls
on his sword upon hearing the false
rumor that Cleopatra is dead. She
joins him in death with the
self-inflicted bite of an asp.
Lancelot and Guinevere--One of the
best-known stories of the Arthurian legends
concerned King Arthurâ€™s favorite
knight, Sir Lancelot and his love for his
queen Guinevere. Lancelot gallantly rescues
her when she is abducted, but the lust that
characterizes their love keeps Lancelot from
being chosen to search for the Holy Grail,
and is a major cause of the downfall of
Arthurâ€™s court in Camelot.
Eloise and Abelard--Peter Abelard, a
scholar and theologian at Notre Dame, falls
in love with one of his pupils, Eloise. Eloise
is an educated woman, the niece of a canon
at Notre Dame. Moved by Abelardâ€™s
writings, Eloise writes him the first of their
famous exchange of letters on love and
suffering. Eloise goes to a convent, where
she dies and is buried in Abelardâ€™s
tomb. He is later buried beside her.
Katharine Hepburn and Spencer
Tracy--They meet on the set of Woman
of the Year and immediately fall in love.
An East Coast socialite and a
Hollywood tough guy, they make nine
movies together, including Adamâ€™s
Rib and Guess Whoâ€™s Coming to
Dinner. They manage a discreet
Hollywood romance, despite Tracyâ
€™s addiction to alcohol and his
Catholic background that makes divorce
from his failing marriage impossible.
Porgy and Bess--In a story by
DuBose Heyward set to music by
George Gershwin, a crippled Porgy
takes in a weak-willed Bess and falls in
love with her. She tries to remain
faithful, but is seduced, first by Porgyâ
€™s rival, Crown, and then by drugs.
When Porgy is in jail on suspicion in
Crownâ€™s death, Bess leaves for
New York with Sportinâ€™ Life.
When he is released, Porgy leaves on a
fairly hopeless quest to bring her back.