One of the things I liked about this book is that it allowed me to not only reread the story with a modern take on old fashioned sensibilities, but that it highlighted something which tragedy sometimes elides; nothing is inevitable. Aristotle defined the tragic hero as someone caught in the web of destiny. Oedipus is doomed from the start, and any attempts to avoid the prophecy that hangs over him only serve to bring about the prophecy that he will kill his father and marry his mother.
Romeo and Juliet is different. For a start, Shakespeare wasn't writing classic Aristotelean tragedy. In fact, until the point where Mercutio is killed, the play has all the hallmarks of a Shakespearean comedy. The play is built around the obstacles to Romeo and Juliet's love, but one senses Shakespeare straining to give it the tragic sense of inevitability: the
star-crossed lovers of the opening prologue, for instance, or the prescient comments that emerge quite unexplained from the lips of the protagonists in the first part of the play. Yet for all this, the reality is that Romeo and Juliet are extremely young. Romeo's infatuation with Rosaline at the start should suggest that his attraction to Juliet may be something similar. It is only through the agency of the Nurse and Friar that the lovers can be united, and their intercession seems a stretch on our credulity, given the comic opportunities present in the play.
This is where North's book shines. He is able to give a different perspective on the action of the play and the choices the characters make. Sure, you can choose to follow the traditional story, but North is an intrusive narrator, and he is liable to question your decision. When Romeo hides at the foot of Juliet's balcony, having only just met her at the party, his actions are laughably creepy from a modern point of view, rather than romantic.