In celebration of William Shakespeare's 454th birthday, the United Kingdom's Royal Mail festooned a postbox with famous quotes from the Bard's plays: "Twelfth Night," "The Tempest," "Much Ado About Nothing."
The Royal Shakespeare Company even turned out two of their own for some tender Royal Mail publicity shots. Bally Gill and Karen Fishwick, the principals in the current run of "Romeo and Juliet," posed in front of the red column in Stratford-Upon-Avon, the playwright's birthplace.
It's Shakespeare's birthday today, so to mark the occasion we've decorated a postbox! Lead actors from 'Romeo & Juliet' are here next to the postbox, which features quotes from some of Shakespeare's most famous work #Shakespearesbirthday #postbox cc @TheRSC pic.twitter.com/IocmUutc4V— Royal Mail (@RoyalMail) April 23, 2018
But whoever planned the promotion may have forgotten that mail delivery was much less reliable in late-16th Century Verona. The lovers' plan goes awry when the friar's letter fails to reach a distraught Romeo in time, triggering the famous double suicide. The irony was too much for some theater fans on Twitter.
um...— claire m. l. bourne (@roaringgirle) April 23, 2018
R&J is probably *not* the play you want to go with if you're advertising a service that _delivers_ letters. https://t.co/NUxRCbeeLs
This kicked off a spate of play/product pairings. Trouble sleeping, Macbeth? Maybe it's the bed.
here to mark Shakespeare's birthday we at Sleep Number Mattresses are posing with the cast of Macbeth https://t.co/7bV6Stf6as— Alexandra Petri (@petridishes) April 23, 2018
Lady Macbeth's "Out, damned spot!" inspired a few Tweeters, too. Need soap strong enough to clean a conscience?
Come to our stores today and try a free sample of Lady Macbeth's Hand Sanitizer by Purell™️— Nick Bryner (@bryner_nick) April 23, 2018
Macbeth and the Tide pen.— SpringPeeper (@RachelsBirds) April 23, 2018
But maybe the star-cross'd pair serves as a warning to others, not as an example?
I think there's a way to do this: "What else are you going to do, have a random friar deliver your letter?"— Kevin Gates (@ProfKevinGates) April 23, 2018
"We are glad that this postbox has captured the public imagination," says a Royal Mail spokesperson. "The actual letter in this case was delivered by hand from Friar Lawrence to Friar John. Once in possession of the letter, poor old Friar John was quarantined against the plague, so in these circumstances, it seems slightly unfair to blame the postal service!"
This isn't the first time the letter carriers have tied themselves to the nation's most famous author. Since 1964, Shakespeare inspired stamps have been issued eight times, most recently in 2016 for the 400th anniversary of his death. Then, as now, "Romeo and Juliet" quotes featured prominently.
Postboxes are a ubiquitous sight on U.K. streets, and their symbolism makes them a good target for outdoor activations. As part of Royal Mail's Digital Pride campaign, which lets LGBT employees tell their stories about coming out, a box was painted in the colors of the rainbow flag, and trans workers spoke to press about transitioning while working for the Royal Mail.