In Mayberry, even Romeo and Juliet can have a happy ending. A pair of star-crossed lovers, Josh Wakefield and Hannah Carter, arrives on the Taylors’ doorstep in the middle of the night to ask Andy, the justice of the peace, to perform a wedding ceremony. He’s happy to oblige before he finds out about the “star-crossed” part. The wedding is interrupted by the bride and groom’s respective fathers who are both wielding shotguns. They demand that Andy stop the wedding, forbidding the marriage of a Wakefield and a Carter, seeing as how the two families are locked in a feud that has lasted generations. Andy reluctantly relents and allows the men to drag the young lovers apart, much to the chagrin of Opie and Aunt Bee, who think he behaved cowardly. The next morning Andy tells the story of those “two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona,” to explain that he has a plan. Unlike the friar who married Romeo and Juliet hoping it would end the feud, Andy is going to end the feud then marry the young lovers.
Andy goes first to Josh’s father, Jedediah Wakefield, to find out what started the feud in the first place, but he doesn’t have the answer so Andy goes to Mr. Carter, who is just as in the dark. Realizing no one seems to know exactly why the Carters and the Wakefields are feuding, just that they’re feuding, Andy starts to develop a plan. He tracks down Josh and Hannah just before they can run away together and recruits their help doing research. After scouring the town records they can’t find a single instance of a Wakefield or Carter actually killing someone from the opposing family. Now that he has proof that the feud is little more than a performance he puts the murderous inclinations of the fathers to the test. He invites Jedediah and Mr. Carter to the woods so they can have a duel and finally put some blood into their blood feud. Ultimately, neither man wants to shoot or be shot. When they have their backs turned to each other with Andy in the middle he fires his pistol in the air and both duelists take off running.
They reunite back at Andy’s house, where he has the young people confront each other’s parents. The men come to understand that the young romantics are bold, courageous people and they would be lucky to have either one as a son or daughter in-law. Finally, they turn their guns on Andy one more time and insist that he perform the wedding.
- The almost five minute long retelling of Romeo and Juliet gives Griffith a chance to revisit his early career as a monologist.
- The actress who plays Hannah Carter, Karyn Kupcinet, has a fascinating biography, ending with her tragic death that may have been connected to the Kennedy assassination.
- This is the second episode in a row without either Barney or Ellie.
- Andy famously doesn’t carry a gun but he makes an exception for the duel.
- The citizens of Mayberry seem to have their own version of Hamilton’s ten duel commandments including “count in French” and “run away.”
The Moral of the Story
Previously we’ve seen episodes about fear; fear of failure and fear of rejection, specifically. This episode, however, is about courage; that of two young people who take on the world in the name of love. Their fathers like to wave their guns around and talk tough, but it’s no less theater than the works of Shakespeare. When the danger is real the men show their true colors and run for the hills. Their children, on the other hand, their hearts aflame with the indomitable passions of youth, stare down the barrels of a pair of shotguns without flinching. Ultimately, it’s the bravery of Josh and Hannah that ends the feud and unites the two warring families.
This one is a little upsetting because it features the farthest removal between the simplistic wholesomeness of Mayberry and complexity of the obvious real world analogue. I really wish I could say that the political divide in the United States is as empty as the Wakefield/Carter feud. I wish it were a meaningless conflict over nothing at all, but I can’t pretend the needs of poor people don’t matter or that the hateful rhetoric towards minorities has no consequences. I wish this could all be solved by the love between James Carville and Mary Matalin. I really, really, really wish I could say that no blood has ever been shed.
Tragically, we’ve seen a rise in domestic terrorism in the U.S. More and more Americans of all stripes and creeds are turning to violence as an expression of their ideologies, creating a threat not from out but from within. On Sunday a teenage Muslim girl was killed. Her death is not being investigated as a hate crime but it’s hard to imagine the killer having any other motive considering the wave of Islamophobic attacks in recent months, both in America and England. Two days before that a man opened fire on a baseball practice for the Republican team preparing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game.
Several people were injured, including majority whip Steve Scalise, whose health is improving but is still in serious condition. Ironically, if Scalise hadn’t been there things could have been even worse. Most members of congress don’t have security details but Scalise does as a high ranking member. It was two members of Capitol Police assigned to Scalise’s detail who were the first on the scene and subdued the shooter. In another twist, the officers, David Bailey and Crystal Griner, both black and the former a gay woman, were shot while defending the people who have been relentlessly trying to reduce the rights and protections of women, African-Americans, and LGBTQ people from a Bernie Sanders supporter with a gun.
I can’t say that all our countries problems will go away with just a little romance between two hormonal youths, but I can say that those problems can be fought and it will take more than a little courage. It will take the courage of people willing to risk their lives for others, perhaps, but also the courage to stand together in peace, the courage to be kind and to speak up for people who can’t speak for themselves or won’t be heard when they do, and the courage to love each other even when the world wants us to feud. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” I would add that fear cannot drive out terror, only courage can do that.
What would Andy do?
I imagine that Andy Taylor would have all the right words to bring the country together. All I have to offer are these two that have quickly become running themes on this blog: courage and compassion.