shakespeare update: year one, part 2

R&JRomeo & Juliet was possibly the first Shakespeare play I ever came into contact with. In Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 Romeo & Juliet. I would have been eleven. And Romeo was also probably the first naked man I ever saw. I just re-watched this movie on iTunes., and it’s every bit as good– no, better than I remembered it. Stunning, the emotion the words and actors are able to convey. It doesn’t seem dated in the least. I also tried to watch the Baz Luhrmann 1996 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, but here I must admit defeat, unable to appreciate the modern setting. Alas.

I saw R&J performed live at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, an abridged version that the company had also taken on the road. It was performed in the Festival’s small Octagon theater. And it was amazing. So, so good.

photo 2Also also, I read Dave Malone‘s present-day adaptation, The Serenade of Romeo and Juliet. Which he wrote in the 90’s and which I loved reading. I was apprehensive, after not liking the Baz Luhrman, but I did like this. The large flat panel screens in Romeo’s and Juliet’s bedrooms did not seem as invasive as the cinematography in the 1996 film. Here Romeo is a computer whiz with two prosthetic legs and Juliet is a computer nerd with a prosthetic arm. Each dons a neoprene body suit and enters cyberspace. And I loved the ending! Here are two quotes, one of Dave‘s terrific wordplay and the other, his lovely language.

All right. I’ll look to like. I already know I like to look.

She belongs to books and stars.

IMG_5557Romeo & Juliet is Shakespeare’s first use of a prologue. When I first wrote this sentence, I wrote “first use of a prologue and an epilogue.” But that’s not true. There is no epilogue, only these last words uttered by the Prince:

For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.

Wow. And because I know the story, I was able to notice foreshadowing, which I was not aware of with the other plays, or not to such a degree as here. At the beginning of Act 5, Romeo says,

I dreamt my lady came and found me dead

photo 3

So many wonderful lines, so little time.

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East, and Juliet is the sun.

It is my lady. O, it is my love!

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.

Parting is such sweet

Give me my Romeo, and when I shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars.
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night.

It was the nightingale, and not the lark,
That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear.

It was the lark, the herald of the morn.
No nightingale. Look, love, what envious streaks
Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east.
Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain-tops.
I must be gone and live, or stay and die.

Now onto year two. First up. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, possibly the first Shakespeare play I ever read.

13 thoughts on “shakespeare update: year one, part 2

  1. Damn it. I’m going to have to watch the Zeffirelli again. Thank you for reminding us of how emotive it is. 🙂 Oh yes, there are too many wonderful lines, to hell with the critics of R&J. To be fair to Shakespeare, I took his perfect line of iambic pentameter: “I’ll look to like if looking liking move,” and gave it a modern twist: 6 perfect iambs and an anapest. Thanks for the kind words! You’re an inspiration, Cynthia. 🙂


    • I loved your adaptation, Dave. Innovative and far gentler than the Baz Luhrmann. I think it would be quite something adding in the Wii game system.

      In a first draft of this post earlier today I had your line next to William’s to show how you had adapted it. But that seemed to complicate matters. I enjoyed the comparison. Thanks again for sending me a copy to read. Hope to see it on the stage one of these days.


  2. “And Romeo was also probably the first naked man I ever saw.” Busted out laughing because he was my first, too. As for the rest, I broke out in goosebumbs as I read. Love Mr. Shakespeare and Dave Malone. 🙂


    • Ha. And I busted out laughing reading your comment, Darrelyn. How cute was he? Leonard Whiting. And Olivia Hussey. A blast from the past. And I loved reading Dave’s adaptation. Wonderful.


  3. You know, I WISH I could remember if he was the first naked man I ever saw lol Don’t think so, though. And I have to tell you…I adore the way these gorgeous words were spoken in “Shakespeare in Love,” one of my favorite movies. You know, Cynthia, “Romeo & Juliet” may be the ONE Shakespeare play I could make my way through 🙂 We’ll see! And yay for Year 2! 😀


    • Donna, thanks so much for your comment. Somehow it got lost in the system and I’m just now seeing it. You know I appreciate your support. Shakespeare in Love is on my list to watch again…


  4. I have to say that my husband and I loved Baz Luhrmann 1996 version of Romeo & Juliet. It worked like West Side Story, but truer to the text. R&J was my first exposure to Shakespeare (6th grade?) and I loved it. I enjoyed rereading it when my kids studied it at school in 8th grade. Even my son was moved by the beauty of the language. You highlighted some gems.


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