Romeo & 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.
Also 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.
Romeo & 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
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.