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October 20, 2017 12:00 AM Romeo and Juliet
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Romeo and Juliet October 20, 2017 12:00 AM | Tagged as Clair Danes, Elton John, Gnomeo and Juliet, leonado DiCaprio, movies, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare Play charms, Silver Charms

I know you may be shocked that I’m posting again after more than two years but I have not disappeared but it is simply laziness on my part.  Life, family and church just keep me so busy and I was shocked when a customer called to see if I was still in business because my last blog post was so long ago.  Very embarrassing.  Anyway…

Our play of the month this month is Romeo and Juliet.  This was a hard decision because I have such a love/hate relationship with this play.  However, I recently read a novel that helped with that and I’ll explain that later in this post.  Part of my problem with the play is not Shakespeare’s fault at all, but it is the educators of the world who feel that this is THE play to introduce teens to the works of Shakespeare.  Luckily for me, my parents had taken me to see several comedies and histories before I was 15 and had to study R&J in school.  It really does a disservice to Shakespeare first timers to have this play as their introduction.  But I implore all parents to make sure your child sees a production or movie of this play before they start to study it.  These plays were written to be seen, not read!!!!  Sorry, I’ll jump off my soap box now and get back to the play. 

Romeo and Juliet was written between 1594-1596 and first played often, according to records, sometime between 1597-1599.  It is one of Shakespeare’s most famous and popular plays today. 

It was originally taken directly from an Italian narrative poem entitled “The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet”.  But it is the language of Shakespeare that has made it survive and so popular today in movies, ballets and operas. 

As in the poem, Shakespeare set his play in Verona.  He kept the basic plot but he changed and added details which also made the characters into much sought after roles and icons who have influenced the romantic at heart all over the world. 

On the surface, the unbelievability of Romeo swooning one minute for Rosaline, and the next falling head over heal in love with Juliet is always hard for me to swallow.  Also, I really wish we knew what caused the “ancient” grudge between the two families.  But once he is “in love” with Juliet, I enjoy the play up to a certain point. 

I DO love the language in this play.  There are some great lines and lessons in it.  But, and here is my main problem with it, is the ending.  Seriously, WHY???  It did not need to end with these deaths.  Even the musical, West Side Story, which is a variation of the play, let Maria (the Juliet character) at least live.  It just doesn’t make sense to kill either, or both off.  I love it in the 2011 movie, Gnomeo and Juliet, when Gnomeo is in the garden explaining his banishment from Juliet, with the statue of William Shakespeare.  WS says that this story line sounded faintly familiar and when he realizes it sounded a lot like his play, he tells Gnomeo how his plays ends.  Gnomeo is shocked and tells him that ending is “rubbish” and that’s how I have always felt.  It’s hilarious and I love Elton John for getting this movie made so now even young kids who have seen this movie will have a better understanding when they are forced to study it in 9th grade (in the US at least). 

Now for my new discovery that has helped me deal with this play.  I LOVE history, and I recently listened to an audio book entitled Romeo and Juliet: A Novel.  I must admit that the ONLY reason I would have listened to it was because the narrator was Richard Armitage who has been one of my top three favorite British actors since I first saw him in North and South, in my opinion one of the BEST books written and movies ever made!  But I digress…

Anyway, this book is only available as an audio book on Audible, as of this writing but I hope one day with will be available in book form.  As I read the description of the novel, I was intrigued because the author, David Hewson, took the politics and historical events that were happening in Italy at the time the play is set and how that could have affected how the story line of the play and this made the play much more realistic.  It is also told more in the “voice” of Juliet than the play is.  He also changed the ending and I loved this ending, even though there was still a death.  It was just more realistic.  I loved this quote from Richard Armitage as to why he did this reading. 

I think Romeo and Juliet is the greatest, most tragic lover story ever told.  What Davie Hewson did with this script is so exciting to me.  I really love the fact that he followed avenues that Shakespeare suggested but didn’t necessarily detail in depth.  If you want to immerse yourself in a warm bath of Garganega and the heat of Verona and hear a brilliant story about a young woman who is challenging the restraints of her time, listen to this audio book, which has romance, poetry, politics, and humor to spare.

 

I highly recommend this novel to anyone, whether you love or hate the play.  Especially if you don’t like this play but WANT to like it. 

My top movie versions of this play are:  First, the 2013 movie version staring Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth.  This is perfect for the 14-15-year old’s who are studying the play in school.  There is nothing offensive, so parents don’t have to worry about them seeing it.  Also, I do love the 1996 Baz Luhrmann movie with DiCaprio and Danes.  I think what I love most about this version is how cleverly he set it in the modern day but I think it is a STRONG PG-13 rating and I wouldn’t have even let my 13-year old’s watch it due to the drug culture portrayed in it.  And I must mention again, Gnomeo and Juliet.  Classic!!! 

I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes from the play, and there are many: 

These violent delights have violent ends.
(Friar Laurence, Act 2 Scene 5)
 


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