Tonight the newest movie version (2013) of Romeo and Juliet was on television and I decided to give watching it another try.
Those of you who know me well, know R & J is my absolute favorite play of all time. Without a thought I can recall just about every line from every character in that play. So when this particular film version first came out I couldn’t wait to watch it. But, a few years ago I turned it off before Romeo ever set eyes on his beloved Juliet. Why? Because the director had it rewritten so that it was in every day language and thus despite the exquisite scenery, gorgeous costumes, and beautiful actors, it was a mockery of that which we call Shakespeare.
However, this time when I flipped through the stations, I came upon the scene where Romeo first gazes at our gal Juliet. He went right into his original lines. “O she doth teach the torches to burn bright! ” etc.
And so I gasped…and tears instantly welled up because their “meet and greet” scene was exactly as it was originally written. Just as I performed it in college back in 1970, and just as I taught it to my students year after year. And in that moment I was immediately drawn back into the world of blank verse. (Better known as unrhymed iambic pentameter).
Yes, to my delight, the director was at least clever enough to use The Bard’s original verse for most of the important lines between the world’s most famous lovers. Thank goodness!!!!!!
I don’t know why this director felt the need to dumb down a good portion of the dialogue. Young people today aren’t stupid. They would still watch it, and still understand the content and passion this play evokes without ripping good old Will’s words to shreds. Thankfully, enough was left intact for me to enjoy . But seriously, why would anyone want to tamper with perfection?
The director could have changed the costumes, the staging, and the set; modernize the make-up or hairstyles, but NOT the words! NEVER THE WORDS!!!
There is a reason this play and all of Shakespeare’s plays have survived for centuries. It’s because they are brilliantly written. His words fall of the tongue like musical notes and float up into the theatre, circle around, and touch your heart. And they stay with you for a lifetime.
So… tonight I found some unexpected joy when I watched my favorite play. I now have yet another movie version to enjoy when I long to hear The Bard.
Sigh…An evening with Will Shakespeare and unrhymed Iambic pentameter. Ahhh… Life is grand!!!
1970 University of Miami. Juliet AKA Lesley