Romeo and Juliet is probably the most popular and well-known of Shakespeare's plays; with the title character's name having reached into popular vernacular, as being synonymous with a young passionate lover: "He's such a Romeo!"

The play reached  a new level of accessibility when a movie called William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet became a box office hit, starring the movie powerhouse, Leonardo DiCaprio. Purists may have argued that the directors took too many liberties with the script, but this movie did for Shakespeare what Elvis did for rock and roll. He made it cool. And something to which teenagers could relate. After all, Romeo and Juliet is nothing but a play about teenagers, and has probably always been more suitable for adolescent viewing. 

Let's face it. This is the story about raging hormones, puppy love, and silly gang rivalries. The parents play only a peripheral role in the script, and melodramatic poetry give narrative to bad choices and irrational thinking. The perfect teen drama! And how appropriate that this play about immaturity and total recklessness would be packaged in a movie that appeals to today's teens.

The 1996 movie, William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet
, may have offended the purists, for its re-arranging of the script and its change of city, but these liberties are merely to draw a viewer in. When you travel more deeply into the movie, you realize that this movie is greatly more Shakespearean than the greatest production on London's stage.

I believe that this movie would be closer the Bard's intentions than any other production of the play that has been made.  Why? Because it communicates to today's teenagers. It's hip, poetic and relevant.

I highly recommend this film to any teacher doing Romeo and Juliet in their class. And I recommend getting modern resources into your lessons. Youtube songs, graphic novels, seeing a live play. Do something to make it fresh, make it today. In my opinion, this does not take away from the purity of Shakespeare: rather, it makes Shakespeare more pure than before, because it makes Shakespeare entertainment, not school work. Which is what he was in 1594.



 


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The parents play only a peripheral role in the script, and melodramatic poetry give narrative to bad choices and irrational thinking.

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    An educator with a passion for making connections between literature and the real lives of students.  

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