Perspectives

The staged play has been adapted according to time

Like any great literary work, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has been staged in very different versions over the years. Every time, the director and actors have presented their individual take on Shakespeare’s famous love story. It is, however, not just a question of individual taste; as human beings we read and adapt a literary work according to the tastes of the day. This is because we are influenced by the historical and cultural context we live in.

From the second part of the 17th century, the play was frequently altered dramatically when it was staged. In one tragicomic version, the lovers did not die at the end because it was believed that people would rather watch a comedy than a tragedy. Also, the use of props and costumes was greatly expanded since audiences of the time did not like the minimalistic staging of Shakespeare’s day.

Often the lines of Juliet’s Nurse and Mercutio were cut because people at the time considered them obscene and overly focused on sex. In some versions, Juliet’s age was also changed to 18 since 13 was now considered indecent. 

In modern versions and interpretations of the play, present-day conflicts have been used to illustrate the Capulet-Montague conflict. For instance, there has been a Palestinian stage version with a Jewish Juliet and a Palestinian Romeo as an attempt to dramatize the Israel-Palestine conflict. Another – more famous – example is the 1957 musical West Side Story which places the love story amongst a gang conflict in New York. Here, a white gang called the Jets represent Shakespeare’s Montagues while a Puerto Rican gang called the Sharks mirror Shakespeare’s Capulets.

Other, even more experimental, adaptations of the play exist. Some include the original lines while others rewrite them to make them easier to understand for a modern audience. But no matter the interpretation, Romeo and Juliet still stands as one of the greatest love stories ever written. It has become...

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