Friday, 12 November 2010

Romeo and Juliet

So those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I've been in a production of Romeo and Juliet since September (It's an all-male cast for the sake of authenticity). I must confess I'd never read the play before; only seen the movies. My God, I didn't know it was missing. It's almost a shame that it's by far his most famous play, because we tend to think of it solely in those terms, and it stands for so much more. I still have difficulty thinking inside the ox, as it were, but when you get right down to the romance of the language, it can reduce one's inner 17-year-old into a quavering wreck. Fantastic stuff. I think in R&J, Shakespeare succeeds in what he failed at doing with the Merchant of Venice which he wrote eight years earlier. The two are done in entirely different veins, of course, but the idea of opposed love is strong in both. The thing I can't stand about the Merchant of Venice is that everybody is so goddamn nice. Yes, I'll lend you all that I own and more. Of course we are fated to be married, we're so nice. I'll lay my life down so my friend can get laid; why not? The only remotely likeable character in the whole work is the villain, Shylock. In the most recent movie, it was a mistake to get as good an actor as Robert Di Nero to play the most compelling character, because he blows all the other actors completely out of the water.
Many movies of Romeo and Juliet have been made; probably more than of any other of his plays. I don't think any have really succeeded because they subscribe to the popular view of the masterpiece. In this way, Shakespeare in Love which sort of skirts the plot of R&J does a better job of conveying its romantic tone. That is why Tom Stoppard is amazing. I hope to see more from him. That shows what an English degree can get you in life!