Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Just Like Romeo and Juliet
"Women may fall, when there's no strength in men."
-Romeo and Juliet, Act III, Scene III
When Jennifer over at Regal and Regular heard that I was going to see "Romeo and Juliet" at The Harman Center for the Arts, she asked me to blog about it. And since I would do anything for my regal readership, I am doing just that.
I've seen various versions from the West Side Story movie to Synetic Theater's stunning silent adaptation, but I hadn't seen the play performed on a stage. So you know not only did I have to go see it done the old-fashioned way, I ended up seeing it done old school for real: as in all the characters were portrayed by men, just as it would have been done in Willie Shakespeare's day. Both the ancient Greeks and the Elizabethans thought that the stage was no place for a woman, so men played men and prepubescent boys and men played women. One of my friends thought that Romeo was a better girl than Juliet. For years scholars have pointed to Romeo's weakness and Juliet's strength throughout the play, although both teenagers' dramatic tendencies get the tragedy going.
The intro in the program drew my attention to the lines that characterized women and it made me look at the play in a whole new way. They wanted to emphasize the male posturing that leads to violence. The violence on the streets of Verona could be the violence anywhere, but we see it differently because Shakespeare is viewed as classic.
It is funny that Shakespeare is thought of as a high school thing because anyone who has seen a performance will tell you that it is much bawdier than it seems. (And in a different way, this does make Shakespeare very much a high school thing.) Modern play companies tend to emphasize Shakespeare's innuendo and double entendres to remind us that his plays were much more grounded than we are led to believe.