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Romeo and Juliet in modern English


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> {quote:title=FredCDobbs wrote:}{quote}...They weren't playing pubescent young lovers. They were playing the ages they looked like. That is fine.

Nah, it's not really fine. Much of the dialogue in Romeo and Juliet pointedly refers to the youth of both characters. In fact, part of what this play is all about is the touching innocence and inexperience of the two lovers. So to just accept that people in their late 30s would be convincing as the leads in Romeo and Juliet is ludicrous.

The whole point of the story -well, one of its points - is about the both the passion and the folly of the very young, especially when it comes to romantic love. Let's hope that by the time someone is 40 they have a little more experience and a little more wisdom. What's poignant at 14 is embarrassing at 40.

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>I think the comic rustics played by Cagney, Joe E. Brown, et al. give the movie it's humor,

 

To me, that was a big flaw in the film. The producers and director knew that the audience wouldn't understand a word of the movie, so they put in some slapstick and goofie scenes for them to laugh at.

 

Romeo and Juliet was a much easier story to understand than A Midsummer Night's Dream, which had multiple plots and sub-plots.

 

I finally understood this film by reading along with Shakespeare's play as I watched the film. Just knowing who is who and what is basically going on is helpful.

 

The movie company should have put captions on the screen to explain what was happening. Releasing it as it was, would be like showing a French or German film with no sub-titles. The film should have had inter-titles and some sub-titles. Hollywood studio heads needed to face the facts.... Americans no longer spoke that language.

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>The whole point of the story -well, one of its points - is about the both the passion and the folly of the very young, especially when it comes to romantic love. Let's hope that by the time someone is 40 they have a little more experience and a little more wisdom. What's poignant at 14 is embarrassing at 40.

 

And that is what this film version is, an embarrassment to these stars and their fans. They are so dreadfully miscast it's not even funny.

 

My ideal casting for this would be Tyrone Power and Lana Turner, circa 1941.

 

Or Tyrone Power and Simone Simon, that might have worked better.

 

Edited by: TopBilled on Jul 18, 2012 3:27 PM

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> {quote:title=FredCDobbs wrote:}{quote}...To me, that was a big flaw in the film. The producers and director knew that the audience wouldn't understand a word of the movie, so they put in some slapstick and goofie scenes for them to laugh at.

>

No, the "rustics" are very much a part of the original play. They were not added in by the filmmakers. Shakespeare always did that, often even with his tragedies - he'd add a bit of "slapstick", and for the exact same reason you suggest, Fred, to keep the , shall we say, less engaged members of the audience paying attention.

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>Much of the dialogue in Romeo and Juliet pointedly refers to the youth of both characters. In fact, part of what this play is all about

 

You are talking about the original play. But this was a movie, representing only about 1/3 of the play, and with real girls playing the part of girls, rather than young boys playing the part of girls as was done in Shakespeare's time.

 

You need to understand, that you are watching a movie and one which is much shorter than the play. You should have followed along with my links and you would have known this.

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A piece of (trivial) information that needs to be added to the thread is that Norma had already played Juliet in MGM's THE HOLLYWOOD REVUE OF 1929 in a balcony scene with John Gilbert as Romeo. She was 27, and he was 32...a little bit better.

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I did not need to follow along with your links. I'm very familiar with the play. And If they're going to change it that much to make it into a movie, they just shouldn't bother. It's kind of like serving spaghetti without the sauce- nice - I guess, for some -but there's not much substance.

Why bother doing it all, if you're going to alter it so much?

 

 

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"Romeo and Juliet" should be played by young actors because it makes their tragic fate more powerful. This movie is a beautifully produced I specially liked the costumes of course Shakespeare doesn't need fancy trappings to work his magic.

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The movie was fine as it was, except the screenwriter should have translated a few more of the old words into modern English.

 

No play is written specifically for people who will not see or hear the play until 330 years later. Shakespeare didn't intend the words to be not understood by his audience. It is a big mistake for anyone to think that a play should be heard in a language that the audience can not understand. We'd might as well watch French movies without sub-titles. People are only showing off who claim THEY know how the play should be presented to a modern English audience.

 

Shakespeare changed the original story himself. The story did not originate with him:

 

"Romeo and Juliet belongs to a tradition of tragic romances stretching back to antiquity. Its plot is based on an Italian tale, translated into verse as The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke in 1562 and retold in prose in Palace of Pleasure by William Painter in 1582. Shakespeare borrowed heavily from both but, to expand the plot, developed supporting characters, particularly Mercutio and Paris. Believed written between 1591 and 1595, the play was first published in a quarto version in 1597."

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romeo_and_Juliet

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Fred,

 

You're trying to switch the topic to the dialogue. We are discussing the film's casting. Surely, Shakespeare did not intend for his plays to be performed by actors who were all wrong for the part.

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http://www.shakespeare-navigators.com/romeo/BrookeIndex.html

 

Arthur Brooke's Romeus and Juliet, first published in 1562, two years before Shakespeare's birth, and reprinted in 1587, about eight years before the first performance of Romeo and Juliet.

 

.........

 

Romeus and Juliet: Lines 341-428:

 

As careful was the maid what way were best devise

To learn his name, that entertained her in so gentle wise,

Of whom her heart received so deep, so wide a wound.

An ancient dame she called to her, and in her ear 'gan round.

This old dame in her youth had nursed her with her milk,

With slender needle taught her sew, and how to spin with silk.

"What twain are those," quoth she, "which press unto the door,

Whose pages in their hand do bear two torches light before?"

And then as each of them had of his household name,

 

350

So she him named yet once again, the young and wily dame.

"And tell me, who is he with visor in his hand,

That yonder doth in masking weed beside the window stand?"

"His name is Romeus," said she, "a Montague,

Whose father's pride first stirred the strife which both your households rue."

The word of Montague her joys did overthrow,

And straight instead of happy hope, despair began to grow.

"What hap have I," quoth she, "to love my father's foe?

What, am I weary of my weal? What, do I wish my woe?"

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Yeah, and your point is?

Or maybe you just think it's interesting to check out this stuff. Fair enough, you're right, it is kind of informative and interesting to read some of Shakespeare's source material.

But it's not news - as I said, everything Shakespeare wrote, except his sonnets, was based on earlier material. That's the way they wrote their stories back then.

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Apparently there were no copyright laws back in those days, and writers stole material from earlier writers, and then added additional stuff to that material. The original version of this story was written in Italian.

 

The earliest known version of the Romeo and Juliet tale akin to Shakespeare's play is the story of Mariotto and Gianozza by Masuccio Salernitano, in the 33rd novel of his Il Novellino published in 1476.

 

.........

 

In his 1562 narrative poem The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet, Arthur Brooke translated Boaistuau faithfully, but adjusted it to reflect parts of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde.[16] There was a trend among writers and playwrights to publish works based on Italian novelles?Italian tales were very popular among theatre-goers?and Shakespeare may well have been familiar with William Painter's 1567 collection of Italian tales titled Palace of Pleasure.[17] This collection included a version in prose of the Romeo and Juliet story named "The goodly History of the true and constant love of Rhomeo and Julietta". Shakespeare took advantage of this popularity: The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, All's Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure, and Romeo and Juliet are all from Italian novelle. Romeo and Juliet is a dramatisation of Brooke's translation, and Shakespeare follows the poem closely, but adds extra detail to both major and minor characters (in particular the Nurse and Mercutio).

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romeo_and_Juliet

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I don't think the age of the cast impacts the quality of the movie as much as you do.

 

You mentioned some replacement actors (e.g. Turner), and to me a movie with her at that time when she was so inexperienced and in my view not a good actor, would of been worst.

 

So yea it would be been better if the actors in the movie were a lot younger but I don't know if in the 30s MGM could of gotten actors that were teens or in their early 20s to play those parts that were good enough actors to pull it off. Plus if they did those actors would NOT of had the box office draw of the actors MGM did cast. Remember the primary goal for a studio to make a movie is too make money. This version from MGM loss over a million dollars even with those stars.

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Think of this, James. In the Bard's day, there WERE NO female actors. So Juliet was likely played by some snaggletoothed Englishman. Castng Marjorie Main in a film version would be more on the money REGARDLESS of age.

 

 

By the way, I couldn't come up with the name yesterday, but on one of the PBS Shakesphere presentations I mentioned I saw JOHN CLEESE play Petrucio. Yes, THAT John Cleese. Did a damned fine job, too.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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I want to address this whole business of "translating" Shakespeare's plays into modern English.

 

In one way, it's completely reasonable to do this: there's no denying that English has changed radically since the 16th century, and that Eliazabethan English is like a different language and barely comprehensible to us. I get that.

And if reading a translation is the way to keep people interested in his work, if that's the only way his plays can be kept alive, then there's a place for it.

Where I have a problem is if people want to start replacing the original texts with modern English all the time, to the point where Shakespeare's actual words are rarely even used any more when his plays are produced. Now we haven't come to that yet, and I hope we never do.

 

Yes, it's damned hard to understand what's being said a lot of the time when watching a performance of one of Shakespeare's plays. Or reading them, for that matter. Just about all editions of Shakespeare's works provide "interpretations" alongside the original text.

 

 

There are a few things that can help in understanding Shakespeare.

One is - the way the actors say their lines. The overly dramatic histrionic gesturing style of performing Shakespeare is long gone out of style, and a good thing too. It just makes the plays seem "over the top", so that the audience has troubling relating to the acting as well as the language.

There is a way to speak the lines in his plays without rendering oneself completely incomprehensible or a candidate for ham of the year. I'm fortunate in that I live near one of the best places in the world to see Shakespeare's plays performed live, and this has been a revelation to me in that I've realized that his work, spoken in the original English as Shakespeare wrote it, can be understandable and enjoyable. And "enjoyable" is an understatement.

 

 

This brings me to the other way to learn to actually appreciate his plays as they were written: practice. The more Shakespeare you see performed, the more accustomed you become to the language. Now, I'm not suggesting that people force themselves to watch his plays, a chore -"just keep watching these Shakespeare plays, dammit, one day you'll be glad you did." Way to make people hate Shakepeare !

But it is true that the more used you are to hearing Elizabethan English, the easier it is to understand. Also, don't forget, the way people spoke in his plays is not the way people spoke in ordinary life.

 

 

Long post - hey, I'm talking about words here, so I have to suit action to the uh, word.

 

 

But one last point: Shakepeare's plays are rich in story, character, emotional engagement, humour, and wisdom. These qualities would probably come through even in a "translated" version of any of his plays.

But the language he uses, difficult for a modern audience to comprehend though it may be, is beautiful. It's a joy to hear. It's part of what has made his work last for four and a half centuries. And it's a shame to reject that language simply because we have to work a little harder to understand it.

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Misswonderly, I wish I could find the READER'S DIGEST issue I once had that listed the everyday, well known and all too common phrases and figures of speech we've all been using for years that come from Shakesphere. It was interesting, to say the least, which I think was one of them.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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Excellent post, missw.

 

It's like saying that WEST SIDE STORY should be filmed entirely in Spanish so the Puerto Rican viewers can relate to it better. No, we can keep these texts in the original English and adapt to hearing it as it was intended to be performed, the way the author wrote it.

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Thank you, TopBilled. :)

 

Sepiatone, I have a great idea for resolving the difficulty-understanding-the-language problem some have with Shakepeare:

There should be one theatre for "original English" performances, and another for those who prefer Shakespeare done in "modern English" . Separate venues ! ]:)

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Funny you used the term 'more on the money'. Casting Marjorie Main as Juliet would be wouldn't of generated 'more of the money' for MGM than Shear. MGM did not cast the film to be true to how the play was presented hundred of years ago since that would be folly as it relates to why a studio produces pictures.

 

 

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They tried doing this in the last Broadway production of "West Side Story" by having some Spanish dialogue and song lyrics- but they went back to the original text. The best production of "Romeo and Juliet " I've seen was an off off Broadway all male adaption called "R&J". And no they did not camp it up- they played the real characters and it was very emotionally satistfying/

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