Adapting Shakespeare

So, as I prepare for my spring production of Romeo and Juliet, I’m looking over the script and trying to decide where and what and how much I want to change.  I could keep it exactly the same.  Sure, I could.  But, I’m changing the setting, partly to help show the universality of the script and how much fun students can have with the play, so keeping the script exactly the same seems silly.  For example, I will probably change the Prince to the Sheriff to tie in to my Old West feel.  It’s not a big change, but any change will offend some people.  On the same token, many of the servant scenes are supposed to be funny, but the language has changed so much that they are mostly nonsensical unless you’ve really studied.  These lines are not written in iambic pentameter and no one ever quotes “He shift a trencher! he scrape a trencher!” and says what beautiful language. Or would it really be all that bad if Romeo flees to Tombstone rather than Mantua?  (It might affect some Iambic Pentameter…I haven’t looked that carefully yet)

So, would changing all of the servant lines to a more era appropriate set of lines to really punch some humor into the play really be that bad?  Purists might say yes, but I’m more about trying to get enjoyment out of the script.  On the other hand, I have to be careful not to stray to far or I might get a Dicrappio version of R&J that is ridiculed forever.

Some things could be cut and improve the script for the general audience.  Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech is terribly long and few understand it.  I could cut half of it and most wouldn’t notice.  There are several other scenes like that.  Again, I don’t want to be too liberal with the knife, but I’m not going to put the script on a pedestal, either.

I’ll keep carefully considering each change.  Hopefully, it works out well.

I am the language lover and these are my thoughts.

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3 Comments

  1. renaissanceguy said,

    November 28, 2008 at 4:51 am

    I’m all for updating the lines when the humor is no longer understandable.

    I think you will probably end up with a very entertaining adaptation. I doubt that too many in your audience are purists who will object to changes.

  2. Godfather said,

    November 29, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    Having spent countless hours reading and performing Shakespeare in England I have to say…”adapt away!”

    Sure some of my colleagues are pretty snobbish about the whole thing but I feel Shakespeare created plays that can easily be adapted to modern (if you wish) times. The underlying conflicts are just as appropriate today as 1597. Frankly, unless you are very familiar with Shakespeare, much of the best material gets lost in (lack of) translation.

    Lastly, adapting (Shakespeare) seems better when the dialogue is changed more than just cut. “Cuts” imply you knew what was important and what was not. Modernizing dialogue seems to imply improving communication.

    Break a leg!

  3. December 1, 2008 at 2:07 am

    Thanks for the support!


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