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The Universality of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Satisfactory Essays
Universality of Romeo and Juliet

There seems to be an on-going debate as to

whether we should attempt to "modernize" Shakespeare (or any of the

other classics for that matter). I think that you can look at it

two ways. Both appeal to the universality of the work. Either:

1. It is universal and modernizing it only emphasizes that fact, or

2. It is universal and modernizing it is not necessary. I think you

can play it both ways, and I think Romeo and Juliet is a good example

of this. The story still touches the lives of the audience whether

they see it set in the Elizabethan time period it was written in, or

the present. I even think it works well for other time periods, for

example, I have seen it set in Civil War America. I also think that

it would work equally well set before the Elizabethan era or some time

in the distant future. The story is that universal.

Imagine these scenarios:

Romeo is African-American; Juliet is Caucasian.

Romeo is from Mars; Juliet is from Venus.

Romeo is a backwoods country boy; Juliet is a city girl.

Romeo is Protestant; Juliet is Catholic.

Well, you get the picture, there are any number of variations on the

theme: Boy and Girl come from different worlds. There are great

obstacles between them. In spite of those obstacles they fall in love.

They marry. Catastrophe befalls them. They are separated. Fate works

against them and they die in tragedy. Through their deaths their

different worlds realize their common bonds and lay aside their

differences toward a unified future. It does not matter what the

differences are. The underlying theme still works.