One of my favorite Shakespeare plays is A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I highly recommend this if R&J gave you the blues. It’s a classic comedy in which everyone goes into the woods, things turn upside down and topsy-turvy, and in the end everyone winds up with what they want (more or less). There’s even an R&J reference, albeit in the original form of Pyramus and Thisbe, by Ovid. I once saw a production which had a live rock band and Puck dressed in a red speedo. Needless to say it was a thrilling experience for a 13 year old.
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare is a great read if you want romance and comedy instead of tragedy. It is lighthearted. It includes gender-bending. There is love and laughter and all the depth and beauty that is characteristic of any work by William Shakespeare. It is the play that She’s The Man, starring Amanda Bynes and young Channing Tatum, that we mentioned in the episode.
Romeo + Juliet the film directed by Baz Luhrmann is worth catching if you want to see the characters speak in the original Elizabethan English, but in a modern setting. There are guns instead of swords and it includes that great death scene interpretation that I mentioned. Yes, Claire Danes does cry very dramatically, but I have always enjoyed this very artistic film interpretation.
The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (1998). You think I’m kidding, but I am not. After the Hamlet-y based The Lion King was received with resounding success, Disney made a sequel rather loosely based on Romeo and Juliet. The plotting is surprisingly awesome: it has a handful of truly excellent songs, a female heroine and nostalgic returners from its predecessor, and a new strapping young male lion, Kovu, who gave me confusing feelings as a young child.
Romeo and Juliet (1968). This British-Italian film is basically everything a film adaptation of R&J could give to the world. Directed and co-written by Franco Zeffirelli, a great Shakespearean adaptor and adorer, this film became the highest grossing Shakespeare movie ever to that point, a great deal in part because of its accurately youthful and attractive cast (holla atcha Leonard Whiting’s booty). Roger Ebert reviewed it saying, “I believe Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet is the most exciting film of Shakespeare ever made.”