Tag Archives: Romeo and Juliet

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Book Review

Of all the intangible things in the world, innocence is the most precious of intangible things. It is also the easiest to take away.

In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne, Bruno is the young son of a German officer. His family is removed from their house in Berlin to a house in the country where his father has relocated for work. Bruno does not understand why they had to move. He soon meets Shmuel, a boy his own age who lives behind barbed wires and wears striped pajamas. Despite not understanding why Shmuel lives why he lives, Bruno and Shmuel become friends. This friendship will briefly enrich both boys lives, but will lead to devastating and heartbreaking consequences.

While this book is concise, it is mind-blowing. Told through Bruno’s point of view via third person, the story is told from an angle not seen in Holocaust fiction previously: a young boy who is unaware of the hate he should have in his heart and befriends another child whom he should hate, but doesn’t.

I keep thinking of the end of Romeo and Juliet when I think of the ending of this book.

See what a scourge is laid upon your hate,
That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love;
And I, for winking at your discords too,
Have lost a brace of kinsmen: all are punish’d.

If nothing else, this book reminds me that hate and love have equal power in this world, it is just matter of which one we choose to embrace and if we are truly wiling to accept the consequences of this hate if we choose that path.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Indecent Play Review

Morality and art are often subjective.

In 1923, the play God Of Vengeance hit Broadway. It closed in one night. It closed not because of poor reviews, but because it was considered immoral. It is the love story of two women against a backdrop of false piety, false modesty and the worship of the almighty dollar. Written in the first decade of the 20th century by Sholem Asch, it has been compared to Romeo and Juliet for its portrayal of love against all odds.

The Broadway play Indecent, is about not only the production of this play, but the reaction to the play over the years. Written by playwright Paula Vogel and directed by Rebecca Taichman, the play starts in the early 20th century in Warsaw. Sholem Asch (Max Gordon Moore), a newlywed and a budding writer, has written a play called God Of Vengeance. Young and enthusiastic, he is eager to see his play on stage. It becomes a success in Europe, but in America, it is a different story. The years pass, the culture changes and the question of what is art and how morality plays into the question comes into the forefront of the battle to see the play on stage again.

The thing that struck me about this play is how relevant it feels in 2017. It asks questions about politics, immigration, morality, diversity, etc. It also has a love story with two women, which was unheard of in the early 20th century and only now is slowly becoming more acceptable.

I absolutely recommend it. Indecent is only open until this Sunday, August 6th. See it if you can. I guarantee that you will walk out of the theater blown away.

Indecent is at 138 West 48th Street in New York City. You can find more information at http://www.indecentbroadway.com.

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Still Star Crossed Book Review

*Warning: This review contains spoilers about Still Star Crossed. Read at your risk.

My new favorite television show is Still Star Crossed. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the source material is not just Shakespeare’s play, but also a novel by Melinda Taub.

The plot of the book somewhat mirrors the plot of the television show. Romeo and Juliet are dead and the streets of Verona are drenched in blood. To restore peace, young Prince Escalus sees only one way to end the violence: unite the Capulets and Montagues in holy matrimony. The surviving heirs, Romeo’s cousin Benvolio is to marry Juliet’s cousin Rosalind. The problem is that neither the prospective bride or prospective groom care for each other. Add to the fact that Escalus and Rosalind were once in love and there are forces at work who would prefer to see Rosalind and Benvolio not marry.

As expected, there are changes between the book and the novel. While most of the language is Shakespearean English, Ms. Taub does switch to modern English a couple of times in the book.

Do I recommend it? I will answer the question this way. If I only knew the book, I would say yes. But being that I am a fan of the show, I am leaning toward maybe.

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Still Star Crossed Review

We all know the end of Romeo and Juliet. The star-crossed lovers commit suicide and their families are held responsible for the bloodshed, the destruction and the loss of life.

In the new television series, Still Star Crossed, the violence, bloodshed and murder has continued in the wake of the double suicide of Romeo and Juliet. To restore peace, Prince Escalus (Sterling Sulieman) proposes a most unlikely and unwelcome solution: Rosalind Capulet (Lashana Lynch) marry Benvolio Montague (Wade Briggs). Neither are pleased with the match, especially Escalus, who has been in love Rosalind (and she with him) for years. But it must done, for the good of the city. The question is not only will the marriage take place, but can it heal the open and bloody wounds between the Capulets and the Montagues?

I am not a huge Shonda Rhimes fan, but I am a fan of Shakespeare and I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed the pilot. It has everyone one expects from a Shakespeare play (or at least a decent adaptation of a Shakespeare play): violence, danger, romance, greed etc. I also very much appreciate the diversity of the cast. To see a rainbow of skin colors and ethnic backgrounds just adds another layer of authenticity and realism that already exists in not just Romeo and Juliet, but in all of Shakespeare’s plays.

I recommend it.

Still Star Crossed airs on ABC at 10 PM on Monday.

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Flashback Friday-West Side Story (1961)

Among the many plots that writers have used across the centuries, one of the most common is forbidden love. One of the most famous stories of forbidden love is William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

In 1957, Romeo and Juliet was transformed into West Side Story. The warring Montague and Capulet families are taken out of 16th century Verona and placed in 1950’s New York City. Instead of two warring families, two gangs of young men, one white (The Jets) and one Puerto Rican (The Sharks) fight for territory. The play’s title characters are now Maria and Tony.

In 1961, West Side Story hit the big screen. Playing the iconic lovers are Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer. Trying to keep them apart is Maria’s brother, Bernardo (George Chakiris) and Tony’s best friend Riff (Russ Tamblyn).  Maria and Tony, like their previous incarnations are in love and must keep their love a secret. But when it is revealed, the consequences are devastating.

This movie and this musical is profound. It proves that love can conquer hate and prejudice. What makes it more profound is the bi-racial element of the plot, in both tension between the gangs and romantic relationship between the lead characters.  Especially in the years that led up to the civil rights movement.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

 

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Flashback Friday- Letters to Juliet (2010)

Some might say that Romeo and Juliet is William Shakespeare’s most romantic play.

In the film, Letters to Juliet (2010) Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) wants to be a writer. On vacation in Verona, Italy with her boyfriend Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal), Sophie discovers the “Secretaries Of Juliet”. These women have taken it upon themselves to read the thousands of letters that visitors leave to the fictional Juliet.

One of the letters stands out. When she was a young woman, Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) briefly dated an Italian boy. While the relationship ended decades ago, Claire has not yet given up on the Italian boy she fell in love with. Roped into the journey of finding Claire’s teenage sweetheart is her reluctant grandson, Charlie (Christopher Egan).

I liked this movie. What this movie proves is that romantic love is not just the exclusive property of the young. It also proves that an older female performer has bring in an audience as much as her younger counterpart can. This movie is sweet and romantic without being too sappy or predictable.

I recommend it.

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Shakespeare Day

Today is Shakespeare Day.

Today we celebrate the genius that William Shakespeare.

While his physical remains have long since returned to the earth, his plays live on.

Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth are part of the curriculum for millions of students around the world.

Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing, Taming Off The Shrew, Anthony and Cleopatra and A Mid Summer Nights Dream had been re imaged on stage and on screen  many times over.

Single lines from his plays and sonnets have become part of our popular culture. He invented names that new parents still use the name their children.

Happy Birthday Master Shakespeare.

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Throwback Thursday- Romeo Must Die (2000)

The story of Romeo and Juliet is immortal. Over the years, the story has been reincarnated several times over. In 2000, Romeo and Juliet was re-written for an urban, multicultural environment in Romeo Must Die.

Han Sing (Jet Li) is a former cop investigating the death of his brother, who was involved with the American wing of the Chinese Mafia. Trish O’Day (the late Aaliyah) is the daughter of a powerful African-American businessman. Things begin to get messy when Trish and Han get together romantically, while their fathers get together in a business deal.

While the core of Romeo and Juliet remains, this movie is a fun reboot, mingling the genre of Asian martial arts films and the world of Hip Hop.

I recommend it.

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Juliet’s Nurse Book Review

In it’s approximate 500 year history, Romeo and Juliet has been seen and read the world over countless number of times.  From Hollywood to live theater to English classrooms, most of us know something of the play.

One of the more prominent characters is Juliet’s nurse. Middle aged and Rubin-esque, she is both comic relief and mother figure to the play’s leading lady. We know nothing of her background, of her family, what her life was like before she took on the task of nursing Juliet or what her life was like after the death of her charge.

Lois Leveen’s new novel, Juliet’s Nurse,  answers these questions in a way that is compelling, dramatic and hooks the reader from the beginning.

The nurse’s name, the reader will learn early on is Angelica. Angelica and her husband, Pietro had several children before they were lost to the plague. Their sorrow first turns to joy and then back to sorrow as their newborn daughter dies within a day of coming into the world. In another part of Verona on the same day, Lady Cappelletto has given birth to a baby girl, Juliet. Angelica is commissioned to be the child’s wet nurse.

 Lady Cappelletto is an emotionally distant teenage mother forced into a loveless marriage to her much older husband. While Lord Cappelletto adores his daughter, he is also a man of his station who still wishes for a son to one day inherit. It is up to Angelica to provide the emotional and physical nourishment to Juliet and Tybalt, her employer’s rowdy nephew. While taking care of the children, Angelica must also get around the rules that state that she must have limited contact with her husband.

What I enjoyed about this novel was that Ms. Leveen fleshed out the lives and stories of the characters that are normally bound to the context of the play. I appreciated the fact that Angelica comes from a working class background. The voices of those who resided in the lower levels of society within this period are normally not heard.

I recommend this book.

 

 

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Juliet, A Rose Who Still Smells Just As Sweet

Romeo and Juliet is familiar tale. Anyone who has sat through High School English has read it at least once. Ask anyone off the street to quote a line from a Shakespeare play, a line from Romeo and Juliet will probably be the first line they quote.

One of my previous posts was a review of Anne Fortier’s new novel, The Lost Sisterhood. Out of curiosity, I decided to read her previous novel, Juliet.

Julie Jacobs lost both of her parents when she was a young girl. She and her sister, Janice were raised by their Aunt Rose.  At the beginning of the novel, her aunt has died. Julie’s inheritance is a key to a safe deposit box in Siena, Italy. She is told that the contents of the safe deposit box will guide her to a centuries old family treasure. Arriving in Siena, Julie discovers that not only is her birth name Guilietta Tolomei, but she is descended from a woman who was the real life inspiration to the title female character in Romeo and Juliet.

I liked this book more than I did the Lost Sisterhood.  It contains the same elements, an ancient mystery and lives centuries apart that are somehow intertwined.  Ms. Fortier repeats the use of flashback and flash forwards to tell the story of medieval and modern Guilietta. I have never been to Siena, but I felt like I was there with the characters.  It’s a bit shorter than her newest novel, which for me made a big difference. I recommend it.

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