Happy Birthday William Shakespeare!

All you poets and epic literature nerds, let’s all gather in The Globe Theater to celebrate one of the all time greats, William Shakespeare! Today, on April 23rd, is the legendary poet and playwrights 457th birthday. To celebrate the occasion, let’s explore some of the best modern media day interpretations of arguably his most famous play to date, Romeo and Juliet: 

WEST SIDE STORY 

(Photo by Donaldson Collection/Getty Images)

West Side Story, like Romeo & Juliet, is about forbidden love and romance across familial barriers in a large city, amid constant feuding on both sides, which resulted in violence and death, and finally, reconciliation between the two families, which took the resulting deaths to happen. West Side Story is set in 1950’s-1960’s New York City’s (i. e. Manhattan) West Side, between two warring street gangs; the White European Ethnic American Jets, and the newly arrived Puerto Rican Sharks, both of whom are vying for the small piece of turf, or the crumbs left to them by United States society at large. 

HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 

High school musical is a much more modern version of Romeo and Juliet. Instead of two opposing families, in this movie their friends act like the family. Their friends are mad at Troy and Gabriella for even acknowledging one another, the idea of them having feelings for the other one is disgraceful. Although, at the end of the movie, the friends ignore how they feel about Troy and Gabriella having feelings for each other and let their love last. In Romeo and Juliet, they died for each other’s love since it was so frowned upon. Troy and Gabriella show a great example of a modern day star crossed lovers. Despite any negative comments they’re getting, they keep their feelings strong and don’t ignore what their heart is telling them. 

GREASE 

The similarities between Grease and Romeo and Juliet are rather striking. Both stories involve young main characters – lovers who are being kept apart by outside forces such as friends and family. In the end, each character tries to be like or act like their love interest… without knowing the true intent of the other first. For example, Danny becomes a more clean cut guy to impress clean cut Sandy. In the meantime, Sandy is becoming the more dangerous girl for Danny who belongs to a ‘gang’. Juliet kills herself after Romeo kills himself because he thought Juliet was dead before she actually was. In a sense, both stories portray characters who will do anything for the love of the other. 

LOVE STORY

While some areas of pop culture influenced by Romeo & Juliet have done it with more subtlety, some artists simply throw all nuance to the sidelines. In September of 2008, a nineteen-year-old Taylor Swift released “Love Story”, the lead single off her sophomore album “Fearless”. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone, Swiftie or not, who isn’t familiar with the undeniably catchy tune.

The lyrics of the song tell a story about a sweeping romance. Taylor inserts herself as Juliet and referring to her love interest as Romeo; much like Shakespeare’s teenage lovers, the two are deep in a forbidden romance. In the refrain, Swift, as Juliet, begs for her secret lover to save her from the drama between their families. She sings, “Romeo, take me somewhere we can be alone/I’ll be waiting/All there’s left to do is run.” It’s almost like a modern rendition of the iconic “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”.

Unlike Shakespeare’s titular characters, however, Taylor’s Romeo and Juliet have a much happier ending. The final lyrics of the song have Romeo proposing with an “I love you, and that’s all I really know”. Concerning the rewritten ending of a universally recognized story, Swift said, “When I wrote the ending to this song, I felt like it was the ending every girl wants to go with her love story. It’s the ending that I want. Shakespeare’s tragedy may be one of the most recognizable of all time. But by taking his story and characters and giving them a classic Taylor twist, the singer was able to craft one of her biggest and most classic hits.

TITANIC 

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and James Cameron’s Titanic are two of the most well known stories in our history. Romeo and Juliet is a very famous play that has been reproduced for hundreds of years and has been made into many movies and adaptations. Titanic the movie is an adaptation of real-life events and many different stories have been told about the sinking of the ship and the lives it affected.

There are many similarities between the two stories. The most obvious similarity between the two stories is that the main characters in each story fall in love when they are not supposed to. Romeo and Juliet belong to two families who hate each other. If anyone found out about their secret love and marriage, it would cause great problems for the characters. And could even result in a duel between the two families, even causing death. 

THE FOSTERS 

While there are bits and pieces of Shakespearean drama sprinkled throughout the entirety of The Fosters, it’s never more prevalent than in the season 3 episode “R+J: A Romeo and Juliet Tale”. “R+J: A Romeo and Juliet Tale” is a rock opera musical based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It was written by Brandon and Mat for their senior class project. It’s introduced in Mixed Messages and serves as a focal plot point for season 3. With nearly every character having a plot tie, in one way or another, to the show or it’s production. 

Brandon initially comes up with the idea for the musical as something to pour his heartbreak over Callie into. He asks for Mat to do it with him so he can do the same with his heartbreak over Mariana. Throughout the course of the episode, an open audition takes place, controversy over if

the production can be held at kids’ high school occurs, and set production and rehearsals go down. The production finally takes place in The Show. The consequences the show has on the characters are felt and dealt with in the beginning of season 4. 

WARM BODIES  

Many events that happened in Romeo and Juliet are very similar to what happens in Warm Bodies. For an example in the beginning R eats Perry’s brain “killing him. Romeo does the same at the end of the book and kills Paris, Also, some other similarities both families don’t get along. The Capulets and Montagues have been enemies for many years. It is the same phenomenon in Warm Bodies except, R’s family are zombies and Julie’s family are Zombies. Another important scene is at tragic end of suicide. Romeo drinks the poison and Juliet stabs herself with a dagger because she cannot live without him.

A similar scene to this happened except they didn’t die. When R and Julie were running away from the people with guns they ended up on a dead end. Because they didn’t want to be separated, they decided to jump off the wall. R cushioned Julie’s fall because he is already half dead. So in this case they did an act of suicide but didn’t die. In both Romeo and Juliet and Warm Bodies the love interest has the name starting with R and J. R is what the zombie calls himself because he can’t fully speak, so we infer that he is trying to say Romeo. The female’s name is Julie which is short for Juliet. Julie goes by her mothers last name Cabernet which in the Shakespeare version is Capulet. 

Throughout the history of episodic television and cinema, scores of shows and movies have either been inspired by or adapted from the Bard’s plays. Whether focusing on plot or characters—including storylines that utilize star-crossed lovers or mistaken identities, creators have continued to borrow generously from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet canon and its universal themes.

What is your favorite William Shakespeare adaptation?

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