Greetings from Team R&J, we had another busy week! What were we up to?

We looked closer at the play’s central themes and motifs. Romeo & Juliet is often considered as a transitional play from a time when Shakespeare started to merge comedic and tragic elements, which offers various themes: love, hatred, resistance against authority, generational conflicts and fate. With the love-theme ever so prominent, it is easy to neglect the cause for the lovers’ tragic ends. The feud between both families not only denies the play a happy ending, it is also a significant force that propels the plot.

To grasp this force and to allow the dynamics to unfold on stage, we wanted to look back at the origin of this feud, about which Shakespeare is rather silent in his play. Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet (1595-7) is an adaptation of Arthur Brooke’s poem, The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet, 1562. The poem elaborates much on the deadly hate among the two wealthy families and, unlike Shakespeare’s play, warns the reader of hasty love and disobedience to parents. The story of the tragic lovers was also taken up by William Painter, 1567, in his work The Palace of Pleasure. One of the original Italian sources, of which it is unknown how much Shakespeare drew on, are Matteo Bandello’s Giulietta e Romeo, 1554.

Shakespeare’s play and his sources can be traced back to historical persons and events, the feud between the Montecchi and the Capuleti families. The original dispute was caused by politics: during the 14th-century-civil wars that raged in Verona, one family chose to side with the Roman Emperor, the other one with the Pope in Rome. The extent of the roles of the two tragical lovers remains unclear. It is these political differences that are resumed in Shakespeare’s play in which two “households, both alike in dignity” break from “ancient grudge” to “new mutiny,” where “civil blood makes civil hands unclean” (Chorus).

To plant this feud-shaken atmosphere into our Verona, we embarked on an Italian journey: our production will start in Italian – and it won’t be just any start, but a dramatic one, brace yourselves! Preparatevi! To help us with proper diction, we asked Giorgio Pastore to join us.

Giorgio Pastore, Italian Diction Coach Photo: Conny Loder
Cast rehearsing in Italian Photo: Conny Loder

This was a fun activity and everyone mastered it very well. It will be a great addition to the play — come and find out yourselves in July!

What else were we up to?

We also looked closely at some key scenes of the play. Apart from the opening of the play, scene 7 (the masked ball at which Romeo and Juliet meet for the first time) and scene 14 (the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt) much determine the plot.

Scene 7 challenges us not only to put on our dancing shoes and try out a Renaissance dance, but also introduces the love between the two lead characters. A sneak peek of our dance can be found here.

Scene 14 on the other hand becomes the play’s pivotal point. Until then, the story could have very well climaxed in a happy ending. The tragic and fatal intervention of Romeo to end the duel between Tybalt and Mercutio, together with Romeo avenging Mercutio’s death, both steer the first half of the play from comedy to tragedy. Below you can have a first look at some of these fatal moments. Our Fight Director Sara Brandt did a marvelous job in coaching our actors, don’t you think?

Stay tuned, our next blog entry will take you behind the scenes when we unravel our plans for set design and costumes.

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