Far be it from us to suggest that the great William Shakespeare didn’t know his business, but if Romeo and Juliet were to be rewritten these days, there might be one or two significant changes…
There are plenty of reasons why Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s best-loved plays, and yet, there are also a few bits that definitely feel jarring to a modern audience.
So, with that in mind, here are four ways that the definitive tale of young love would be altered if it were written today…
1. Juliet would probably avoid dating her cousin’s ex
Yeah we know, forbidden fruit and all that… but even so, a more savvy, contemporary Juliet would probably know to give Romeo a wide berth.
In case your memory of GCSE English is a little hazy, Romeo shows up at the Capulet party having been freshly dumped by the newly-chaste Rosaline, who just happens to be Juliet’s cousin.
In fact, he’s practically dragged there by his friends, who urge him to “examine other beauties”. Nice.
Juliet might not be fully aware of all this in the original text, but in this day and age, that kind of intel would be all over the group chat.
Hooking up with someone on the rebound never tends to end well.
2. Our heroes would hang out for a while
We know that taking it slowly isn’t exactly a recipe for a page-turning romantic whirlwind, but Romeo and Juliet’s relationship moves insanely fast.
All it takes is a couple of stolen moments at a party and a brief (and actually kind of stalkery) balcony-set chat, and the lovers are dashing to the chapel for a quickie wedding the very next day.
Now, call us square but if this were a contemporary tale, the duo might actually take the time to work out whether they’ve actually got anything in common before tying the knot. Particularly when the stakes are this high.
After all, nobody makes any decisions off the back of a single Hinge date, even if it goes so well that the guy shows up in the bushes later that night.
A modern Juliet would probably wait for a few more meetings before deciding to throw caution to the wind.
3. Juliet would confide in her friends
With her overbearing parents threatening to disown her, and her new husband banished from the city of Verona, the play’s third act sees Juliet with a lot on her plate.
The modern heroine would probably take the opportunity to lean on her friends for support and advice as to what she should do next.
But in the original, Juliet decides to put her faith in an elderly priest and a hair-brained scheme that involves actually faking her own death.
As we know, it doesn’t turn out brilliantly.
This is why you need to confide in the friends that know and value you, rather than the local holy man.
The WhatsApp group could have sorted things out in no time.
4. Juliet would live on
This is the big one really, because even in such tragic circumstances as these, a modern heroine wouldn’t take her own life in the name of any man.
It’s exactly that plot point that inspired the story behind & Juliet, a new musical that imagines how the story might continue if Juliet didn’t kill herself with Romeo’s dagger.
After all, she’s got her whole life ahead of her, so the idea that it’s all ruined just because Romeo isn’t around is, frankly, a bit much.
With that in mind, the production sees Shakespeare grudgingly change the play’s ending, having taken some unasked-for notes from his wife, Anne Hathaway.
Newly freed from her tragic end, & Juliet sees our heroine heading off to Paris with her nurse and best friends in tow, as she attempts to write her own story in the City of Lights.
All of which is a whole lot more upbeat than the original ending, particularly when set to a soundtrack of feelgood pop bangers from the likes of Britney, Katy Perry and Backstreet Boys.
Turns out there’s life after Romeo after all.
& Juliet will play a limited season at Manchester Opera House, from Tuesday 10 September to Saturday 12 October, before beginning performances in London at The Shaftesbury Theatre on Saturday 2 November. Tickets are available now. #RomeoWho