Shakespeare Uncovered (2012–…): Season 2, Episode 6 - Romeo & Juliet with Joseph Fiennes - full transcript

Joseph Fiennes discusses William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet with Orlando Bloom, Condola Rashad and Stephen Sodenheim.

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I'm on the streets

of Shoreditch in London,

searching for the world's
most famous lovers.

Police now believe the
drowning may have been

a Romeo and
Juliet-style double suicide.

Two young teens
possibly in danger.

The star-crossed students...

In a modern-day
Romeo and Juliet story,

Gloria picked up the
gun her husband had used

and shot herself
next to him on the bed.

The couple as we know them

were born 400 years ago

at a theater that once stood

on this street.

It's where Shakespeare's
Romeo and Juliet first kissed.

Changed a bit since then.

star-crossed lovers

are icons of popular culture.

The way her mind
works is just so delicious.

He's in love with
the idea of love,

but it's not until
he meets Juliet

that he understands what
real love is, I don't think.

Romeo and Juliet has
spellbindingly beautiful poetry,

profound love,

and a pointless tragedy.

But that was written
over 400 years ago,

so it begs the question,

does it really have any
relevance for us today?

I think it does.

Two households,

both alike in dignity,

in fair Verona, where
we lay our scene.

From ancient grudge
break to new mutiny,

where civil blood makes
civil hands unclean.

From forth the fateful
loins of these two foes...

A pair of star-cross'd
lovers take their life.

Shakespeare's Globe, London.

It's a copy of the original
17th-century theater

which once stood close by.

It was on a stage
not unlike this

that I myself once played
Shakespeare, playing Romeo.


Bitter conduct, come,

unsavoury guide.

But I want to know
what makes this

one of the most
performed and adapted

of all Shakespeare's plays...

Parting is such sweet sorrow.

A play whose lines
we know by heart.

O Romeo.



Wherefore art thou Romeo?

A play about love

and a play about death.

Inspired by Shakespeare,
Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet"

screams out two of the
play's greatest themes...

Conflict and pride.

Early on, the Capulet
family host a masked ball

celebrating the engagement
brokered between

daughter Juliet and
nice, but dull, Paris.

This is really extraordinary
piece of music.

It's full of absolute restraint
and dignity and control.

The Capulets' biggest rivals
in Verona are the Montagues.

The two families
have been enemies

for as long as
anyone can remember.

That darkness, that depth,

that fear, that
anger, aggression...

The aggression that sits
beneath the parental authority.

In Shakespeare's play
of "Romeo and Juliet,"

it's the family feud which
ultimately triggers tragedy.

In a quiet corner of the house,

Juliet de Capulet,
almost 14 years old,

and Romeo, a Montague,
just a few years her elder,

are about to fall in love.

I never tire of
this first meeting.

Shakespeare gives them 14
lines of rhyming perfection...

An Elizabethan sonnet.

If I profane with
my unworthiest hand

this holy shrine,

the gentle sin is this:

my lips, two blushing
pilgrims, ready stand

to smooth that rough
touch with a tender kiss.

Good pilgrim, you do
wrong your hand too much.

It's a dangerous cocktail
of religion and sex.

She plays a virgin saint.

He's a pilgrim worshiping her.

The sonnet is the
archetypal love poem.

The rhymes are like kisses,

and what Shakespeare
does in that sequence

is bring a sonnet into
three-dimensional life.

What's lovely about
the shared sonnet

is that it is shared, which
does not happen in sonnets.

It's playful. It's flirtatious.

It predicts the whole story
of martyrdom, if you like,

the whole story
of a tragic ending.

That's what love does to
you— It changes your language.

I mean, that's the inspirational
thing about this play.

You meet someone, and
you start speaking sonnets.


Have not saints lips,
and holy palmers too?

Ay, pilgrim,

lips that they
must use in prayer.

O, then, dear saint, let
lips do what hands do.

They pray.

She comes at him, and instead of

being caught off guard,
he comes right back at her,

and so it becomes
this... this play of control.

He's in love with
the idea of love,

but it's not until
he meets Juliet

that he understands what
real love is, I don't think.

Grant thou, lest
faith turn to despair.

Saints do not move,

though grant for prayers' sake.

Then move not, while
my prayer's effect I take.

That is why it's
such a sexy scene,

because I think
they've met their match.

They touch. They kiss.

It's a wonderful
theatrical moment.

They inhabit a love
sonnet, and they experience

what you might call
love at first sonnet.

The language is so beautiful,

the poetry, that first sonnet.

It's almost acting by numbers

because it's all done for you.

It's beautiful, in a way,
because they don't really know

what they're rushing into,
and that's part of the point.

Remember when
you first fell in love?

I think that's what
this feels like,

but this first love
is 400 years old,

and Romeo and
Juliet spoke in sonnet.

Does that mean
anything to us anymore?

Teenagers falling in love.

You know, whether it's
the romantic cobbled streets

of Verona 400 years
ago or here in London,

I don't think much has
changed when it comes to that.

I think that each
generation finds

their own version
of Romeo and Juliet,

and that's maybe
why it speaks to them.

Or maybe not. Let's find out.

I feel like I'm going
into detention.

You look to him,
nothing but discourse.

I've come to rehearse
"Romeo and Juliet"

with some teenagers at
this South London school.

Can we push the chairs back?

A commitment to the words, so...

Thou hast most...

Thou what?

Thou hast most kindly hit it.

Hit what?

Hit it.

Hit what? Hit it!

Good! Pass it on.

I think it's so important

that the text isn't
read or just listened to.

I think it's a text
which has been written

for everyone to speak out loud.

Thus from my lips, by yours...

Come on, kiss her,
kiss her, kiss her!

But when these teenagers

speak it out loud, do
they connect with it?

Don't stop!

Mannerly devotion shows in this.

That's it. We're going
to throw you off the line.

Using a few exercises,

I wanted to help them
unpack the meaning

of that first sonnet scene.

Great. OK. Straight away.

Don't even think
about it. Straight in.

If I profane with my
unworthiest hand, the...

But mean it! I don't
know if you're meaning it.

I feel like you're just...

But mean it. This person is

the best thing that's
ever happened to you.

You can take your time.

I think the best thing
is to take your time.

Good pilgrim, you do
wrong your hand too much,

which mannerly
devotion shows in this.

Have you...

For saints have hands

which pilgrims' hands do touch,

and palm to palm is holy...

OK, go back, because
that's about listening.

The other thing is,
you're going to be

finishing each other's lines,

so when you come to the
end of the line, serve it up.

So go!

Now, I'm making them work,

but the closer these
two are to the words,

the better connected
the performance will be.

Great. Now, straight
away, without thinking,

do the scene again;
just don't even think.

If I profane with
my unworthiest hand

this holy shrine,
the gentle sin is this:

my lips, two blushing
pilgrims, ready stand

to smooth that rough
touch with a tender kiss.

Good pilgrim, you do
wrong your hand too much,

which mannerly
devotion shows in this,

for saints have hands

which pilgrims' hands do touch.

Anyone? Yeah.
Make an observation.

I thought their atmosphere was

a lot more intimate this time

because they took time
on what they were saying.

It seems like more on the spot,

like the characters are
actually coming out with lines,

rather than it's like the
actors have learnt those lines.

That is bang on.
That is bang on.

I felt there was
a real ownership.

Well, listen, give yourselves
a round of applause.

That was really good.
Really, really good.

Really, really impressed.

Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet"

belongs here, and it
belongs not only here

as a sort of
geographical location,

but also here within the
spirits of these young people,

that I felt, after a
couple of exercises,

began to connect
to the language.

Famously, Shakespeare's
"Romeo and Juliet" is set

in the Italian city of Verona,

and it still prides itself
on being the city of love.

Visit the place today

and you'll find a Romeo
and Juliet theme park.

With international thespians
restaging the famous scenes

and more balconies than
you'd know what to do with.

Interestingly, Shakespeare
gets all the credit,

though in fact, the
story wasn't his.

Nearly all Shakespeare's plays

are based on stories that
were already out there.

Either he's
reworking an old play

or reading a history book

or reading a novel or a poem.

In the case of "Romeo
and Juliet," it's a poem.

That poem,
Shakespeare's own source,

was first adapted
from the original Italian

by an Englishman, Arthur Brooke,

and printed in London just
before Shakespeare was born.

Hands up, anyone
who's ever heard of

the English poet Arthur Brooke.

Maybe you've got an image
of him in your mind's eye,

or perhaps as a student,

you wrote countless
essays on his work.

Arthur Brooke.


Stop, stop!

Just calm down.

On stage at the Globe,
actors are performing

not Shakespeare's
"Romeo and Juliet,"

but Arthur Brooke's.

Now, this is "Romeo and Juliet"

as you've never seen it before.

O blessed be the
time of thy arrival here.

Here, the poem has
been specially adapted

to be performed on the stage.

What chance and where
to meet, o lady mine,

is hapt, that gives
you worthy cause,

my coming here to bliss?

Marvel no whit,
my heart's delight,

my only knight and fere,

Mercutio's icy hand
had all-to frozen mine.

But thou again hast warmed it...

Once again, this is

the lover's first meeting.

Imagine Shakespeare
reading this and thinking,

"I could do that better."

It's a wonderful reading.

It's a narrative in which
the characters do speak,

but they don't have fully
rounded stage presence.

Ultimately, Brooke's
jaunty couplets

were discarded by Shakespeare,

but that's not all he changed.

They pray, grant thou...

The outlines of the
plot are all there.

Shakespeare takes
them and dramatizes them.

But Arthur Brooke, the poet,

surrounds it with a
lot of finger wagging,

a moral narrative
in which he says,

this shows you the terrible
things that will happen

if you don't do what
your father says.

This tragical matter is
written to describe unto thee

a couple of
unfortunate lovers...

O Romeo.

Thralling themselves
to unhonest desire,

neglecting the
authority and advice

of parents and friends,

attempting all
adventures of peril

for the attainment
of their wished lust...

abusing the honorable
name of lawful marriage,

and by all means
of unhonest life,

hasting towards
most unhappy death.

Four decades after Brooke,

Shakespeare's rewrite,

the first ever full-length
stage version of the story,

doesn't blame the
lovers; it celebrates them.

And though, like Brooke, it
still ends in unhappy death,

you'd never guess it
from the first two acts.

Even though the
prologue tells us

everything to expect,

and so we have no
doubt about the outcome,

there is a sense of
real comic possibility

at the beginning of the play.

So, there's a bunch
of bit-part comics.

"My fair niece, Rosaline."


A couple of Romeo's
drinking buddies.


There's a well-meaning Friar.

Come! Come with me.

Juliet's mum...

The valiant Paris
seeks you for his wife.

And dad, both pushing hard
for the arranged marriage.

But woo her, gentle...

And Juliet's nurse,

the only one in the house
who knows about Romeo.

And for a hand and a foot...

ohh, and a body.

Give me my sin again!

So what's going on?

Is this play a tragedy,

or should I be asking
for my money back?

It's a big social world
that he describes.

It's not just a
narrow love story.

Like with all Shakespeare plays,

you open with a
very broad landscape,

and then you slowly narrow
and narrow and narrow in,

into what is, you know,
eventually a very human

or almost a domestic tragedy.

So you open on the
streets of Verona.

You've got a lot of
people who are coming on

with sort of macho brio,

and there's, you know, a
very rich range of characters.

O Romeo that she were!

Mercutio is a firework.

He just loves some rhythms,
and he just flies with them,

and I think he learns
a lot in the process.

Mercutio is Romeo's best friend.

Neither Montague nor Capulet,

he's a maverick and a comedian

who constantly
mocks romantic love.

I talk of dreams,

which are the children
of an idle brain!

Begot of nothing
but vain fantasy,

which is as thin of
substance as the air.

It's a comedy, but
there's a strange kind of...

maybe an anger to his comedy.

Yeah. You're right.
There is an anger there,

and there's something
wrong with him.

I don't mean that in a sort
of very judgmental sense,

but I think when we
did it, we pitched him

just about 8, 9 years
older than the boys,

and you just think
if someone is 28

and he's hanging out with
a couple of 18-year-olds,

they really open
the world up to you.

But you do occasionally
think, why are you with me?

If love be rough with
you, be rough with love.

Prick love for pricking,
and you beat love down.

And there's a lot
of humor there,

but I mean the humor/tragedy
dichotomy, I think,

is a very false one with
Shakespeare at all times.

You know? He's always
moving like quicksilver

between the one and the other

because laughter frees
up a lot of emotions

that you wouldn't have
access to otherwise,

and simultaneously,
intense emotion can flip

very quickly into giggles.

As the curtain opens on act two,

the dial remains firmly
set to romantic comedy.

Cue the famous balcony scene.

But, soft, what light through
yonder window breaks?

Oh, it is the east,

and Juliet is the sun.

He's in love with the
idea of being in love,

and that makes him
a Petrarchan lover,

and this is a very scripted
way of falling in love.

Shakespeare's audience
would have known that script.

Certainly for a young boy
of that age madly in love,

I think that that scene
is full of excitement,

and the blood is racing
to all parts of the body.

O Romeo, Romeo!

Wherefore art thou Romeo?

Romeo, Romeo,
wherefore art thou Romeo?

It's funny how a lot
of people feel that

the sentiment of that line is,

"Romeo, Romeo, where
are you?" and it's not.

I think she's really,
really angry and perplexed

that this person that
she's fallen in love with

is of a name which
is mud to her family,

so it's a, "Why are
you called Romeo?"

What's in a name?

That which we call a rose

by any other name
would smell as sweet.

So Romeo would, were
he not Romeo called.

I know that speech is
clichéd and done to death,

but it is a very
important argument

that's going on in the 1590s

about where identity
and meaning reside,

both in words and in people.

And what she says is,

"Deny thy father
and refuse thy name."

In other words, tum your back

on all that inherited stuff.

You know? You are
Romeo, just as a rose

would be a rose, you
know, by any other name.

By yonder blessed moon, I swear

that tips with silver

all these fruit-tree tops.

O, swear not by the
moon, the inconstant moon,

lest that thy love...

She takes over. She shuts
him up in the balcony scene

because he can
only speak in tropes.

"Swear not by the moon,
the inconstant moon."

Shut up, Romeo.

By whose direction...

The playfulness... I
mean, you can't beat it.

He says he's going to swear,
and he swears on the moon,

and she says, no, no,
don't swear on the moon

because is ever
changing... You can't do that.

So the way her mind works
is just so delicious, you know?

O, wilt thou leave
me so unsatisfied?

What satisfaction
canst thou have tonight?

Romeo is full of bravado,

but it's Juliet
who's in control,

even to the point of
planning the wedding.

If that thy bent of
love be honorable,

thy purpose marriage,

send me word
tomorrow by one that...

She's discovering her sexuality.

Traditionally in love stories,

the man does the wooing,
and the woman is wooed.

The woman, the girl,

is the passive partner,
the responsive one,

but Juliet is the opposite.

She's out there at her
window, willing on the night,

willing Romeo to come to her,

and she's ready to
give her body to him.

O parting is such sweet sorrow

that I shall say good
night till it be morrow.

This Elizabethan love tease

is all the more painful
because we know it ends badly.

But it also gives
writers a kit of parts

to rehash anytime, anyplace.

In the late 1950s,

Arthur Laurents and later
Bernstein and Sondheim

reimagined it as the
musical "West Side Story."

The plotting of the
play is pretty good,

but the thing that
excited Arthur Laurents

and Leonard Bernstein
was not the romance.

It was the analogy

of gang warfare and prejudice

to the Montagues
and the Capulets.

They were much less interested
in the Romeo and the Juliet

than they were in the families.

♪ Tonight, tonight ♪

The musical may
have led with the gangs,

but the writers weren't stupid.

They knew a good balcony
scene when they saw one.

♪ Where they are ♪

♪ Today, the minutes
seems like hours ♪

The balcony scene is
probably the only thing of,

if you ask general
audiences what they know

about Romeo and Juliet,
it's the balcony scene.

"Tonight" was not written
for the balcony scene.

We actually had "One
Hand, One Heart."

That was the balcony scene.

"One Hand, One Heart"

just turned out
to be too pristine,

and we wanted
something more romantic,

and that then expanded
that into the balcony scene.

♪ Tonight ♪

The balcony scene wasn't
just a runaway success

for musical theater.

Shakespeare's sublime language

has also inspired
the medium of dance.

One of my favorite moments
in the balcony pas de deux,

the girl runs up to
the guy and spins,

and then her leg,
in ecstasy, expands,

and then in a circular
motion, it fans out,

and she ends up
in a deep position.

It's the language of the bodies,

language of the emotions.

I guess like an
actor works in diction,

we have to work on our diction,

how are we getting
across that feeling.

The choreography
is always the same,

but it can be interpreted
in so many different ways.

The language of classical ballet

is just as precise
as Shakespeare's.

Using a system
called Benesh Notation,

it can be written down.

This is from "Romeo and Juliet."

As a result, the "Romeo
and Juliet" balcony scene

is today danced almost
exactly as it was in 1965

when Rudolf Nureyev and
Margot Fonteyn premiered it.

This is no ordinary love story.

Back in Shakespeare's version,

destiny now awaits the lovers.

Within 24 hours of meeting,
Romeo arranges their wedding.

He's persuaded the
Friar to marry them

though their
families aren't told,

even though Juliet's barely 14.

And sweeten with thy
breath this neighbour air.

They are but beggars
that can count their worth.

But my true love is grown.

The Zeffirelli film,
which is beautiful

and very, very romantic,

but there's that lovely moment

when the Friar is just about
to marry Romeo and Juliet,

but they just can't keep
their hands off each other.

Come. We will make short work

for, by your leaves,
you shall not stay alone

till holy church
incorporate two in one.

It was quite bold, in
that if you actually look

at marriage in
Shakespeare's time,

typically, people
didn't get married

until they were in their 20s.

The idea of a sexual
passion and a marriage

at that very young age,
that's not something

that would have looked familiar
to Shakespeare's audience.

For, by your leave,

you shall not stay alone till...

Convinced the secret marriage

will end Verona's civil war,

the Friar, a one-man
peace process,

is happy to tie the knot.

The trouble is, someone
forgot to tell Juliet's cousin,

Verona's Prince of Cats, Tybalt.


This shall not excuse the
injuries that thou hast done me.

Therefore turn and draw.

Tybalt, here played by
a young Alan Rickman

in a 1979 BBC production,

is about to shatter
the comic mood.

Good Mercutio!

In a messy street brawl

which Romeo probably
should have stayed out of,

Tybalt mortally wounds
Romeo's best friend, Mercutio.

I'm hurt.

A plague o' both your houses!

There are really two
time schemes in the play.

With the death of Mercutio,
everything changes.

A plague o' both your houses!

The relationship of
Romeo and Juliet changes

from one of comic possibility

to one of tragic inevitability.

When I say to my sixth formers,

do you think there's any chance

of Romeo and Juliet
ever being happy,

the answer has to be no.

Romeo is a dog and
he behaves stupidly,

and he actually causes
the death of Mercutio.

There's something about youth,

male youth in particular,

in which sex and
violence are driving forces,

and that's why the
play still feels so modern

and why it works so well
in modern interpretations,

such as Baz Luhrmann's movie.

I was hurt under your arm.

I thought all for the best!

A plague...

o' both your houses.


In his rage at Mercutio's death,

Romeo, a Montague,
now kills Tybalt, a Capulet.

From here on in,
there is no going back.


It's violent.

There's blood and death,

and I think that's
very important

to the story as a whole.

And if you aren't terrified
that somebody is going to die,

then you're missing the point.

It's peppered with death.

I think like a lot of
Shakespeare's plays,

once one death happens,

there's going to
be a domino effect.

There's going to
be a load of others.

Already I've seen
how today's generation

can embrace the
language of love in the play,

but how will they relate to
the language of tragic doom?

I've come to listen in on
a Shakespeare session

at this South London
evening class.

I want to see your jaw.

I want to see your jaw.

That's it! That's it.

Bruce Wall has taught
Shakespeare across the world.

His students include city
bankers, Broadway actors,

and several thousand prisoners.

"He jests at scars that
never felt a wound."

He jests at scars that
never felt a wound.

Tonight, he's teaching the group

how to think and write
in iambic pentameter,

the classic five-stress
rhythm of Shakespearean text.

The five-stress line
is the best one for us.

The five-stress line
is the best one for us.

"Thou canst not speak
of that thou dost not feel."

Thou canst not speak

of that thou dost not feel.

Bruce wants them to work on

Shakespeare's description
of the killing of Mercutio.

To me, a great
thing, and I want you

to take a line and
write around it in iambic.

Although he's good, a
target he has become.


Although he's good, a
target he has become.

James has had
firsthand experience

of the divisions and
violence caused by gangs.

When you have a knife
and you stab somebody,

what kinds of thing,
what kinds of...

Those emotions, what
would you call them?

Forget the rhyme
now, for the moment.

Just, so you have... what
can you do with a knife?

A slant would be
to jook someone.


Jook. J-O-O-K.

They jooked. What
else did they do?

Um... sliced.


They tore apart his joints.

They tore.

Great. It's great work.

Fantastic, absolutely.

I mean, when you came
up with that second line,

that was absolutely brilliant.

So I think this is very close.

Do you want to get up, James...

This, then, is James' spin
on the death of Mercutio.

He held a phone
up against his ear.

The piercing ring
creates a sense of fear.

Although he's good,
a target he's become.

To stand and fight or
lose his pride and run?

His agile arm beats
down their fatal points.

He jooked, they sliced.

They tore apart his joints.

His life was...

This was incredible.

This really kind of pushed
all the buttons for me

because it's about
what has attracted me

to acting and its language.

The iambic form,
it's sort of musical

and fancy and classical,
and not of our age,

but we just proved here
that actually we all speak

in a fairly iambic fashion
as English speakers,

and I felt incredibly
moved by that.

It's powerful. I feel really
excited by what I've witnessed.

Thank you very, very much.

Back in the play, and with
the bodies piling up in Verona,

Juliet now discovers
that the boy she married

just a few hours earlier

has murdered her cousin Tybalt

and has been
banished from the city.

O God, did Romeo's hand

shed Tybalt's blood?

It did, it did.

Alas the day, it did.

O serpent heart hid

with a flowering face!

Did ever dragon
keep so fair a cave?

Beautiful tyrant!

Fiend angelical!

Well, the poetry, it's
kind of schizophrenic...

"beautiful tyrant,
fiend angelic."

"Was ever book
containing such vile matter

so fairly bound?"

She's desperately
in love with Romeo,

but he's also the murderer
of her cousin Tybalt.

What's she to do? She's just 14.

She's betrothing
herself to a murderer.

It's... it's kind of
beautiful, but terrifying.

Was ever book
containing such vile matter

so fairly bound?

O that deceit should dwell
in such a gorgeous palace!

What does she do?

What would you do?

What Juliet does is
pledge her allegiance

to the man she loves.

Behind her father's back, she
smuggles the banished Romeo

into her bedroom to
consummate their marriage.

The one thing
Shakespeare tells you,

not once, not twice,
but eight or nine times

is that Juliet is 14.

She doesn't know
about her own sexuality,

but she certainly
has a feeling that

it's hers to dispose of
and not anybody else's.

And to me, that is so
extraordinary, that this...

Only a nobody from
Warwick could have done this.

I mean, anybody
from the courtier class

just wouldn't have had
the imaginative freedom

to give this child this
passion and power.

Juliet is a bold and
precocious character

for any Elizabethan
playwright to have created.

Today, actors at the Globe
are rehearsing the scene

that follows that
night of passion.

They're doing it, more or less,

exactly as Shakespeare
would have done.

So thou wilt have it so...

Which means...

I'll say yon grey is
not the morning's eye.

Juliet's a bloke.

It is the lark that
sings so out of tune,

straining harsh discords
and unpleasing sharps.

Some say the lark
makes sweet division.

This doth not so.

It's an extraordinary thing
that Shakespeare does,

writing a big part for
a female character,

but Shakespeare
trusted the boy actors.

In the 1590s, it was
unthinkable for women to act.

All female roles were played
by boys or very young men.

It would be another 70 years

before England saw
its first female Juliet.

Today, Director Bill
Buckhurst and the cast

want to know if, using
the men-only rule,

"Romeo and Juliet"
can still be convincing.

Great. It's amazing just that...

the structure means

you have to move
in a certain way,

literally have space between you

which we hadn't figured in.

Yeah. Also, it just
makes my performance...

It makes me want
to be more theatrical.

It makes me want to kind of

swing my hips and...

The boys who are
playing the women's roles

are adolescents and probably
past the change of their voice,

but nevertheless, it's
not about their voice.

It's about the capacity that
they're being asked to show us,

to embody the young
woman, speaking her desire

in the most beautiful,
but also candid terms.

Some say the lark
make sweet division.

This doth not so,
for she divideth us.

O, now be gone.

More light and light it grows.

More light and light, more
dark and dark our woes!

Farewell, one kiss and I'll...

After spending
the night together,

Romeo sneaks out
of the Capulet mansion

and flees the city.

Art thou gone so?

She doesn't leave with him.

I've always said,
why? Why is that?

It's obviously not
for lack of courage.

He leaves her balcony,
and he goes to Mantua,

and she could just go.

But she doesn't, and I
think it's because, you know,

she hasn't had a falling-out
with her parents yet,

and so there is
something, actually,

still strong enough
to keep her here.

Tybalt is dead...

and Romeo banished.

And now it's the
story of Juliet's clash

with both her parents

that drives the inevitable
tragedy of the play.

This now becomes a story
of a young girl resisting

what is effectively
a forced marriage,

as her father attempts to
forge a union between her

and the kind but
slightly forgettable Paris.

Hang thee, young baggage!

Disobedient wretch!

Any hope Juliet might have had

of talking her father
round now vanishes.


I tell thee what: get thee
to church on Thursday,

or never after
look me in the face.

No! No!

A huge amount of menace.

There's this play about money

and how corrupting money is.

I mean, why is Capulet so keen

for Juliet to marry Paris?

Because he's the merchant
who's made the money,

and Paris is the
one with the rank.

It's a classic trade-off

between new money and old title.

Juliet, though, never
does marry Paris.

Egged on by the Friar,

she gets out of it by
faking her own death.

Shall I be married
then, tomorrow morning?

No, no.

When we made the movie
"Shakespeare in Love,"

we imagined how the
Bard might have revealed

the complex and tragic
denouement of the plot

to his fellow actors.

The friar who married them

gives Juliet a potion to drink.

It is a secret potion. It
makes her seeming dead.

She is placed in the
tomb with the Capulets.

She will awake to life and love

when Romeo comes
to her side again.

By maligned fate, the
message goes astray

which would tell
Romeo of the friar's plan.

He hears only
that Juliet is dead.

And thus he goes
to the apothecary

and buys a deadly poison.

"Romeo and Juliet"
is absolutely full of

"if only" moments, probably
more "if only" moments

than any other
Shakespeare tragedy.

Now things go wrong not
because of any tragic catastrophe,

but something as mundane
as the postal service.

The mail doesn't get
through letting Romeo know

that Juliet's death
is a fake death.

Tragedies often
are about public life,

about people in positions
of power and the conflicts

between their personal
lives and their public duties.

"Romeo and Juliet"
is not like that at all.

It is a very domestic tragedy.

The emotions are huge,

but the actual
context is quite small.

That doesn't make
it a lesser tragedy,

but it does make it a
much more intimate one

than many of
Shakespeare's plays.

Well, Romeo's
language in the tomb

achieves new heights.

Death, that hath sucked
the honey of thy breath,

hath had no power
yet upon thy beauty.

Thou art not conquered.

I feel a rock in my
stomach because

you want to see all the
promise of that relationship

play out, and they
come so close.


look your last.

Arms, take your last embrace.

Their love is so
innocent and pure

and genuine and real,

and you want it so
desperately to be.

It's what we all
want and dream of.

He believes whole-heartedly

that they will meet in death,

that they will unite in death.

You can feel the
audience hoping that,

you know, she'll wake up.

You feel the
anticipation of that.

What I found was the joy

in the moment of death
when he goes to her,

that I thought was so
heartbreaking and beautiful.

With a kiss...

I... die.

Seconds after Romeo dies,

the friar arrives
just as Juliet wakes.

O comfortable Friar!

Where is my lord?

Thy husband in thy
bosom there lies dead.

The man Juliet loves is dead.

The lovers' entire
plan is shattered.

Now she has a terrifying
decision to make.

I've come to meet

playwright and author
Bonnie Greer to discuss it.

I would call the play "Juliet and
Romeo" because it's about her.

She's got to make
the big decision,

do you just dust yourself down
and go back out in the light,

or does she push this button,

this nuclear button,

which is take herself out.

O happy dagger.

This is thy sheath.

There rust and let me die.

Compounding the tragedy,

both Romeo and
Juliet have died alone,

denied one last moment together.

She stands up and says,

No. If you don't
let me live my life,

I'm leaving this life,

but I'm not living
what you create.

It's a hard call

and it's a hard thing to teach

because we're in
a very fragile time,

with the internet and everything

and girls so fragile.

It's a blow-up play.

It's a really dangerous
piece of work.

It's as dangerous as...

as anything you
can possibly see.


There rust...

and let me die.

Perhaps the
danger is infectious.

Certainly Hollywood
keeps on returning to it.

Many believe Shakespeare's story

and his words as he wrote
them to be untouchable.

But tonight, at this
2014 movie premiere,

there's someone
who begs to differ.

Julian Fellowes' new
adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet"

seems at first to be
using the original text,

but is it?

I would thou hadst my bones.

Take, for example,
the moment in the play

when the nurse
teases the excited Juliet

about her choice
of Romeo to fall for.

She says...

You know not how
to choose a man.

Romeo? No, not he.

Though his face be
better than any man's.

Fellowes replaces those lines

with the rather simpler tease,

"I must say you have
good taste in men."

What we think of as
the Hollywood rewrite

is actually something that
has happened to Shakespeare

on the stage all
down the centuries.

O Marius, Marius!

Wherefore art thou Marius?

She speaks!

Take this, for example,

the first major
rewrite... in 1679,

Thomas Otway's "The History
and Fall of Caius Marius."

In what can only be described
as a Shakespeare rip-off,

Otway plays fast and
loose with the original text,

setting the play
in ancient Rome.

She lives, and we shall be...

He also gives the lovers
an extra 30-line conversation

after Romeo has
swallowed the poison,

but before he dies.

What have they done with me?

I'll not be used thus.

I'll not wed Sylla.

Marius is my husband,

is he not, Sir?

Methinks you're very like him.

Otway's Roman
version of the play

dominated the English
stage for 70 years.

And he wasn't alone

in his desire to rewrite
the death scene.

In the mid-1700s,

the leading Shakespearian
actor was David Garrick.

He kind of saw himself

as Shakespeare's
representative on earth.

His version of
"Romeo and Juliet"

is pretty authentically
close to the original,

but the problem for Garrick

is that he wanted the
star part at the end.

Hang on, says Garrick;
there's an opportunity here.

So decades after Otway,

Garrick writes 61
imitation Shakespeare lines

into the tomb scene.

She speaks, she lives,

and we shall still be blessed.

My kind propitious
stars o'erpay me now

for all my sorrows past.

Rise, rise, my Juliet.

I am that Romeo, nor
all the opposing powers

of earth or man
shall break our bonds

or tear thee from my heart.

Garrick's "Romeo"
was hugely popular.

Between 1750 and 1800,

it was staged more
than 400 times.

Oh, my breaking heart!

But was it, and is it, right

to give the lovers one
last moment together?

Capulet, forbear;

Paris, loose your hold;

pull not our heartstrings thus.

I completely
understand the desire

to make a happy
ending out of a tragic one.

So they have a
moment of recognition

before their tragic deaths.

Now, Shakespeare
doesn't give you that solace.

There is the missed moment...

The one dies and then
the other dies, just too late...

And that powerful refusal to
create a happy ending here,

I think, is one of the
most extraordinary things

about the play.

But in this appalling moment,

the Montagues and
the Capulets do agree

to put aside their
ancient grudge.

Go hence, to have more talk

of these sad things.

Some shall be pardoned,

and some punishèd.

For never was a
story of more woe

than this of Juliet

and her Romeo.

An inquest today heard
how a British couple

watched a film version of
"Romeo and Juliet" on TV

before signing a note
as the star-crossed lovers

and killing themselves.

The tragedy of
Juliet and her Romeo

is, tragically, not over.

Turn on the news, and you
can still occasionally hear

the story adapted for real life.

But you know, strangely,

I think Shakespeare's message
has more hope than despair.

I think the message
of the play is captured

in one of Juliet's lines...

"The more I give to
thee, the more I have,

for both are infinite."

The fact that she says that

means when you
really love someone,

it doesn't matter how
much they give back.

It doesn't matter—
None of it matters.

It's infinite. Love is infinite.

To me, that's the message
of "Romeo and Juliet."

Being here, I can't help
but think of a young girl

buried all those
centuries ago in Verona

in a dark, dank tomb.

But her legacy lives on,

and lives on predominantly
through Shakespeare,

who illustrates, I
think, so movingly,

with wit and emotion,

a deep profound love
between two teenagers,

and it's that love which heals

this other deep and
almost pathetic hatred

and leaves us, the audience,

with this puzzling redemption.

But I think if I were in Verona

trying to uncover and gather
clues to Juliet and this story,

I think, as strange
as it might sound,

I'd hear her voice
saying, "I'm not here.

"You can't uncover
me here. I'm out there.

"I'm anywhere in the world

"where my text is being intoned.

Intone me, and I'll
come alive again."

It's our legacy.

I think she'd say, claim it.

Unlock it with those keys.

And champion my spirit.

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