The One Hour Romeo and Juliet:
As well as publishing the Modern First Folio Edition (MFFE) of Shakespeare’s plays, we also publish One Hour versions of the plays.
These One Hour versions aim to provide an overview of the plot of a Shakespeare play and tell the main story. We hope that the ‘One Hour’ edition will be complementary to the MFFE version of the play.
The aim is to make Shakespeare’s plays more accessible. For people unfamiliar with the plays (pupils, students, drama groups, U3A), the overview of the plot that the One Hour versions provides allows the group to get to grips with the plot and it then becomes easier to explore the MFFE version of the play.
Both MFFE and One Hour versions of the plays have the same features (cue scripts, cast lists, highlight text, etc) so that the two versions can be explored in the same way, through play-reading.
The One Hour Romeo and Juliet is particularly suited to play-reading by 8 players. We provide cast lists for 6 to 8 people so that, if even a couple of players don’t show up, the group can still run a play-reading. A smaller number of players (2 – 5) can still read the play, using our round-robin casting. So groups from 2 to 8 can play-read One Hour Romeo and Juliet.
The One Hour version of the play can also be performed. Many of the One Hour scripts we plan to publish were originally adapted by Aileen Gonsalves to provide a script for “Lunch-time Shakespeare in a pub in London” productions.
We hope that a group may start to explore the One Hour version, become familiar with the plot, find some scenes particularly interesting, and then explore those scenes in the MFFE edition. Of course the hope is that the group will go on to play-read the whole play. The MFFE edition provides “Let’s Explore”; “Let’s Play”; articles; reviews of productions; etc which can be used to deepen and enrich the group’s experience of the play.
Cutting a 3-hour play to 1-hour version means that a lot has to go. Aileeen Gonsalves, the RSC director who developed this version of Romeo and Juliet, has focused on preserving the core story of Romeo’ and Juliet’s tragic love story. But much has to be cut to get a 3-hour play down to 1 hour. Consider for yourself what you feel has gone in these cut versions and what you would want to keep in and why. The full Modern First Folio version is just a click away, once the group has got a clear view of the plot of the play.
What we hope to do is bring a new audience to the richness of Shakespeare’s plays by providing them with an easy entry-point which then provides an Overview of the play and the audience can then go on to explore the richness of the full version of the play.
Now follows an introduction to the full version of the play.
Date and Sources:
Romeo and Juliet is an early play of Shakespeare. The play was probably written between 1591 and 1595 (I’d guess 1594), after The Taming of the Shrew.
The play is based on an Italian tale, translated into English and turned into verse by Arthur Brooke, and published in 1562. It was then turned into prose and published as The Palace of Pleasure in 1567 by William Painter. Shakespeare borrowed from both these sources, but developed the play significantly, particularly around the characters of Mercutio and Paris.
The play begins with a testosterone-fuelled fight between the Montagues and the Capultets. That really is the leitmotiv for the whole play with Romeo suffering from a surfeit of testosterone and in love with Rosaline or is that Juliet. The story is so well known that I’m not sure I can say anything interesting about it, other than these few brief comments:
Juliet seems a much more interesting character to me than Romeo. He seems a typical young male, fuelled by testosterone, admittedly less agressive than most young males, whilst she seems intelligent; brave; and sensitive.
In the scene where Juliet is discovered ‘dead’, the discussion between Peter and the musicians must usually be cut (I have no memory of seeing it in a production. This seems to me to be a terrible shame. There’s a certain delight in the attitude of the musicians to the death of Juliet.
As a story of young love destroyed by parental interference and conflict in wider society, it has strong appeal to the young, and makes a good entry point for them to the plays of Shakespeare.