I should acknowledge the one and only Stephen Colbert for the title of this (and the American Heiress post) with his wonderful bit “Who’s Not Honoring Me Now.”
I have a nasty habit of taking out too many things from the library. I have a problem. I recognize that I have a problem, but I have no intention of seeking help from a Higher Power in overcoming this problem. So there. :)
A few months ago I rented the 2013 version of Romeo and Juliet, but I took it back before I even finished it. In fact, I did not even get to the end of Act I.
Why is that? Because it is unfaithful to the text.
Now, someone might say, “But the film looks faithful! They are dressed in Renaissance style! It takes place in the past!”
When most Americans think of “faithful Shakespeare productions,” we think primarily of the costumes and set pieces. This happens for a number of reasons; we’re a visual culture, we do not know Shakespeare, education primarily focuses on the plot and characters and not the aesthetic of the language, etc. But here’s the thing. Shakespeare never dictates what the sets are, which were probably minimal. He also lived before Realism, which means that he, his actors, and his audience did not try to find out what people were wearing in late 15th century Vienna.
This version changes the words. I’m not talking about an occasionally deletion or substitution of a word. I am talking about adding whole sections of dialogue. That to me is unforgivable.
It also makes me angry.
About 20 years ago, Baz Luhrmann released his famous version of Romeo and Juliet, which transposes the action to Verona, Florida in the 90’s. That version kept the original text, whereas this played fast and loose with it. The average person, however, will think that the former is less faithful to Shakespeare, which is unfair. The latter is unfaithful in the only thing that really mattered.