Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in Performance Traditions and Departures

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Romeo and Juliet has enjoyed great popularity on the stage from Shakespeare's time onward, but is not a favorite with literary critics, who view it as an immature study for the greater tragedies that would follow. This study seeks to show that acting, directing, and stage design are acts of interpretation to be judged alongside the readings of literary scholars. It is a study of selected actors in the play's three main roles. The Romeos treated at length are those of Richard Burbage, David Garrick, Spranger Barry, Johnston Forbes-Robertson, and Laurence Olivier. Juliet is examined on the basis of the interpretations by the boy-actor of Shakespeare's day, George Anne Bellamy, Susannah Cibber, Adelaide Neilson, and Peggy Ashcroft. Finally, Mercutio is studied through the interpretations by Henry Woodward, Charles Kemble, John Gielgud, Leo Ciceri, and others. With illustrations.


"As is the case with any classical revival, any production of Romeo and Juliet ultimately reveals more about its own time than any eternal truths that may (or may not) reside in the traditional notions of the text. Thus Wright's study functions as a kind of theatre history case study, using one constantly performed play as a canvas upon which theatrical conventions come and go. As such, it is revelatory. . . . there will be much in this excellent book that is of use to general Shakespearean scholars and anyone interested in this remarkable play for its own considerable charms - one is simply encouraged to view its myriad themes and preoccupations through the powerful and evolving prisms of theatrical performance." - from the Foreword by Chris Jones

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