In 1624, Oxford University installed a copy of the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays in the Bodleian Library. Over the years, students read some plays more than others, wearing away the printing from popular passages and revealing that in its early reception “Romeo and Juliet” was the most-read play in Shakespeare’s oeuvre. Today, “Romeo and Juliet” remains one of his most frequently produced plays, often described as the archetypal story of adolescent love.
Edward Rocklin of the English & foreign languages department treats “Romeo and Juliet” in his new book, “Romeo and Juliet: A guide to the text and the play in performance,” Palgrave Macmillian, 2010.
The book provides an introduction to the differences between the two Quarto and the Folio texts of the play; presents excerpts from Shakespeare’s sources and other contextual documents; studies key performances on stage and screen, including the musical adaptation “West Side Story” and the films by Zeffirelli and Luhrmann; and gives an overview of the critical discussion of the drama’s unique interplay of comic and tragic elements.
At the heart of the volume is a commentary that explores the play’s theatrical potential, inviting readers to develop their ability to recognize the cues for performance choices and to expand their capacity to imagine alternate performances. As the author notes, we keep reading and imagining performances of this play, and of Shakespeare’s plays in general, “both for the discoveries such an engagement makes possible and for the ways in which such imaginary performances can sharpen our perception of actual productions.”