Shakespeare Solved ®

Shakespeare Solved ® is a forthcoming series of novels that covers the Bard's entire life and work.

These novels solve the mysteries surrounding Shakespeare by transporting us back in time, to walk in his shoes, and see his world through his eyes.

Only when we see Shakespeare in his original historical context can we understand what his plays and poems really mean.

This blog explains some of my ideas and discoveries, to prepare for this series of novels.

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Articles Written For:

The University of Oxford's Bodleian Library & The Royal Shakespeare Company

Most Popular Posts:

1. Shakespeare's Shylock Solved 2. Shakespeare's Othello Finally Identified 3. Shakespeare In Love Sequel Solved 4. The Real Romeo and Juliet 5. Shakespeare's Malvolio Solved 6. Shakespeare's Real Petruchio

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Orlando Bloom and Shakespeare

I just saw Orlando Bloom as Romeo on Broadway over the weekend.
I was very excited to see this production, since I wanted to see a young actor like him do some Shakespeare. The theatre was packed, and the audience was very enthusiastic during the entire performance.

I had read very little about the production beforehand. The cast was excellent, especially Condola Rashad as Juliet, Christian Camargo as Mercutio and Jayne Houdyshell as the Nurse.
But overall I was disappointed.
The greatest mistake, in my humble opinion, was the modern setting. By putting the characters in modern dress and with modern elements -- like a motorcycle -- the whole play became less compelling than it should be.
In our modern times, young boys and girls get into all sorts of troubles. There are very few social constraints keeping them away from each other.
This play is about two young lovers who fall in love and break all the rules.
But there is nothing on the stage, in the production I just saw, that creates any of the dramatic tension that is so important in the play.

I have seen Romeo and Juliet before in modern setting. Arguably the most famous is the film version with Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes. But while that film is a modern setting, it presented guns and the potential for violence so effectively (where everyone was packing a pistol) that it creates a tension throughout the entire film.
Perhaps in order to create some dramatic tension on the stage, this Romeo is white and Juliet is black. But making this story about race doesn’t have the same effect today that it would perhaps 50 years ago.
If there is nothing really keeping them apart, then the love between Romeo and Juliet is less powerful.
When Shakespeare wrote the play, he wrote it for two people whom Queen Elizabeth herself had personally forbidden from being together. That young man, the Earl of Southampton, was defying the Queen when he fell in love with Elizabeth Vernon.
I liked Orlando Bloom as Romeo. But instead of wearing jeans and Doc Martens boots, he should be wearing Elizabethan period clothing, doublet and hose, and carrying a real sword.
Instead of hanging around Verona (which in this production could be Venice California for all we know) like he’s in a biker gang (and carrying concealed knives), he should be in a world where there are strict rules and social conventions keeping him away from Juliet, and where everyone is carrying a sword and knows how to use it to kill.
Without those strict rules and barriers, the play loses its focus, and unfortunately it has an effect on the performances. I think Orlando Bloom’s performance suffers in modern dress and setting, and he would benefit from period costume and setting.
I love the idea of Orlando Bloom in Shakespeare, and I hope he does more. I think he should definitely play a villain, like Iago. He would be great as Coriolanus.

By all means, please go see this production. With your support, actors like Orlando Bloom will do more Shakespeare.
But after seeing this production of Romeo and Juliet, I would really love to see him in period costume, as a character in the Elizabethan world.
As I watched this, I thought he would be great in some Shakespeare Solved -- in these new versions of Shakespeare’s plays, that show how they were performed for the very first time in history.
I also show why the plays were written and for whom.
One of Shakespeare’s closest friends, and the man for whom he wrote Romeo and Juliet was the Earl of Southampton. 

Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton -- the real Romeo

He was one of the most fascinating figures of the period (and was arguably the most handsome man of the time) and with the Earl of Essex, they played a part in one of the most controversial events in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the Essex Rebellion of 1601.
I think Orlando Bloom would be excellent as Southampton.

What do you think?

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