Monday, August 21, 2017

Shakespeare Reimagined: 'Still Star-Crossed'

Most Shakespeare adaptations put a modern spin on the well-known tales, or create fantasy worlds and stories loosely based off their plot lines. Shonda Rhimes’s newest drama Still Star-Crossed takes the story of Romeo and Juliet that everyone knows from high school English class and asks, “What happens next?” The show was created for television by Heather Mitchell and based off of the YA book of the same title, which is written by Melinda Taub.

The show opens with the end of the play, introducing our main characters Rosaline and Benvolio as they attend Romeo and Juliet’s wedding. We witness their demise and the fallout. The feud between the Montagues and Capulets remains, a diversion from the final chorus in the original play, but the change is not without motivation. To save the city, Prince Escalus announces that the houses will be joined in marriage, and Rosaline and Benvolio are betrothed.

Beyond the compelling story, the show features a diverse cast, exquisite costuming, and unique editing that makes traveling through Verona fluid and modern. There’s also lots of political intrigue as cities outside Verona turn their sights on the warring city, a mysterious fiend continues to wreak havoc on the city, and Lady Capulet tries to bend the political climate to her advantage. Every single character is forced to navigate some relationship that has a chance to either benefit or harm them; while the viewer is aware of many dangers, the characters are often blissfully unaware of the workings behind the scenes. And yes, there’s a love triangle that helps keep the star-crossed lovers theme going: Rosaline and Prince Escalus were and still are in love.

The end of the show, which had a seven episode run, leaves enough tied up but still prompts questions about the fates of many characters. Thankfully, the book offers a little more story for those looking for it. The events of the show cover a majority of the book with some differences, but the book wraps everything up and adds a neat epilogue on top.

Still Star-Crossed is roughly a day’s read and another day’s watch. The style of the book leans more toward its Shakespearean influence with dialogue and the sheer amount of characters, and many of the characters and relationships are slightly different. In order to adapt to screen, it makes sense that certain things were changed to consolidate motivations. For instance, Rosaline and Livia are not servants in the Capulet household as they are in the show. Instead, they live in the house as guests, although Lady Capulet still dislikes them. Both versions of the story have the fun tropes we all love, like enemies-to-lovers and cloak sharing, which contribute to the fun amid all the turmoil. And for true Shakespeare lovers, each episode is titled with a line from a variety of plays, including The Tempest and As You Like It.

If you like YA novels, Shakespeare, or period dramas, it’s worth the time to give this story attention. There may not be another season, but it can leave the imagination running wild. Not to mention, the casting that echoes many a Shakespeare play is refreshing. The show can be watched here on ABC’s website, and is also on Hulu.

Are there any Shakespeare adaptations you recommend?


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