Romeo & Juliet text gets realistic American update
The time of hither and wither and thou art are a thing of the ancient past.
By Gwendolyn L. Spelvin
In spite of a debauchery of sex, drugs, and murder, William Shakespeare’s works have never been a fun read. Between the language of Old English and the confusion over accurate translation, most students have rebelled against the historical classics in unison. That’s all about to change.
The Department of Education, under the leadership of Arnie Duncan, have passed a mandate to modernize all of Shakespeare’s plays by 2020, both at the secondary and collegiate education levels. The first of these plays to be modernized is Romeo and Juliet, which will be implemented at the beginning of the next terms, respectively.
The new version will be completely in standardized American English and slang; sonnets will be transcribed to paragraphs. References of social interaction between characters will lean towards urban utopias and will include swear words and other phrased vernacular. Characterizations are loosely based on real situations as presented on the local six o’clock news.
Literacy advocacy groups support the changes, feeling the new material will resonate with younger urban audiences and inspire them to the dangers of engaging in the street life. However, racial equality organizations are critical of the revamp, citing all the characters in the story are still 100% Caucasian in spite of their newfound street credibility stereotypically tied to Blacks and Mexicans.
Below is a synopsis of the new play, be forewarned it contains spoilers and is a bit whitewashed.
The play will now be set in the slums of an unnamed American metropolis amidst a backdrop of a street gang factions controlled by Montague Disciples and the Capulet Lords who are in a turf war. A mutual acquaintance, Officer Escalus Verona, takes payoffs from them while threatening to bust them every chance he gets.
Throughout the story Cappy, The Capulet Lords’ leader, juggles intergang issues of loyalty and trust while planning an annual gang picnic. His second in command, Count P has ambitions to succeed him; he consistently blackmails him to sleep with his 13-year-old daughter Julie that could damage his credibility and leadership within the ranks.
Monte, The Montague Disciples’ leader, also struggles with his gang’s daily priorities. Rome, his son, is hooked on sexual escapades with chicks from the Capulet Lords’ camp regardless of the risk. So are nephew Benny the Leo and Mercury, a gang associate. It’s getting on his nerves they like living dangerously and putting the family closer to war with the Capulet Lords.
Everything comes to a head with Rome, Benny the Leo, and Mercury SnapChatting with chicks from the Capulet Lords. Enticed to meet them, they crash their annual picnic to further their goals of sleeping with them. Tybo, a Capulet Lords general, takes offense to the brazen lack of respect of their picnic and tries to murder them. Cappy intervienes to Tybo’s objections and stops the potential homocide, putting his leadership under more scrutiny.
Rome and Julie Facebook and Twitter each other, and begin sexting soon after. Fry Low, a gang truce social worker, watches silently from the sidelines as their trusted confidant. He maintains distance yet keeps a friendly rapport with both gangs. Officer Verona keeps a keen eye as well, keeping tabs on their conversations online.
Tybo, in the meantime, has been in the street looking for Rome to rectify what he considers to be total disrespect of his gang. He runs into Rome and Mercury at a neutral park that divides their gang territory and instigates a skirmish. Rome refuses to engage him since he is close to sleeping with Julie and doesn’t want to blow it. Mercury refuses to back down and throws the first blow.
Rome intervienes in the scuffle, determined to make cooler heads prevail. In the confusion of separating them Tybo shanks Mercury off guard with a box cutter and flees with his crew. Rome is paralyzed as Mercury dies on his feet. Hell bent on revenge, Rome grabs a few gang members and performs a drive by shooting on Tybo in broad daylight, killing him in front of his mother’s house.
Cappy wants Rome dead, and threatens Monte with an all-out war if he doesn’t deliver him. After calling a private meeting, Monte informs him that Tybo’s unsanctioned murder of Mercury was justified, evening the score. Count P sidesteps Cappy in the meeting, and tells Monte had his people not crashed their picnic, there would have been no instigating to begin with.
Fry Low suggests to make both sides amicable Rome should be exiled from the city forever; should he ever return for any reason then his life would be in his own hands. Cappy and Monte reluctantly agree; Rome has 24-hour grace period to leave the city.
Rome and Julie, hearing the outcome, decide to spend Rome’s last night hanging out with Benny The Leo at their gang’s stash house. Benny passes around Mollies and all three get wasted. Rome and Julie have sex while Benny The Leo is passed out. The next morning after they say their goodbyes, Count P confronts Julie about sleeping with the enemy and attempts to blackmail her into letting him have sex with her also. Julie rejects his advances, and tells him she will inform her father of his actions. Count P swears revenge.
As they all return home after their tryst, law enforcement surrounds their father’s houses. Rome is arrested by Officer Verona for felony statutory rape charges against Julie, and her cousin Rose, whom he also slept with prior. Benny The Leo is arrested for possession and distribution of a controlled substance to minors. Julie is arrested for conspiracy to commit consensual statutory rape.
All three are also charged with various counts of underage public intoxication, underage lewd and lascivious conduct, and juvenile vagrancy.
Count P visits both Julie and Rome in jail and tells them that he paid off Fry Low and Officer Verona to stalk them to come up with evidence for their actions. To their detriment, the find out in court there was video footage of them having sex the night prior; there is also video of Rome sleeping with other underage gang members, including Julie’s cousin Rose. Julie incriminates herself by trying to get back at Rome; while on the stand she admits to having slept with Mercury first, adding a sexual solicitation of a minor charge to both her and Rome’s crimes.
Monte and Cappy are arrested and imprisoned on child endangerment and delinquency charges when it is revealed they knew of the criminal activities of their children and did not attempt to intervene. Benny The Leo goes to trial and is convicted on all charges; he is sentenced to twenty years in prison. Both Julie and Rome are tried as adults; they are convicted and sentenced to five years in prison and lifetime registration on the national sex offender list. Both are killed by their own gang members in retaliation for taking up company with the enemy.
The new version is due to hit all major book retailers in June.