Updated: May 17, 2021
With a broad spectrum of Shakespeare littering our GCSE curriculum, some students often wonder if it's relevant to anything we might see on our screens today. I think it is, do you?
As a tutor that (I think!) has a firm grasp of all of the Shakespeare plays needed to assist any student when they are studying for their GCSE's, I am at times so bewildered when some of my tutees put forward the suggestion that Shakespeare is irrelevant to anything they may watch on TV or real life.
When I think about the latest edition of any soap opera, there is nearly always warring families. In Eastenders https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EastEnders , there are the Beale's versus the Mitchell's and in Coronation Street, there are the Tisley's versus the Barlow's. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coronation_Street They are always fighting about something, usually their hatred of each other. Isn't this exactly what's going on in Romeo and Juliet?
I'm also reminded of episodes in these dramas and how they often have some young teenage angst-ridden, love sick teenager who defies their parents to go out and see some 'fit' bloke they've only just met.
There are echoes of this in the bard's story about the two unfortunate, star-struck lovers. It seems uncannily relevant to the world of soap opera-land. In R&J, we are witness to Romeo secretly meeting and paying Juliet a visit at home, with that famous balcony scene. Although Juliet is terrified of what will happen if her family see her with him, she's excited that he's gone to all the trouble of seeing her. So much so, that she dramatically says to him;
"If they do see thee, they will murder thee." Act 2, Scene 2.
It sounds like a perfect 'duff, duff' ending in Eastenders, don't you think?
Currently, I'm a big fan of the BBC drama Killing Eve in which the main characters; Eve and Villianelle are portrayed as two very strong, gutsy and determined females who run roughshod over anyone that seems to get in the way of their blinding ambition and goals. (Even if those goals on Villianelle's part are hugely skewed). Both of these women remind me of Lady Macbeth. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killing_Eve
The way Lady M controls Macbeth, is at times all-empowering, Machiavellian in nature and seems to wield masterful dynamism and intoxicating power over him.
"To beguile the time, look like the time...Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it." Act 1, Scene 5.
Sounds absolutely spellbinding, doesn't it? Shakespeare demonstrates through the power of words how one can master at being the evil villain we love to hate. When Lady M encourages Macbeth to kill Duncan, her use of verbal manipulation, mental strength and cunning wile is incredible and illuminating for the audience to see it in all its action.
Although Lady M is confined by the trappings of her sex; so she doesn't physically carry out her own murders (unlike Villianelle), I often wonder what would she have done to the people she really wanted to be rid of, had she been physically able to?
Now I'm not in any way, shape or form, condoning anything that these people do. Villlianelle is a character in a drama. She is a psychotic, cold-bloodied killer and any soap opera is merely just an artistic view of real life. However, I believe we can take a modern portrayal in a drama and drop it into a Shakespearean play, in order to find a deeper understanding of it; or what perhaps makes a character become more easier to bring to life when we need to write about them.
Here's my disclaimer: This is just a quick heads up. No you can't compare Coronation Street to Romeo and Juliet or mention Killing Eve in your GCSE essays. It definitely would be frowned upon by all the exam boards reading your paper. Any content in this blog, is just my opinion and a chance for me to give you some food for thought!
BTW: Did you spot the spelling of 'Shakespeare' in the picture featured in this blog? It has a spelling error. If you noticed it, then working out how to understand Shakespeare is going to be a doddle for you! Personally, I just loved the picture, so just decided to go with it for this blog.
© SjS 2020