William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. We have all read it, or seen it, or at least heard of it. And if we haven’t read or seen the play itself, we have seen so many versions of it done. Just last year there was another film adaption of the famous play. There’s Baz Luhrmann film, “West Side Story,” “Private Romeo,” and let’s not forget “Gnomeo and Juliet.”
This story has been told so many times before in so many different ways. People always say how universal Shakespeare is, but why this specific story? And what is it that instead of coming up with new love stories, we turn back to one of the most classic ones?
Perhaps it is similar to the reason why television exists and one of the reasons why we see the same actors and actresses in the same movies. We are comfortable with the familiar. As good of a story as Romeo and Juliet might be, it also might fall into this category. This might also be why a lot of romantic comedies fall into a similar structure. Girl and boy meet, there is conflict (they might not like each other, live far apart, etc.) then they find each other and live in some version of happily ever after. People look for love stories that comfort them. Even the ones that hurt like Romeo and Juliet give us comfort in the hope that there is “true love” somewhere in the world. We all know how the story will end, but still people left the theater of the most recent film with tears in their eyes.
It might be the same reason why we watch movies we have seen before over and over again, especially love stories. “Titanic” has a sad ending – the boat sinks. “The Notebook” tugs at heart strings. Romantic comedies may fall into a different category with the happy endings, but most love dramas do not end well. Yet we want to watch them over and over again, even in different circumstances. Maybe that’s why Romeo and Juliet is one of the most re-made of Shakespeare’s plays. There is something universal about it, but also something comforting in seeing this story told and knowing these characters, even in their tragic ending.