Love This? Try This! – “Romeo and Juliet” Graphic Novel

r&j

It’s been a hot minute since I did one of these! But then again, it’s also been a while since I read something that so strongly reflected its predecessors or inspirations. I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve read another graphic novel by Gareth Hinds while teaching Homer’s The Odyssey; similarly, I know I have to teach Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet this year (*eye roll*), so I got Hinds’ graphic novel version to see if I can find a way to incorporate it.

Gareth Hinds’s stylish graphic adaptation of the Bard’s romantic tragedy offers modern touches — including a diverse cast that underscores the story’s universality.

She’s a Capulet. He’s a Montague. But when Romeo and Juliet first meet, they don’t know they’re from rival families — and when they find out, they don’t care. Their love is honest and raw and all-consuming. But it’s also dangerous. How much will they have to sacrifice before they can be together? In a masterful adaptation faithful to Shakespeare’s original text, Gareth Hinds transports readers to the sun-washed streets and market squares of Shakespeare’s Verona, vividly bringing the classic play to life on the printed page.

First things first, if you love the classic tale of literature’s most famous star-crossed lovers, this adaptation does the original story justice. The language remains the same, so you’re not getting a “cheat sheet,” per se; however, in this format, you have the visual advantage of being able to see the characters and conversations, see who is speaking and to whom they are speaking. I really can’t say enough about having visuals, especially for stories that have elevated language that might confuse current-day readers. Having that visual assistance can only aid in understanding the plot.

Another advantage (in my opinion) of this format is that the content must be condensed so, thankfully, many of the pointless, rambling monologues are cut out entirely or reduced to only the parts that drive the story. To me, those moments where the Nurse would go off on a tangent never added to the story and instead only added to the level of student confusion. I’m thrilled that those are omitted and, honestly, wish I could teach with this graphic novel as the primary text. This adaptation includes everything that is pivotal to understanding the plot and social references. For those who are only reading this out of obligation and not by choice, this version would serve just as well as the original.

The most obvious difference between this graphic novel and the classic play is that the character families are portrayed as minority groups; the Capulets are Indian and the Montagues are Black. Hinds makes it clear that the choice to portray them as such is not pointed in regards to either culture and simply exists in order to show that the story is “universal” in its popularity and influence. Whether it was the goal or not, portraying the families in this way also makes it easier to determine which characters are Capulets vs. Montagues. Instead of just having a bunch of white people fighting and not knowing whose side each is on, for better or for worse, the difference in ethnicity helps readers understand sides. However, potentially also unknowingly, this gives the impression that the family feuds could relate to cultural differences, when such is not likely to be true in the original play.

My mission is to find a way to incorporate this graphic novel into our reading of the classic play as much as possible. If you remember my efforts with The Odyssey and Nimona, I have faced trouble with giving students access to the text. However, those attempts were at a school that did not have one-to-one capabilities, which I will have this year, so it is possible to give students access to an electronic copy. I’m going to go with that and see where it takes me.

In addition to the graphic novel, there are numerous film adaptations of the play. I was kindly gifted a copy of Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet,” featuring my boyfriend Leo. There are also other versions, like “Romeo Must Die,” “Gnomeo and Juliet,” and “West Side Story.” I also have several songs that would be great for lyric analysis in regards to this play. I’m excited to teach it, in spite of the fact that Juliet and Romeo are as irritating as the day is long.

 

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9 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Lindsay, Love This? Try This!, Teacher Stuff

9 responses to “Love This? Try This! – “Romeo and Juliet” Graphic Novel

  1. Hi!
    Thanks for sharing this review. I didn’t know that there was a graphic novel version of Romeo and Juliet 🙂
    Glad that they retained most of the original script. And it is definitely interesting in their choice of minority groups for the Montague and Capulet families. Do you think this makes it more relevant to modern-day readers? (I think feuding families are less prevalent now – though I could be wrong! – but there are still people with strong opinions about race and interracial couples)

    Cheers,
    Sophie

    • Hmm, good question!! It might not for all readers, but I definitely think seeing characters of color will help my students, since the majority of students are not white. For better or for worse, I think it’s easiest to relate to characters in whom you see some of yourself, and this doesn’t have to mean skin color, but when the teacher is white, the author is white, and the characters are white, it’s easy to see it as white person literature. I love that the families were portrayed as minority groups, since it shows that this story has affected all cultures for centuries, not just white people. But the drawback is that, like you mentioned, it might give the impression that their long-standing feud could be racial, even though that is never implied. I think the good outweighs the bad and I encourage anyone to check it out! Glad I could help you find it and thanks so much for your thoughts, Sophie!!

  2. This is exactly what I need for the classroom: and the diversity is so refreshing!

  3. This sounds great! I’ll have to check it out sometime soon. I love that they used the original text rather than modernize it. And I so agree about Nurse’s tangents. They were there for comic relief, but since the jokes aren’t as readily apparent to modern ears, it’s just unnecessary to slog through that when it adds nothing plot-wise.

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