"All the world's a stage" (re)familiarizing Shakespeare: A study of "Romeo and Juliet" in the East and the West

Beau La Rhee, University of Rhode Island


This study analyzes William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (1596) and his Globe Theater as well as John Gielgud's (1935), Peter Brook's (1947), and Tae-Suk Oh's (2005 and 2006) adaptation of it to explore how the play is retold, reinterpreted, and brought alive for new audiences through different cultures and through the theater of today. As the acclaimed western directors, the Korean director Tae-Suk Oh accurately interprets Shakespearean devices in the source text and employs methodologies drawn from his own culture as well as Elizabethan culture. He effectively relates the world of the play to the world of the audience through his culture and through stagecraft as Shakespeare did in his own time. I suggest that productions that brought them success have to do with effective theatrical strategies and elements of stage such as props, costume, movements, gesture, tone, dance, music, lighting, space, set design, and the theater itself. ^ Tae-Suk Oh's stage techniques and devices lend themselves to immortality of Romeo and Juliet's love. Rather than merely giving Shakespeare "straight," he employs popular tradition, culture, and Korean traditional dramatic forms as a means to draw his audience into the play. Likewise, Shakespeare also affected his audience in similar ways such as using stage techniques, popular tradition, and culture familiar to the Elizabethan audience. Staged at the National Theater of Korea in Seoul, 2005 and at the Barbican Centre in London, 2006, Oh's adaptation contains language and characterizations different from those in the source text; certain lines are included and omitted, designed to convey Shakespearean themes in Korean sentiment. The cultures of the past and present and the eastern and western cultures converge to form connections that the contemporary Korean audience is familiar with. ^ The analyses of the changes made in the performance staged at the Barbican Centre demonstrate that every single element of the stage such as set design, lighting, movement, and props becomes a language through which Oh communicates with his new audience. Through this study one hopes for increased dialogue between eastern and western cultures, not only about the theater but also about the global issues we face in our lives today. ^

Subject Area

Anthropology, Cultural|Theater|Literature, English

Recommended Citation

Beau La Rhee, ""All the world's a stage" (re)familiarizing Shakespeare: A study of "Romeo and Juliet" in the East and the West" (2009). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3380536.