Another new adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, I see. Well, why not. That play is not going to go out of fashion any time soon, and no number of tired, routine productions will spoil it. But this one has a novel selling point: it has been adapted by Julian Fellowes, creator of the phenomenally successful Downton Abbey.
Of course, there are the usual criticisms: Fellowes has received some flak from those pantomime villains, the Purists (boo! hiss!), for “rewriting certain passages and altering the language used in the Bard’s work”. And these usual criticisms have been countered by the usual reply: it “was never intended to be a straight adaptation of the original”.
So far, so predictable. But it doesn’t stop here. Fellowes goes on to say:
…to see the original [Shakespeare play] in its absolutely unchanged form, you require a kind of Shakespearian scholarship and you need to understand the language and analyse it and so on. I can do that because I had a very expensive education, I went to Cambridge. Not everyone did that and there are plenty of perfectly intelligent people out there who have not been trained in Shakespeare’s language choices.
I haven’t been keeping up with the Downton Abbey phenomenon, but I can only assume that Fellowes has a certain public image that is lucrative for him to maintain. It is hard to imagine otherwise how anyone with more than two brain cells to rub together could say such a thing in public. Even if they thought it. The idea that Shakespeare must be beyond those who haven’t had an expensive education, or who haven’t studied at a prestigious university, would indeed be offensive, were it not so damn funny.
In an idle hour, I put all this up on my Facebook page, with a few choice expletives aimed and this Fellowes chappie (which I then took out for fear of causing offence to any maiden aunt who may be reading). Within minutes, there was a targeted ad on to my Facebook page for this new Romeo and Juliet film:
Romeo & Juliet. We all know the ending to this love story, but it just got more beautiful.
No, seriously – that’s what it says, word for word! Thanks to Fellowes, Shakespeare just got “more beautiful”.
Ah – the wonders of an expensive education!