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‘& Juliet,’ ‘Rosaline’: When Shakespeare’s Women Change Fate

We know the story of Romeo & Juliet. Two lovers from warring families destined for a deadly fate. But what happens when the script is changed? What if Juliet had never died? What if Romeo’s ex attempted to upend their love? In the upcoming Broadway musical & Juliet and the new Hulu movie Rosaline, Shakespeare’s female characters change their fate. Thus, we delve into the tale of 2 women. Women who fight back from the paper and quill, writing their own ending, or new beginning.


& Juliet follows a different blossoming future for our female protagonist

This coming-of-age musical, is a modern retelling of Romeo & Juliet. The show follows 2 plots, 1 with Juliet and her new future and 1 with William Shakespeare and his wife Anne Hathaway, who fights her husband on creating a new story that sees Juliet live. Instead of Juliet dying with Romeo, she takes a trip to Paris with friends April (written in by Anne) and May (Juliet’s non-binary pal), and her nurse Angelique. With pop songs like “. . .Baby One More Time,” “Roar,” and “Domino,” we follow Juliet on a journey of self discovery, where new flames (and old ones) reappear.

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The musical began in London’s West End in 2019, to the delight of critics and fans. For instance, in London’s Time Out review of the musical, Andrzej Lukowski respects the musical for what it is, a comical quirky make believe story with lots of heart.

“Aside from the epochal tunes and daft story, huge performances and slick visuals are at the heart of a musical that’s clearly not an actual classic but absolutely makes the most of what it has.” 

The show now has moved to Broadway, with performances beginning in New York City on October 28.

Rosaline sees an unlikely but lovable hero

In Hulu’s film Rosaline, directed by Karen Maine, a new protagonist enters the mix, Romeo’s ex. Rosaline (Kaitlyn Dever), a Capulet, has been secretly seeing the son of her family’s rival, Romeo Montague (Kyle Allen). In a turn of events, Romeo then falls for Rosaline’s cousin Juliet (Isabela Merced). Now, our ambitious and stubborn protagonist must hatch a plan to break Romeo and Juliet up.

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In Variety’s review, Tomris Laffly writes, “Maine’s likeminded outing might not render as instantly original. Still, her film succeeds at heartily seizing the timely idea at the core of those titles, displaying a feminist and feminine understanding of young women with desires, fears and preoccupations.”

Why are we seeing these adaptations now? 

Modern film adaptations of Shakespeare’s classic works are not new. We’ve seen She’s the Man (based on Twelfth Night), 10 Things I Hate About You (based on The Taming of the Shrew), and even West Side Story (based on Romeo & Juliet). These Shakespearean works have held a vital space in modern pop culture with his messages on love, death, grief, tragedy, gender, and much more.

Simultaneously though, the world we live in now, is different than the world Shakespeare lived in. We’ve got technology, new language, more discoveries, and more social discourse. Women have gained more freedoms, and the ability to seek out dreams of their own. It makes sense that a story about a young woman named Juliet, who had no agency before, can rub people the wrong way now. A story where 2 lovers must die for each other only after meeting a couple days before is a little crazy. You question, how could Romeo and Juliet love each other that deeply when they don’t even know each other that well? And don’t forget, in the social media driven dating world we have now, we’re lucky to get a text back never mind a boy like Romeo singing soliloquies at our window.

With all of these questions, we see different ideas flood the gates. Enter a musical like & Juliet and a movie like Rosaline. These women take a hold of the text originally given to them by Shakespeare, throw the pages to the wind, and start a life for themselves.

The bigger message of & Juliet and Rosaline

While Romeo & Juliet talks about love and the deadly consequences of hate, & Juliet and Rosaline say something a bit different.

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& Juliet directs toward young women, taking charge of their own destiny. Instead of basing their future on a lover or familial expectation, they make choices based on their own needs and wants.

With Rosaline, we see a comedic but deeply moving story about a woman snapped into a reality she deserves. No longer romanticizing the boy she put on a pedestal, she makes a life for herself, even though it takes her a lot of mistakes to get there.

Theater audiences are loving & Juliet

Movie-watchers are obsessed with Rosaline

Watch Rosaline on Hulu and buy tickets to & Juliet on Broadway today!


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