Home > Multimedia Essays > Same Love: Amateur and Professional Lesbian Adaptations of Shakespeare

Same Love: Amateur and Professional Lesbian Adaptations of Shakespeare

by: Shara Mariel B. Escorpizo, BA English Studies: Language

University of the Philippines – Diliman

Disclaimer: All videos/pictures used in this essay are not mine unless otherwise stated.

With all the gender-bended things we see on the internet and television these days, it seems as if there is more focus on the gay side of homosexual media. We see famously entertaining drag queens sassy gay friends but we do not really see the lesbian counterparts of it. Sometimes, we do, we come across media that display lesbians in a context but there is not much depth given to them as the gays. Some are not too aware of the existence of drag kings and soft lesbian friends.

In Shakespeare, there have been a number of spin-offs that show gay people acting as characters from a Shakespeare play, adding their own twist to it. However, lesbian Shakespeare adaptations are a bit of a novelty to many. If we Google Drag Shakespeare, a number of colorful results showing drag queens appear. However, it does not go the same with drag kings, which shows how much people find the queens more interesting than the kings.

Nevertheless, lesbian Shakespeare adaptation still sell to a number of audiences and a few play adaptations are still premiered online and on stage. While Shakespeare classics still remain to be one of the most adapted plays in school and professionally, this essay will show outputs from students around the world and professionally made films/plays.

Juliet and Romeo – Juliet and Romeo is a short film explicitly based on the classic Romeo and Juliet. It features young Juliet and Romeo, just like how they were in Act 2, Scene 2 of the play, both played by women. From the title itself, the interchanging of the names Juliet and Romeo show that there is a twist to this adaptation. If I were to say, I think from all the non-Hollywood, non-cinema premiered adaptations of Romeo and Juliet, the Juliet here seems to be the most passionate to pronounce her lines. It is as if the lines were her own, full of trust and young love.

Lost and Delirious (cut scene) – Lost and Delirious is a movie about three teenagers set in a private school. Two of these teenagers are in a quest for love, and in one of the scenes, one of them comes in wearing a fencing outfit with a sword on one hand, then recites lines from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

Desdemona’s Death – Desdemona’s Death, like Juliet and Romeo, is an explicit adaptation of a scene from Shakespeare’s Othello, with characters played by women.

The rest of the video adaptations which will be shown here are student projects from other countries, acting out scenes from Romeo and Juliet, and Othello.

 

 

Romina and Juliet – Romina and Juliet is a new-age lesbian adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Like Juliet and Romeo, this take also explicitly changed its name to a more feminine version, Romina.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/J4AJqA4zvbI&#8221; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe

Rosaline and Juliet – Rosaline and Juliet is a more diverse adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Other lesbian takes on this piece involve Romeo taking a woman’s name, or Romeo being portrayed by a woman. However, in Rosaline and Juliet, it shows Rosaline, who in the classic play, did not get a line at all. In this adaptation, they do not follow the lines from the play but rather, their own lines of a new-age Rosaline and Juliet questioning the conventions of loving a person of the same gender.

Rome and Juliet – Rome and Juliet is a local film adaptation starring locally well-known actresses. Unlike other spin offs of Romeo and Juliet’s romance, Rome and Juliet are women of different fields. Juliet, a pre-school teacher, hires Romeo, a businesswoman to plan her wedding to Marc, a politician. One thing leads to another, and after a few encounters, they wind up having a forbidden affair. Rome and Juliet, compared to other adaptations, is more dramatic and less invested in the details of Romeo and Juliet because in this film adaptation, it is only established that they were having a forbidden love; there was no mention of families in conflict or a mutual suicide.

Other than Youtube stashes of  lesbian Shakespeare plays acted out by actresses, there are also live stagings of lesbian Shakespeare. In 2008, Guerilla Theatre, a theater group based in Downtown, Wilmington, North Carolina, produced a modern spin of Romeo and Juliet portrayed by female leads. It was produced as a response to the “ban on same-sex marriages” going on at that time in America. According to Director Richard Davis, this is a new-age adaptation of the play in the sense that it still is based from the same plot, it still uses the same lines, but Romeo and Juliet wear modern clothes and are played by women.

(photos from WMBF News)

Other than Guerilla Theater’s take, another theater from Philadelphia has the same take on Romeo and Juliet; same lines, same characters, but different costumes and actresses.

(photo from Philly.com)

With the coming of the new age and advancements in technology and society, we cannot help but have new innovations in Shakespeare every now and then. In Shakespeare’s time, the treatment of gays and lesbians probably would have been different than the way they are treated today. Nowadays, they can freely state an opinion, point out wrongs, and produce input for society’s change. From boring adaptations of Shakespeare plays come the new age of Shakespeare, all in its lesbian glory.

Works Cited:

“Juliet and Romeo.” YouTube. YouTube. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.

“Lesbian ‘Romeo and Juliet’ Set in an Implausible, Ideal World.” Philly-archives. 16 Oct. 2013. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.

“Lesbian Spin on Shakespeare Classic.” – WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.

“Lost En Delirious: Quote Twelfth Night Shakespeare.” YouTube. YouTube. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.

Rome and Juliet. Dir. Connie Macatuno. Perf. Mylene Dizon, Andrea Del Rosario, Rafaell Rosell. Cinema One Originals, 2006. Film.

“Othello — Desdemona’s Death (Short Film).” YouTube. YouTube. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.

“Othello Trailer by Natalie Hovee.” YouTube. YouTube. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.

“Romina&Juliet.” YouTube. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.

“Rosaline and Juliet.” YouTube. YouTube. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.

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Categories: Multimedia Essays
  1. ericabianca24
    December 7, 2015 at 12:11 am

    there’s something worth noting about how most adaptations found are sapphic versions of romeo and juliet. granted that it is possible that the play is arguably shakespeare’s most popular work (hence it is adapted regularly), but i do think that the concept of forbidden therefore tragic love popularized by the star crossed lovers motivates this trope going around called “bury your gays/dead lesbian syndrome,” where queer characters in movies and television shows are not allowed to have happy endings, in that they either don’t end up together or one of them dies. on one hand the gender bending in these adaptations is progressive because a person from a minority group is being represented in a usually heteronormative classic play, at the same time it could be disheartening that the reason lesbian characters found their way in these productions is that so they could be written off or end up miserable by the end of the narrative anyway. nevertheless, i will definitely check these out and see for myself if the endings are earned regardless if they end up tragic or not. also i might try to look up queer adaptations of plays that end happily just so i could prove myself wrong. 🙂

  2. ericabianca24
    December 7, 2015 at 12:11 am

    there’s something worth noting about how most adaptations found are sapphic versions of romeo and juliet. granted that it is possible that the play is arguably shakespeare’s most popular work (hence it is adapted regularly), but i do think that the concept of forbidden therefore tragic love popularized by the star crossed lovers motivates this trope going around called “bury your gays/dead lesbian syndrome,” where queer characters in movies and television shows are not allowed to have happy endings, in that they either don’t end up together or one of them dies. on one hand the gender bending in these adaptations is progressive because a person from a minority group is being represented in a usually heteronormative classic play, at the same time it could be disheartening that the reason lesbian characters found their way in these productions is that so they could be written off or end up miserable by the end of the narrative anyway. nevertheless, i will definitely check these out and see for myself if the endings are earned regardless if they end up tragic or not. also i might try to look up queer adaptations of plays that end happily just so i could prove myself wrong. 🙂

  3. December 8, 2015 at 1:02 am

    I faced a similar problem as well. Originally, I was going to make a post about Shakespeare and the drag subculture in general (queens and kings included), but I just couldn’t find enough info on drag kings. There is one drag king named Landon Cider, but besides her I couldn’t find other drag king performers.

    Anyway this is a nice post to balance out the gayness that my two posts have made. For me, the fact that there are professional, and amateur adaptions like those on Youtube, are indication of how new media serve as platforms for viewers to not just indulge in Shakespeare, but also express their interpretation of his works. Rome and Juliet certainly got me interested. Are there contemporary Filipino gay adaptiations of Shakespeare?

  4. December 13, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    It’s kind of a fresh version steering away from the old days when plays had only male actors. If you think about it, originally, the women characters were played by young men. But now we can see an opposite but not really because they don’t actually play men. Just sort of the male counterpart? Still does stray away from the all male casts from before.
    I wonder when these kinds of adaptations will surface on mainstream media? Maybe with the emergence of the legalized same sex marriage, the media would be more accepting of versions such as these.

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