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Romeo & Juliet: Rebellion and Johannesburg choreographed by Jessica Nupen (jessicanupen.com)
The topic for my final paper was inspired by the brainstorming activity we did for our individual play assignments. During that assignment, I had decided to talk about Romeo & Juliet and it's relationships to Thoreau's Transcendentalism. I see the play as a form of civil disobedience - youthful idealism and perserverence that challenges institutionalized hatred. However, the other day, I walked in on my roommate watching a move about a hip hop production of Romeo & Juliet - and I realized that this is what I wanted to write my paper on. So I did some further research, and I found countless appropriations ranging from a professional production, to a high school pieces, and even a rap by 50 Cent. So in the end - the theme remains primarily the same. Nevertheless, I want to shift my focus from 19th century politics to present day.
The picture above is a production from Johannesburg, South Africa called Rebellion and Johannesburg; the production uses the plot of Romeo and Juliet to portray "the resilience and vibrance of a 'lost generation' in search of an identity" (jessicanupen.com). In essence, the hip hop appropriation of Romeo and Juliet reflect the same unique interpreation of civil disobedience; today dancers around the world are performing Romeo & Juliet as a means of asserting, not only their individuality, but their rights (hip hop typically reflects the disenfranchisement of minority groups).
Furthermore, a recent book, called The New H.N.I.C.: The Death of Civil Rights and the Reign of Hip Hop by Todd Boyd, argues that hip hop has replaced civil rights as our nation's change agent - today art is transforming the political scene.
Nevertheless, while a quick google search of hip hop and Romeo and Juliet will bring up a plethora of sources, scholarly articles are difficult to find. Nonetheless, there is literary criticism that focuses on the politics of Romeo and Juliet and will contributes to an argument that asserts a disobedience to that political reality. Furthermore, there is existing criticism that highlights the rebellion (specifically teengage rebellion) and this will be of use when compared to the youthful hip hop adaptations of the play.
The slack conversation I had about my topic, convinced me that a paper on Romeo and Juliet and Hip Hop would certaintly be more entertaining - however, the consensus was that it was likely to also be more difficult. Therefore, I think my main argument will be how Romeo and Juliet is a precurser to Civil Disobedience (I will reference Thoreau, but I don't want him to be the focus of my paper). However, I will contextualize this arguement by demonstrating how modern hip hop productions of the play are, in their own sense, civally disobedient.