Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Romeo & Juliet: Setting the Stage for Civil Disobedience

Share it Please
    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. 


  1. This sounds like a really interesting idea, as far as finding sources go you could try looking for articles on hip-hop in general. I was writing about violence in "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" and the only way I could find sources was to look up articles about violence in children's literature and then apply them to "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" even though none of them actually mentioned the book. That might be a way of finding sources for you paper.

  2. I found a review of ODT's production of Romeo and Juliet. I know it's not necessarily a scholarly article, but it was published in the Deseret News.
    It talks a little bit about how the production is non-traditional because most dance productions of Romeo and Juliet are done as a classical ballet, but still traditional because it follows the general plot-line. I go to see this production basically every year and I love it. I don't know if it would make your paper too broad, but you could talk about the music used in hip hop productions. Hip hop "culture" is about more than just dance; hip hop music has its own civil disobedience and rebellion.