Twitter Does Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, 140 Characters at a Time

7 years ago

It's a Twitter trifecta this week: not only are promoted tweets set to run in your future timeline and the Library of Congress is archiving that tweet you wrote about what you ate for lunch, but now, you don't even need to leave your Twitter stream to get a dose of culture. The Royal Shakespeare Theater is performing Romeo and Juliet -- 140 characters at a time.


Taking fictional character blogging to a higher level, the theater company is rewriting Shakespeare for the Twitter set in common English (um ... in fact, in Twitterized, abbreviated English) in their latest production in conjunction with Mudlark, Such Tweet Sorrow. People can either subscribe to the individual feeds and see Juliet's tweets coming in between your friend musing about her child's tantrum and Guy Kawasaki touting the latest technology, or you can tune in to the live feed which combines all the tweets from the various characters in chronological order.

The performance stretches for five weeks, with the six characters writing

their actual tweets themselves, using the rich backgrounds the writers have given them, along with a detailed diary that tells them where their characters are at any one moment of the adventure -- what they are feeling, who they are with, who they want to talk to. This may be as ordinary as telling us what they had for breakfast or as remarkable as announcing a deep, deep love.

Pretty cool, no? Though it might have blown Shakespeare's mind to consider this very, very different version of performing for the groundlings.

Perioscope Post points out how this performance bridges a gap, "The new performance style and the added back story is being seen as an attempt to reach out to young people –- and maybe an attempt to explain this whole social networking thing to an older generation."

The idea of tweeting as a fictional character isn't new to the Twittersphere (nor is pretending to be an actual celebrity, which is no longer believable due to Twitter's verified accounts). The first one I ever heard about was HalfPintIngalls -- Laura Ingalls Wilder -- from a post that appeared on BlogHer back in 2008. The Twitter account is the brainchild of Wendy McClure of Pound, who is working on a book called The Wilder Life.

McClure posts, "I’m making plans for another big trip out west in July to see the rest of the home sites, and in the meantime, I’ve been trying my hand at various nineteenth-century frontier activities, such as churning butter, frying salt pork, and playing with corn-cob dolls. And then I’ve been writing."

And not only writing the book, but writing hysterical tweets as little Half Pint herself, even staying in character during the Olympics, "This thing with the fiddles that you're watching on TV right now isn't the Olympic opening ceremonies. It's just one of my fever dreams!"

Plenty of others have paid homage to their favorite literary characters (Nancy Drew, Holden Caulfield, and Ramona Quimby), and televisions shows have released network-created Twittering versions of their characters. It's easy to see the appeal in both Twittering as a character or reading a character's feed. It's creativity built on an established platform, it allows people to interact with characters they've loved for years, and it brings back happy memories of reading favorite books.

In the interest of full disclosure ... I (cough) set up an account a long time ago to tweet as HarrietMWelsch from Harriet the Spy after becoming smitten with HalfpintIngalls. But one tweet into the project, I realized just how difficult it can be to write as someone else's creation. To capture that voice instead of mimic.

Which fictional feeds do you follow? And if you could follow any character from a book on Twitter, who would it be?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her book is Navigating the Land of If.

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