“All’s well that ends well”

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In the theatre, and perhaps in the collective imagination – Romeos tend to be tall, dark, and handsome – smouldering Veronese poster-boys no less.  Of course, some Romeos are a little less tall, and a little less handsome, but on the whole there is a certain ‘look’ that goes with the role of the “star-crossed”  lover.  Bearded Romeos are rare – and for me, white bearded Romeos have always seemed an improbability – until, that is, I went to see Gnomeo and Juliet at the cinema this week.

The film tells the tale of Gnomeo, a blue hatted (and white bearded) garden gnome (with a penchant for speedy lawnmowers), who falls madly in love with a red hatted garden gnome (or should that be gnomess ?) called Juliet.  But, true to Shakespeare’s original (which had a distinct lack of gnomes in it) the two young (albeit, one white bearded) lovers are kept apart because of an “ancient grudge”.

So far, so Shakespearian.  But, as I settled down with my popcorn I started to wonder whether this ‘feel good’ animated movie (that boasts the vocal and musical talents of Ozzy Osbourne, Dolly Parton, Elton John, and Lady Gaga) would deliver a tragedy of Shakespearian proportions, or whether the gnomes would (as I began to hope) escape the fate of Shakespeare’s “death-mark’d” lovers.

I’m pleased to report that no gnome blood was spilled in the making of this movie – although Tybalt required some serious super-gluing for the curtain call.

I found myself experiencing a similar sense of relief to what I imagine some Restoration audiences must have felt when watching Nahum Tate’s adaptation of King Lear in 1681.  Tate thought the close of Shakespeare’s play, with Lear and Cordelia’s deaths, too painful for audiences to endure – and rewrote the play’s ending with both father and daughter living to fight another day.

Happily, Gnomeo and Juliet survived the “two hours traffic” of the screen, and what’s more they ended their tale with a hip-swinging jig – how very Shakespearian.

Click below to see the trailer to the movie.


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Author:Nick Walton

Nick Walton is a Lecturer in Shakespeare Studies at The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
  • Anonymous

    Sounds like a good idea Andrew. Thanks for your comment.

  • The Shakespeare Aloud actors had our first request for a scene from Romeo and Juliet yesterday from a visitor who only knew the play from Gnomeo and Juliet so I think it will be required viewing for the summer season team!

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