Elvis and Shakespeare

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Elvis with memories of Shakespeare

Elvis with memories of Shakespeare

‘Romeo loved Juliet
Juliet she felt the same
When he put his arms around her
He said ‘Julie, baby, you’re my flame
Thou giv-est fever when we kisseth
Fever with the flaming youth
Fever I’m afire
Fever yea I burn for sooth’

Elvis Presley would have sung these lyrics about Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers hundreds of times when performing ‘Fever’, a song written by Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell and first recorded by Little Willie John in 1956, then by Elvis himself in 1960. Had Elvis ever seen a production of Romeo and Juliet? Did these lyrics have a particular association for him – could he put a face to Romeo and Juliet in his mind’s eye? It would be another eight years before Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey entered the popular imagination as Shakespeare’s tragic couple via the success of Franco Zeferreli’s Academy Award winning film of the play. As Elvis sang this song night after night, it is possible that the lyric became tinged with a sense of personal regret and frustration.

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Author:Nick Walton

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

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