How Broadway Shows Like & Juliet Change How We Learn Literature and History

From the Perspective of a High School Literature Buff


Lauren Ciudad, Staff Writer

Most middle and high school students don’t find reading Shakespeare in the classroom to be peak entertainment. Surely, the 2023 Broadway season has noticed that. In November 2022, & Juliet officially opened on Broadway at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, following the successes of the West End and Toronto productions. 

& Juliet follows not only the story of the title character of Shakespeare’s classic work, Romeo & Juliet, but also the history of Anne Hathaway and William Shakespeare’s marriage. As Anne attempts to rewrite a happy ending for Juliet that doesn’t include Romeo, Shakespeare counters every attempt with a new conflict. Anne ends up writing herself into the production as Juliet’s friend, April.

Alongside Juliet’s queer and nonbinary-coded best friend, May, and designated responsible adult, Nurse Angelique, the four meet François DuBois. As the son of a well-respected former soldier and the only of his brothers not to follow in his father’s footsteps, François and Juliet’s stories intertwine in a rocky path to the discovery of romantic attraction as well as the ability to make their own choices. 

Not only does & Juliet change the narrative in a literal sense, but it also put a creative spin on a classic made especially for the new generation. Everything from the music to the costumes includes trends seen in Generation Z and late Millennial culture. Using the songs of artists like Britney Spears, Katy Perry, and the Backstreet Boys, the writers David West Read and Max Martin created an entertaining and easy (well, easier) to understand production that continues the story in a tastefully updated way. 

A story like this, where teens and young adults can see themselves in every character on that stage, changes the course of how today’s generation views history and classic literature. While characters like François and May tackle LGBTQ+ themes and put them downstage center, they aren’t the first characters to retell and reinvent history. In 2015, Lin Manuel Miranda’s renowned and popular musical, Hamilton, opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway. From that point on, Miranda was known for his reimagining of United States history featuring a cast of actors and actresses of color. Teenagers all over the country, and even overseas, bonded in online communities over their newfound fascination with Alexander Hamilton’s story. 

As our society grows and changes through the years, our entertainment should change with it. Each new generation demands a different perspective on societal issues. The good news: That’s okay! It’s only a matter of making the media easy to digest and exciting, but shows like & Juliet have done just that.