We know that modern audiences tend to appreciate a story with even the hint of a Shakespeare plot line : West Side Story. Ten Things I Hate About You. Lion King. “Hey,” people tell each other, “Did you know that’s based on a Shakespeare story?”
Thing is, we also know that Shakespeare simply rewrote existing stories.
So if you remove Shakespeare’s words and retreat back to the story, where does the inherent value and appeal come from? Do we like it because we associate it with Shakespeare and therefore lift it up more than we might? Or are we looking at the deeper story that predates Shakespeare, that caused even Shakespeare himself to say “Hey, that’s good, I should borrow that.”
Take Romeo and Juliet. We know that Shakespeare rewrote that one. He added characters and changed some stuff around. So what if we staged the Romeo and Juliet story today, without those additions? Would it still work? And if it didn’t, would that be because it wasn’t as good a story until Shakespeare got to it? Or has the Shakespearean version become so ingrained in our brains that if we recognize it as “not Shakespeare” then it’s just not as good?