Over time, through numerous readings and productions of the play, we attempt to make Romeo and Juliet-as well as any other character in any other literary text-speak to our own changing sensibilities. Through the use of smart-aleck humor in, west Side Story 's \"Gee Office Krupke\" and the stylized violence in, romeo Juliet, in which "The Montague Boys" and "The Capulet Boys" positively revel in their own thuggishness, the films might very well encourage young male viewers to identify with the transvalued, problem-causing behaviors displayed on the screen. Specifically, modern popular receptions of the play locate the feud as well as the courtship, marriage, and death of the title characters in youth culture itself. West Side Story, adapted for the stage in 1957 and released on film in 1961, rewrites the feud, setting the play in New York's Upper West Side, where racialized, teenage street gangs of Jets. Furthermore, during the balcony scene, Juliet also becomes responsible for the tragedy which is about to happen; in fact, after declaring her love to Romeo, she made the decision to marry him, and this marriage will become another main cause of their death.
I suggest, then, that when we teach Shakespeare's play, we should consider teaching it both in and against its reception in modern popular culture. Simply put, Romeo and Juliet are our contemporaries because we make them our contemporaries.