“He Speaks… Or Rather… He Tweets”: The Specter of the “Original,” Media, and “Media-Crossed” Love in Such Tweet Sorrow

  • Maurizio Calbi
Part of the Reproducing Shakespeare: New Studies in Adaptation and Appropriation book series (RESH)


This chapter focuses on Such Tweet Sorrow, a modern-day performance of Romeo and Juliet on the social networking platform Twitter that took place over a period of almost five weeks in 2010, produced by the UK-based multimedia company Mudlark in collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company, digital media company Screen WM, and Channel Four’s now-defunct digital investment fund 4iP.1 Unlike previous experiments with Twitter-based Shakespeare,2 Such Tweet Sorrow stands out as the first professional Twitter adaptation of a Shakespearean play, and still the only one to date, in which actors associated with the Royal Shakespeare Company interacted with one another as well as with the audience of Twitter followers in “real time,” improvising on the “missions” they received each day from Mudlark’s writing team (Tim Wright and Bethan Marlow),3 and reacting to events taking place at the time, such as the 2010 political elections in Britain, the London Marathon and Champions League matches. It was the first adaptation, therefore, that attempted to explore the dramatic potential of Twitter as an online interactive social platform, and add entertainment to its “traditional” uses as a microblogging platform, source of information and general-purpose networking.4 What also differentiates Such Tweet Sorrow from other forms of Twitter Shakespeare is that it continually drew attention to itself as a Twitter adaptation, as indicated, for instance, by Mercutio’s tweet to Romeo that gives the title to this chapter (“Oh he speaks … or rather … he tweets,” 24 Apr., 10:12 a.m.), a playful citation and transformation, with homoerotic overtones, of Romeo’s reaction to Juliet’s initial words in the balcony scene (“She speaks,” 2.1.67).5


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© Maurizio Calbi 2013

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  • Maurizio Calbi

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