Rewriting Classic Stories Literary Analysis Comprehension Exercise

Re-writing requires reading; reading is one roadway to the mind. By re-writing by paraphrase is one form of reinforcing understanding. Re-writing into another genre, e.g., poem to short story, short story to a dramatic production, or novel to epic poem, etc. can additionally not only strengthen the grasp on the original concepts but also may reveal some new wrinkles.

One assignment I gave to a ninth grade class was the following:

Re-write the Shakespearean Play Romeo and Juliet as a short story using the same five elements that appear in each genre:

Act I, exposition;
Act II, rising action;
Act III, conflict;
Act IV, falling action; and
Act V, the resolution.

Include a correlation of scene description as part of the details of the story. Introduce the characters in the order in which they appear, or close to it, although every character does not have to be included.

The story should be divided into five (5) parts for the convenience of isolating the action in the development of the story so that the events depicted are chronologically correct.

It can begin in the following manner.

Once, many years ago, in an Italian city called Verona, there existed two feuding families that fought like wild and vicious red ants and black ants against each other as often as they could. No one ever knew why they did. They themselves had no clue. But they did anyway because that is the way it was and always had been. It just happened that whenever a member of one family saw a member of the other, one of them went postal. The result was a small and meaningless war. Someone always left bleeding or injured. Once in a while, some left, or were left, dead.
The ruler of this city was a Prince or some official named Prince, or some official who thought of himself to be a prince, or at least wished he had been. Anyway, he had to keep coming to the center of the city to break up the constant fighting and it was really getting him short of patience, not that he had any in the first place. But, he was really mad his time and issued something nobody could pronounce. He called it an ultimatum. I looked it up and found out that he meant, “Or else!” Then I remembered the part of the ultimatum that stated anyone caught fighting would be put to death. That seemed a bit harsh, but I guess he had to do it in order to keep his job, his sanity, or both.
When that last fight ended, the Prince ordered both heads of the feuding families to meet with him. I am sure he was not intending to play Family Feud with them. Perhaps he wanted to set the rules and make sure the heads of the households understood all the implications. I also wonder why he didn’t invite the women who seemed to be the ones to hold the families together and had more control over the families than their husbands did. Personally, I think it was because they really weren’t women at all. They were really men playing the role of women. I am sort of convinced of that. It makes more sense than any alternative theory. [Are you beginning to see how it works as a story?]