Audiences at Anglophone productions of Shakespeare bring to the theatre assumptions and expectations about the plays formed over many years of study and familiarity: English speakers grow up with Shakespeare texts. But familiarity can occasion rigidity about texts, and inhibit the degree of interpretive innovation possible in performance. Productions in translation for non-English-speaking audiences are often revelatory, presenting the plays as if new, as, indeed, they are to much of the audience. This essay considers Italian productions of Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night that for English speakers were strikingly original; in Italian, elements of the plays that to Anglophone audiences were over-familiar or melodramatic became high points of the drama. Shakespeare here became the essence of theatre, unconstrained by tradition or language.