Romeo and Juliet: A Timeless Tragedy

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Romeo and Juliet: A Timeless Tragedy

William Shakespeare wrote his ever famous play, Romeo and Juliet, in 1595. Like many of Shakespeare’s plays, the story of Romeo and Juliet is timeless and has proven to remain perhaps the most popular story of tragic love. In 1968, 373 years after the play was originally written, a new movie was released and hailed as a new and futuristic Romeo and Juliet. This film is directed by Franco Zeffirelli and stars Leonard Whiting as Romeo and Olivia Hussey as Juliet. Then, in 1996, a mere 401 years after Shakespeare’s original production, Baz Luhrmann directed a new Romeo and Juliet that features Leonardo Dicaprio as Romeo and Claire Danes as Juliet. This film is extremely futuristic compared to any other version that has been produced. The two films differ from Shakespeare’s original play in some respects, but most viewers would agree that these films both follow Shakespeare’s story with adaptations to the time at which they were produced.
Franco Zeffirelli’s version of the play follows Shakespeare’s version very closely. The buildings and costumes reveal that the setting in this film is old Verona during Shakespeare’s time. The plot is nearly exact when compared to the original play. Most viewers would agree that Zeffirelli’s movie would not surprise that audience of William Shakespeare. Aside from the this production being a movie on a screen instead of an actual, first hand play, the language, plot, setting, and costumes are very similar to what an audience 400 years ago might expect.
Although both films have been named futuristic, more so is the version by Baz Luhrmann. Luhrmann took Romeo and Juliet in a different direction. The story takes place in the future where buildings, costumes, and weapons are all suggestive of the future, but the language and basic plot structure is extremely similar to Shakespeare’s original Romeo and Juliet. The movie opens with a prologue in the form of evening news on television, and it tells that this will be a story of “star cross’d lovers'; who will die for their love of each other.
Each difference takes an element of the original play and adapts it to the new setting. Shakespeare’s play had servants of both the Capulet family and the Montague family starting a fight in a public square. Luhrmann introduced these characters as the “Capulet Boys'; and the “Montague Boys';. The fight breaks out in a gas station and continues throughout a busy street.
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