Although the story of Romeo and Juliet is over 500 years old, it is as relevant and appealing today as it was when first performed.
Although dated, the story of Romeo and Juliet still holds great appeal and relevance to today’s society, despite the differences in morals and values between William Shakespeare’s audience 500 years ago, and Baz Luhrmann’s audience today. The arising issues of order and authority, fate and love entertain/ed and appeals/ed to both viewers in different ways.
Shakespeare’s original play, Romeo and Juliet reflected the important Elizabethan concerns in relation to authority, law and order, making it relevant to the audiences’ morals and values of the time, as well appealing and entertaining.
Shakespeare explored the consequences of order breaking down in society, demonstrated through many characters’ disobediences, with the result of chaos and ultimate consequence being the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.
All characters were disobedient in some way, including Romeo and Juliet themselves. For instance, they both deceived their parents by getting married, Romeo killed Tybalt and Juliet faked death. Other characters, such as Tybalt, Mercutio, Montague and Capulet boys, went against the orders of the Prince by continuing violent actions in the city of Verona. The Friar and the Nurse are also guilty because they aided the young lovers’ immoderate actions - their meetings and marriage.
Shakespeare offers the simple solution to this chaos as being obedient by respecting authority, law and order, being responsible with power as well as to be punished for their sins. This punishment is ultimately seen at the end of the play following the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. All characters have been hurt by this, hence being punished for their disobediences; “All are punished!” – the Prince.
In this sense, Shakespeare’s play sets morals for the Elizabethan era, displaying the results of disobedience, violence and chaos.
Luhrmann’s modern appropriation of the play also deals with authority, law and order, however instead of setting morals and offering solutions, it is relevant in that it displays a different viewpoint on modern society. He displays the world as being hectic and very fast, focused mainly on wealth and power, having lost sight of true values such as love, compassion and moral t...
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... continuous, but particularly apparent in the use of water as a symbol of purity and harmony. During the ‘balcony’ scene, the water plays a major role in the connection between the lovers. It is a symbol of their unity and reciprocated love.
This symbol of peace and harmony is then tainted by the death of Tybalt as he falls into a pond after being killed by Romeo. This scene also uses sequences of flashbacks to Romeo and Juliet in the pool, memories of the purity and cleanliness of Romeo’s conscience.
It is then non-existent in the scenes of Romeo in the very dry, baron landscapes of Mantua. This symbolises the loss of his true love, and also any peace and harmony he knew before being banished.
Other romantic symbolism in the film includes the extreme close-up shots of Romeo and Juliet when they are together, for example, in the tomb, repeated shots of the wedding ring – a physical symbol of their love.
Together, Shakespeare’s original play and Baz Luhrmann’s modern appropriation is a relevant and appealing insight into the Elizabethan era as well as modern society. By comparing the two, it is made obvious the changes and differences in morals and values over 500 years.
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