The Interpretation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet by Baz Luhrmann and Franco Zeffirelli

The Interpretation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet by Baz Luhrmann and Franco Zeffirelli

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The Interpretation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet by Baz Luhrmann and Franco Zeffirelli

In this essay I am going to discuss the different interpretations of
Shakespeare's tragic love story, Romeo and Juliet and how fate works
against them. It is such a tragedy as they knew their love would never
be accepted and end up taking their lives. During the play fate works
against them from the beginning and begins to get worse. "Whose
misadventured piteous overthrows", this shows us that once things had
started to go wrong pity and sadness takes over their life.

In the 1600's a lot was blamed on fate, as the technology wasn't as
advanced as it is today, many disasters such as unexpected deaths were
said to be because of fate. Many Elizabethan's were largely interested
in the stars and astrology and put lots of their faith into fate.
Another thing that happened in Elizabethan time was that many people
did not marry for love. They married for money, respect, social status
and children. Even though four hundred years is a lot, much of the
social context is the same today such as teenage suicide, family
grudges and money. I am going to be examining Shakespeare's language
and text, especially in the prologue and when the lovers first meet in
Act 1 Scene 5.

I will start by discussing how the prologue is written and why it is
there. Shakespeare has started many of his plays with a prologue. A
prologue is written as a sonnet, which is a type of poem with fourteen
lines and ten syllables in each line. The prologue is an introduction
to the play, hinting at what is going to happen. "From forth the fatal
loins of these two foes, a pair of star crossed lovers take their
life", this conveys that something bad is going to happen to the two
lovers and how it is written in the stars, also that it will end
tragically in death. As it comes to the end of the prologue it

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concludes by saying " The which if you with patient ears attend, what
here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend", which is saying that
you should wait and listen carefully, and if you miss anything they
will try to help. As you can see the prologue ends with a rhyming
couplet. I think that the prologue is really good and cleverly thought
out. I also think it is an important part of Shakespeare's play and
both film versions of Romeo and Juliet.

I am going to discuss two film interpretations of Shakespeare's Romeo
and Juliet. The first was made in 1968, directed by a man called
Franco Zeffirelli. The second was made in 1997 directed by Baz
Luhrmann. They are both very different as Zeffirelli has kept it very
traditional. As it is set in Verona, Italy in Elizabethan times just
as Shakespeare had wanted it. Many people were in poverty in this time
period and there were many diseases with little medical treatment.
Whereas Luhrmann set his interpretation in America on the fictional
Verona beach, in the late 1990's. Luhrmann's version is very modern,
where most people are very wealthy. I think Baz Luhrmann's target
audience is adults and teenagers, we see this in the prologue as it is
very fast and modern there is also visual images of people fighting. I
think the target audience for Franco zeffirelli's version is adults.
This is again shown in the prologue as it is very calm, soft and slow
which I think appeals to adults the most.

I will now discuss more differences and similarities between the two
versions of the prologue. In Luhrmann's interpretation the prologue is
told once as a news report then again with appropriate scenes. "In
fair Verona" "A pair of star cross'd lovers" and "take their life" are
the lines from the prologue, which are exaggerated the most using
visual and sound effects. For example the lines would be written
across the screen. I think Luhrmann chose to emphasise the prologue as
much as he did because it sets the scene for the whole film so well.
When Luhrmann repeated the prologue he edited out the last two lines,
I think he did this as it refers to it being a play, which was not
what Luhrmann was making. The last two lines were also edited out of
Zeffirelli's version along with four lines before that. In total
Zeffirelli edited out six lines, he ended the prologue at "Doth with
their death bury their parents strife" I think he did this because he
may have thought he had told enough and wanted to get into the film.

I would now like to talk about Act 1 Scene 5 and its importance
throughout the play. At the beginning of Act 1 Scene 5 Shakespeare
makes it clear that people are getting ready for the Capulet's party,
we then hear a long speech from Capulet welcoming his guests. During
the speech Capulet refers to the party being a masked occasion, "I
have seen the day that I have worn a visor and could tell a whispering
tale in a fair lady's ear" I think Shakespeare decided to have a
masked party because Romeo and his friends would not have been able to
hide their identifies, as Montague's, if it wasn't. As Romeo talks to
him self about Juliet's beauty Tybalt Capulet hears and straight away
recognises his voice and with great anger goes to confront him.
However on the way he bumps into Capulet and tells him of Romeos
presence, Capulet demands that Tybalt should let Romeo be, as he
doesn't want to ruin his party. This part of the play is important as
it starts a chain reaction to many more disasters that accrue later on
in the play such as the fight that leads to Rome's best friend,
Mecutio's death also the banishment of Romeo.

Act 1 Scene 5 is such an important part in the play as this is when
the lover's first encounter takes place. The first words that pass
Romeo and Juliet's lips are about committing a sin, kissing. I think
Juliet starts to fall for Romeo after kissing him as she gives him a
compliment "You kiss by th'book" By this I think she is saying that he
kisses like someone out of a fairytale. After more kissing the two get
pulled apart by Juliet's nurse, Romeo sees another chance to find out
the origin of his new love, however he does not like the outcome, this
is another reason why this scene is very important.

Even before finding out that Romeo, is in fact the only son of her
family rivals Juliet begins to foresee that something might prevent
them being together, "If he be married my grave is like to be my
wedding bed". This conveys that Juliet is comparing her wedding bed to
her grave suggesting that if she was to get together with Romeo it
will end it death. Juliet actually does appear to be dead to her
family on her wedding day to Paris so Shakespeare is again smartly
hinting at what is going to happen later on in the play. When Juliet
does find out who Romeo is she is very distressed "My only love sprung
from my only hate! Too early seen unknown, and known too late!
Prodigious birth of love it is to me, that I must love a loathed
enemy" I think this shows how upset she is as she states the situation
she is in very well. This quotation is very famous and as you can see
there are rhyming couplets, which were very common in Shakespeare's

There are many differences and similarities in the way that Luhrmann
and Zeffirelli present Act 1 Scene 5, and I will now start to discuss
them. In both versions Capulet's speech is edited a great deal I think
they may have done this because they wanted to get into the party. In
Luhrmann's version it is fancy dress with Romeo as a knight and Juliet
as an angel. As if to say Romeo is Juliet's knight in shining Armour
from Paris, the one her parents want her to marry I think this is why
Luhrmann added him into the scene, as he says very little. Zeffirelli
decided to keep it as a masked party. When Tybalt tells Capulet that
Romeo is at the party in Zeffirelli's interpretation he is much more
laid back whereas in Luhrmann's interpretation it is a lot more
violent as Capulet hits Tybalt. The lovers first see each other as
Romeo watches the fish in the fish tank where he sees Juliet's beauty
on the other side. They follow each other across the fish tank with
their face's light by the bright fluorescent fish. I think this part
of the scene shows just how modern it is, I also think it is a lot
more romantic than Zeffirelli's interpretation. In Zeffirelli's
version the two see each other across a crowded hall and look for each
other through all the people. When the two do finally speak it is very
dark around them with soft light on their faces. Zeffirelli kept it
very traditional using actors for Romeo and Juliet that were actually
around the age of fourteen, whereas Luhrmann used actors that were
older however I think Juliet looked gentle and innocent and that Romeo
looked misleading. Luhrmann casted a very famous and good-looking
actor for Romeo I think he may have done this to modernise and attract
more attention to the film. The music in Luhrmann's interpretation is
very modern it can be soft and then very loud and lively whereas in
Zeffirelli's interpretation it is very traditional with lots of soft
music and old dancing with bells. In Zeffirelli's version there is a
lot of soft lighting and candles while Luhrmann used lots of bright
colour like fluorescent blues and yellows. Luhrmann also gives us the
impression that Romeo has taken drugs "These drugs work quick" We also
see Romeo take a pill of some kind and see the party from his eyes
where the room and people in it are spinning and bright colours. I
think he did this because drugs were and still are a big social issue,
so he did it to modernize the film.

I feel that Baz Luhrmann's version of Romeo and Juliet is most
convincing as it is very modern and keeps you interested in what is
happening. I think there is a lot more action in Luhrmann's
interpretation I also think that the action is much more emphasised
than Zeffirelli's version, this is one reason why I think me and many
more, prefer the modern version. I think that Luhrmann reached his
target audience very well as many teenagers find themselves hooked on
the film. However I do understand that Zeffirelli may have set a
different target audience and that the technology wasn't as advanced
as it is today. I feel that Baz Luhrmann did a great job of
modernising one of the most famous and oldest plays of all time and
keeping the old English language also of maintaining teenagers
interest. I think that if Shakespeare could have seen Luhrmann's
interpretation he would be very pleased to see how other people see
his play and how much of a success him, his play and the film was and

In conclusion fate is a big factor in Romeo and Juliet's relationship,
which we are told right at the beginning in the prologue. Out of the
two interpretations Franco Zeffirelli kept his version very
traditional whereas Baz Luhrmann made his very modern which is shown
throughout the film. I looked especially at Shakespeare's prologue and
Act 1 Scene 5 where the lovers first meet also at the different
interpretations. Act 1 Scene 5 is such an important part in the play
as this is when the lovers first meet and realise there love for each
other, also when they find out who their love really is. I think that
Luhrmann's interpretation is the better of the two and think that
Shakespeare would be proud to see how famous it has become.
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