Romeo and Juliet
A Study on the Role of Juliet As Depicted In the Movies by Franco Zeffirelli and Baz Luhrmann
Juliet Character Analysis
Perhaps among the most dismal of passages in all of history is the final scene of Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare. In this scene, Act 5, Scene 3, Romeo, who believes Juliet to be dead, visits the tomb where her body rests, encountering Paris outside (Shakespeare 5. 3. 1-69). They fight with their swords, and Romeo kills him before entering the tomb and finding Juliet (Shakespeare 5. 3. 70-108). He drinks his poison and is found dead by Friar Laurence just as Juliet is awakening (Shakespeare 5. 3. 109-172). The friar, frightened by a noise, leaves Juliet alone with her dead husband, where she desperately stabs herself and dies (Shakespeare 5. 3. 173-184). Romeo and Juliet has been the subject of several film adaptations, including Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (1968) and Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (1997). These two directors approach this poignant scene in starkly contrasting ways, specifically how they interpret Juliet’s character. Zeffirelli views Juliet as a determined, yet somewhat impulsive girl, while Luhrmann imagines her to be more level-headed.
Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet is set in the same place and time period as the play: 14th century Verona, Italy. Originally, this scene begins with Romeo meeting, and eventually killing, Paris outside the Capulet tomb. However, Zeffirelli chose to exclude this part of the scene. Possible reasons this was done could be that he wanted to focus on the tragedy of the lovers in the final moments of the movie, or that he didn’t wish to villainize Romeo when he is supposedly mourning. Instead, Zeffirelli begins the scene with the events following Paris’s death. Romeo enters the dim, dank room in search of Juliet. He passes several other dead bodies before finding her. She is wearing a gold long-sleeved dress and headpiece, both decorated with beads. A sheer white sheet covers her, and the delicate plucking of a harp plays the movie’s theme as Romeo pulls it back. He gazes fondly upon her and remarks how beautiful she is, even in death. His eyes lift from Juliet and fall on the deceased Tybalt, whom he had killed in Act 3 (Shakespeare 3. 1. 140-145). He apologizes sincerely, then returns to Juliet. He buries his head in the sheet covering her and sobs. The music rises and falls again before reaching its climax when Romeo drinks from the vial of poison. He takes Juliet’s hand in his and kisses it. “Thus with a kiss I die,” he says as he falls dead (Shakespeare 5. 3. 123). With his dying breath, Romeo states that his last action will be a gesture of love.
Moments later, Friar Laurence arrives and finds Romeo’s lifeless body on the ground (Zeffirelli). As the friar mourns this new loss, Juliet’s fingers begin to move and she wakes up slowly. Despite the friar’s best efforts to bring Juliet away from the scene, she catches sight of Romeo. Friar Laurence pulls her arm hurriedly, but she refuses to leave. “I dare no longer stay!” he shouts several times, exiting hastily (Shakespeare 5. 3. 172). He doesn’t wish to leave Juliet, but he knows that if he doesn’t come away now, he will be caught by the night watch. The music speeds up and becomes louder before stopping suddenly, leaving Juliet in silence as she walks slowly towards Romeo, her face plastered with horror and shock. She comes to kneel beside him, resting his head in her hands and finding the small vial. After concluding that Romeo had drunk poison from the vial, she frantically brings it to her lips, only to find it empty. “O churl! drank all, and left no friendly drop to help me after?” she says, pained (Shakespeare 5. 3. 176-177). She is angry with Romeo for not leaving some poison for her. Just as Romeo was suicidal when told Juliet is dead, Juliet wishes to kill herself now as well. She kisses him in hopes that there is still some poison left on his lips. She pulls away, however, with a look of anguish, saying, “Thy lips are warm” (Shakespeare 5. 3. 180)! Juliet knows that only minutes ago, Romeo was alive. To have had her dream come so close to reality, only to be abruptly cut short, is a miserable realization for Juliet. She weeps, clinging to Romeo and wailing. Shouting voices from outside pull her from her love. Knowing that people will soon be entering the room, Juliet yells lividly. She spies Romeo’s dagger and snatches it up, determined. “O happy dagger!” she exclaims, “This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die” (Shakespeare 5. 3. 182-183). Welcoming death, she thrusts the blade into her stomach and moans. She dies with her head resting on Romeo’s shoulder, signifying her desire to die with him.
While Zeffirelli altered a few aspects of this scene, Luhrmann greatly transformed it. Most notably, he changed the setting from Italy during the Renaissance, to L.A. in the 1990s. Though he modernized the setting of the story, he did not do so with the script, choosing instead to quote Shakespeare directly. Like Zeffirelli, Luhrmann did not include Romeo’s fight with Paris. However, unlike Zeffirelli, Luhrmann has in its place Romeo taking a man hostage with his gun while the police are chasing him. Luhrmann might have done this to show how desperate Romeo was in that instant. Another element Luhrmann changed was Juliet’s resting place. Originally, she is laid in the Capulet tomb. In Luhrmann’s film, she is placed in a church. After Romeo releases his hostage, he enters this church and follows a pathway flanked by neon crosses. The music, which had previously been absent, begins to shift from a barely audible note to high-pitched singing similar to opera, growing louder as Romeo nears Juliet at the end of the pathway. Rising in intensity, the music heightens the suspense of the scene while also exuding a sense of solemnity. Juliet, wearing a white long-sleeved gown reminiscent of a wedding dress, is surrounded by numerous candles and holds a small bouquet of flowers. Viewing this picture, I feel that Romeo is being mocked, because this scene would be identical to that of a wedding if Juliet were alive. Romeo sits beside her and strokes her face and hair adoringly, saying, “My love. My wife. Death, that hath sucked the honey of thy breath, hath had no power yet upon thy beauty” (Shakespeare 5. 3. 94-96). Romeo whispers these words, amazed that Juliet’s beauty has not been affected by her death. After these lines, in the original play and in Zeffirelli’s film, Romeo notices the dead Tybalt. However, as this scene is set in a church and not a tomb, Tybalt’s body is elsewhere, and this event does not occur in Luhrmann’s adaptation. Luhrmann possibly wanted to focus solely on the two main characters in this, their last scene.
After speaking fondly to Juliet once more, Romeo breaks off the ring hanging from his neck and places it on her finger, again echoing a wedding (Luhrmann). In this movie, Juliet begins to awaken before Romeo dies, another divergence from the play. Her fingers twitch as Romeo utters his final monologue, retrieving his vial of poison. As he puts it to his lips, Juliet’s eyes flutter open. When she first sees Romeo, she smiles contentedly. Still somewhat asleep, Juliet fails to realize what Romeo is doing and strokes his face. She is too late, though, as the poison has already passed his lips. Romeo turns to her in shock, grabbing her hand, and the music rises to accentuate the tragedy unfolding. Juliet, now fully awake, looks on in confusion as Romeo starts convulsing. After discovering the empty vial, she exclaims, “Drank all, and left no friendly drop to help me after” (Shakespeare 5. 3. 176-177)? When Romeo doesn’t answer she whispers, “I will kiss thy lips. Haply some poison yet doth hang on them” (Shakespeare 5. 3. 177-178). Juliet, unable to cope with the thought of living without Romeo, decides she would rather die, so she kisses him in an effort to ingest enough poison to kill her. Romeo faintly replies with, “Thus with a kiss I die” (Shakespeare 5. 3. 123). Seconds after murmuring this, his head falls to the side, lifeless. Juliet stares at him, tears forming in her eyes. She turns away, and a ragged sob escapes her lips. She is completely silent as she perceives Romeo’s gun and carefully handles it. She observes the weapon, as if deliberating whether or not to use it. Juliet cannot see a way to go on without Romeo, so ultimately she decides to act upon her feelings. She delicately places the gun to her temple and looks up, acknowledging the severity of her actions. Her prolonged silence combined with the absence of any music emphasizes the seriousness of the scene and causes the viewer to feel solemn. The camera cuts from Juliet to an angle farther away, encompassing the entire church, as a gunshot is heard and Juliet’s body slumps forward. The camera returns to the two at an odd angle and pulls out slowly, showing Juliet lying beside Romeo, as peaceful music begins to play softly.
Franco Zeffirelli’s interpretation of Juliet produces a character who acts impulsively, while Baz Luhrmann characterizes her as sensible and coolheaded. In Zeffirelli’s film Juliet, without much thought, tries to kill herself by drinking poison from the vial and shouts out in frustration when that doesn’t work. She seems more strongly affected by Romeo’s death than Luhrmann’s Juliet, who appears somber and contemplative when she puts the gun to her head. Luhrmann’s Juliet is careful, while Zeffirelli’s Juliet is a bit melodramatic. One can conclude from these examples that art is subjective. These directors created two distinct portrayals of a single character from Romeo and Juliet. Although different these two Juliets are both completely valid, because they employ the same information from the original play.
Action Speaks Louder Than Words: Evidence In Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet
They say that actions speak louder than words, which translates to doing something is more important than saying something. This is exhibited in William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” written in 1594, which was the beginning and height of Shakespeare’s career. If one has lived under a rock for the past 500 years and has not read the play, they would not know that both main characters, Romeo and Juliet, die at the end of the script, and a popular topic of discussion then and now has been the ultimate cause of this tragic death. Some blame Juliet’s family, some blame Romeo’s family, and others blame Friar Lawrence, but people who really read and understood the play and know how physics work know that Juliet is the one who, in the end, killed herself. Juliet, though not the only one to blame, ended up wielding the knife (or, in this case, the dagger) that ended her life because she lacked judgement, approved and went through with the plan, and was not forced to stab herself.
One main flaw in Juliet’s logic was that she was unwise and unintelligent, love blinding her view of reality. In Act 5, Scene 3, Juliet says “Haply some poison yet doth hang on Romeo’s lips, To make me die with a restorative” then goes on to kiss Romeo, saying “Thy lips are warm”. One example of Juliet’s ignorance was that they did not fill Romeo in on the plan, despite their attempts. This, in turn, resulted in Romeo killing himself, causing Juliet to kill herself. With better explanation, both of these things could have been avoided. Another way that Juliet caused her own timely death, other than not fully explaining the plan to everyone involved, was that she also approved the plan in the first place. There were too many possible negative outcomes in the plan, and Juliet and Friar Lawrence did not work hard enough to work those out, and it resulted in dire consequences.
For example, somebody could have found out about the plan, and made things worse than they already were, and they had to be very confident in their relationship if they were going to risk their past lives with their families for their love; there was no going back from this. Finally, the ultimate risky consequence, was what happened: both of them dying. In Act 5, Scene 3, Romeo says “Here’s to my love! (drinks the poison) O true apothecary, Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die” before killing himself on account of thinking Juliet was dead, when he really saw her under the effects of a sleeping potion. This emphasizes the holes and risks in the plan, and why Romeo and Juliet should not have gone through with it. Lastly, and mostly, the ultimate way in which Juliet caused her own death other than her lack of judgement and logical plan was that she stabbed herself. In Act 5, Scene 3, she stabs herself after seeing Romeo dead, after he sees her “dead” or sleeping because of the potion, saying This is thy sheath. There rust and let me die”. This is direct proof that the only one who caused real, physical harm to Juliet was Juliet herself.
Sure, the others drove her to it, but Juliet’s death was literally at her hands. Despite being drove to risking her life and eventually suicide by those around her, Juliet is the only one that can be ultimately blamed for her own death. This is due to her lack of judgement, unpreparedness with her plan, and physical harm to herself. Her deadly actions spoke louder than Friar’s, Romeo’s, and her family’s words in that they did not physically kill her. The only one who held the knife to her body was herself, and if we break the question down to its fundamentals, it is obvious that she is the one to blame, in the end, for her death.
Types Of Love Presented In Romeo And Juliet By Shakespeare
Romeo and Juliet is a play written by Shakespeare in the 1500’s. It tells us the tragedy of two young lovers named Romeo and Juliet who fall in love at first sight but can never be together due to their two families conflict which ends up in both of the young lovers committing suicide. Juliet was also not allowed to marry due to the fact that a marriage had already been arranged by her father as this was set in the 1500’s and this was common practice. This essay will argue about how love is presented through the two main protagonists Romeo and Juliet and the types of love that is presented through the characters are unrequited love, secretive love and romantic love.
Firstly unrequited love is presented through Romeo and Rosaline, the first person he falls in love with but she wants to become a nun the quote ‘she’ll not be hit by cupid’s arrow. She hath Dian’s wit in a strong proof of chastity well-armed. From love’s weak childish bow she lives unharmed.’ the phrase ‘she’ll not be hit by cupid’s arrow’ and to further break that down the adverb ‘not’ implies Romeo is using cupid as a medium of him confessing his love for her and the adverb ‘not’ suggests she does not have feelings for him back making this form of love unrequited to further that ‘weak childish bow’ implies Romeo thinks that Rosaline is too strong or too good for his love which presents Romeo as quite mopey and sad because his love for Rosaline was unrequited. Unrequited love is also presented through Juliet and Paris who is the person that Juliet was arranged to marry the phrase ‘He shall not make me there a joyful bride.’ this quote infers that Juliet doesn’t love Paris at all unlike Paris who loves Juliet and tells her to confess her love to him ‘Do not deny to him that you love me.’ this phrase was Paris trying to get Juliet to confess her love for him but Juliet refuses by referring to Romeo and making Paris think she’s talking about him even though Juliet doesn’t love him back. Unrequited love is presented through the characters Romeo and Juliet and it’s also partly what leads Romeo to meeting Juliet due to the fact that since Romeo was moping around due to the fact his love was rejected his friend forced him to go to the party which ends up in Romeo and Juliet meeting.
Secondly love is presented as romantic and mostly through Romeo during the majority of the play the quote ‘I have night’s cloak to hide me from their eyes and but thou let them love me, let them find me here, my life were better ended by their hate than prorogued wanting of thy love’ and to further break that down ‘ended by their hate than prorogued by their love’ the verb ‘better ended’ heavily suggests Romeo is so romantically in love with Juliet he would rather die than not be with her this is romantic because Romeo’s exclaiming his love for Juliet out loud and in an expressive form which is essentially the definition of romantic. Furthermore Romeo also gives another example of romantic love when Juliet asks him how he got over the fence he says ‘with love’s light wings did i o’erperch these walls for stony limits cannot hold love out’ the metaphor ‘with love’s light wings’ implies Romeo’s love for Juliet is so strong that it can turn him into a different being that stops at nothing to be with Juliet and also ‘these stony limits cannot hold love out’ also implies that again Romeo will stop at nothing to confess his love and be with Juliet. Thirdly romantic love is presented as a romantic cliché as every time he’s with a female character he’s not related to he feels the need to confess his love to them and or make some kind of romantic gesture in that characters presence.
Thirdly, love is presented as secretive in Romeo and Juliet through Romeo and Juliet because due to their feuding families they have to keep their relationship a secret, a phrase to support this is ‘and the place death considering who thou art if any of my kinsmen find thou here’ this was when Romeo was by Juliet’s balcony and this quote implies that due to Romeo being a Montague he would be killed by Juliet’s relatives if he got caught seeing Juliet and this is the reason Romeo and Juliet keep their relationship a secret and how love is presented as secretive is because the repercussions the two would face if they were to be found out and for example Juliet’s father Capulet threatens to disown her because she refuses to obey him by saying she doesn’t want to marry Paris and so if she is found out to be married to Romeo chances are Capulet would do something a lot worse. Furthermore ‘and I am proof against their enmity’ teaches us another reason that Romeo and Juliet decide to keep their relationship a secret is hate, this is a recurring theme in the book where both families fight over unknown reasons and the reason that Romeo and Juliet decide to keep their relationship a secret is that due to their families conflicts they don’t know how their families will react due to their differences so the fear of that is why Shakespeare uses secretive love to present Romeo and Juliet’s relationship and this gives the reader a feeling of sympathy because the reader wants Romeo and Juliet to be happy and express their love openly.
Ultimately, Shakespeare presents love as a volatile and somewhat dangerous thing that leads can lead to violence and conflict and it eventually leads to the demise of the two young lovers, and in a sense Shakespeare gives us the message that the head over heels mentality isn’t a very good idea and is somewhat foolish but also leaves us with the message that you should be free to love whoever you want to even if it’s forbidden.
How Shakespeare Presents Different Types Of Love In Romeo And Juliet
Romeo and Juliet is a famous play set in Verona, Italy. It was written by William Shakespeare in 1594-1596. This play is a story about a long feud between the Montague and Capulet families, and the two star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet, whose never-ending love resulted in an inevitable tragedy. Thus, the whole play proves that love is not always easy, and can cause internal conflict within oneself. This essay will argue that although Shakespeare presents love as something that can be blissful and pleasurable it can also be dangerous and frustrating.
In the opening of the play, Shakespeare presents Romeo’s love as intense sorrow as he is in a sad or miserable state. He uses harsh and dramatic words like: “Such is loves transgression. Griefs of mine lie heavy in my breast”. The language used in this quotation suggests that Romeo is feeling downhearted. The noun “griefs” means intense sorrow, usually caused by someone’s death. Romeo is stating that he has his own sorrows. This can also mean that he mourns too much over the fact that Rosaline does not love him back. We can take breast to be a heart. The adjective used to describe “heavy-hearted” is “heavy”. This word choice indicates feeling depressed or melancholy, which informs us that Romeo’s heart feels intense dejection and will never see one’s beauty again; like he will be lonely forever. We call his love for Rosaline unrequited love.
However, Shakespeare also implies how confused Romeo is about love. He also indicated that although love can be passionate, it is threatening as well: “Love is a smoke raised with the fumes of sighs”. We can interpret that Romeo is grieving over the fact that Rosaline does not love him back. He is also stating the upsides and downsides of love through the chosen quotation. Romeo here understands love as both full of pain and full of joy: pain when love goes badly, joy when it goes well. When someone sighs, it usually indicates excessive disappointment of frustration. In addition to that, we can take smoke to disappear into thin air. Shakespeare uses the metaphor, “love is a smoke” to prove how love can come as quickly as it goes. That is when he then quickly introduces Juliet to prove how love forms a hypocritical behaviour, suddenly changing the whole view of it. Additionally, the lexical choice “fume” highlights the danger of love and that the consequences are different from what it is perceived as. This is effective because it advocates the contrast between positive and negative aspects of love, and reveals a deeper understanding of love and the effect it has. Shakespeare also uses the writing technique oxymorons: “O brawling love, O loving hate” to ensure that the audience can tell how confused Romeo is about his interpretation of love. Romeo’s feelings of passion and physical attraction towards Juliet, are clearly evident in his opening soliloquy. This is demonstrated through Shakespeare’s use of celestial imagery, “It is the East, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon.” This quotation merely suggests the fact that Romeo thinks extremely highly of Juliet by comparing her to the sun. The sun represents a lot of things like new beginnings and beauty, which highlights that Romeo feels his love for Juliet is a new beginning for him and an image of beauty. This new beginning may be the fact that Romeo has forgotten Rosaline and moved forward. However, the sun may also be viewed as a symbol of power, growth, and passion. Some believe it is a representation of the higher self, while others see the sun as a god to be worshipped. We can explicate the fact that Romeo adores Juliet and ranks her extremely high. “Arise fair sun”. When the sun rises, it ‘kills’ the darkness of the night. “And kill the envious moon”. The moon is personified as being so envious of Juliet’s beauty that it is ‘sick and pale with grief’ that Juliet is ‘far more fair’ than the moon is. In other words, Romeo is saying that Juliet’s beauty is so powerful, that it causes other people pain. However, the quotation, “Arise fair sun,” hints that Romeo could’ve viewed Juliet to rise above him, which may have given him a sense of security, that Juliet was watching Romeo, and that he had a beauty to look up too. We also know that the sun gives light to the moon, which further suggests the growth and generosity of Juliet. This proves how passionate the love of Romeo and Juliet was.
Altogether, Shakespeare presents Romeo’s feelings about love through a very negative thought process, portraying pain and harsh emotions. This makes the audience feel pity for Romeo, however, some may judge him with annoyance or anger as he is exaggerating his depression through an idiotic way. Furthermore, Shakespeare brings in many types of love, to portray how powerful that one emotion is. He also shows us the positive and negative sides of various types of love, proving indeed how love can be pleasant and joyful, as well as risky and infuriating.
“Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare. Fate and Destiny
William Shakespeare’s highly acclaimed drama Romeo and Juliet is the story of two lovers against fate who by their death end the quarrels between their families, The Montagues and the Capulet. After meeting each other at a masquerade, Romeo and Juliet fall in one. The powerful concept of fate and destiny has interested many writers, including William Shakespeare.
Fate, for better or worse, interrupts everyone’s daily life, whether he/she chooses to acknowledge it or not. Thinking about fate conjures up different feelings for different people; some people believe strongly in it, some people think of fate as ridiculous, and some do not care one way or the other. However, in many instances, such as in William Shakespeare’s. The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, far too many coincidences occur to be strictly coincidental. Fate creates a powerful effect throughout the entire play, starting in the prologue, continuing as Romeo and Juliet meet and fall in love, and tragically ending in the lovers’ deaths.
In the prologue, Shakespeare makes it undoubtedly clear that Romeo and Juliet are subject to fate. The audience is first introduced to Shakespeare’s ideas of fate when he describes Romeo and Juliet as “star-cross’d lovers Shakespeare chooses to refer to the lovers as being “star-crossed”, meaning that they are doomed from birth because of the position of the planets at that time. This conveys to the reader that no matter what actions Romeo and Juliet take the course of the play, their destinies remain doomed. Farther along in the prologue, Shakespeare continues to interpolate fate into his play, referring to the love of Romeo and Juliet as “Death-mark’d, another word describing fate. By using this specific word, Shakespeare informs the audience that the love of Romeo and Juliet is destined to end in death. Because of the use of two very strong words describing fate, “star-crossed” and “death-marked,” a reader easily sees that Romeo and Juliet possess little control over the events that eventually, lead to their deaths.
After the initial dose of fate in the prologue, Shakespeare continues to utilize fate as Romeo and Juliet meet and fall in love. As Romeo and his cousin, Benvolio, stroll down a street near the Capulet’s house (I. ii), an illiterate servant with a list of invitees to the Capulet’s party approaches Romeo asking, “I pray, sir, can you read?” (I. ii. l. 57). These few seemingly unimportant words help set off fate’s spiraling journey. Unaware that by reading the list his life will dramatically change, Romeo reads the list and the thankful servant invites him to the prestigious. A run away together. Fate, however, intervenes causing Romeo to take his life before Juliet awakens, thus also resulting in the suicide of Juliet. Tracing back to before Romeo receives news of Juliet’s supposed death, one cansee more clearly where fate definitely acts as a factor in the deaths. While waiting for Balthasar, Romeo delivers a small soliloquy in which he recalls a dream he recently had. “I dreamt my lady came and found me dead” (V. i. l. 6). Romeo’s dream, perhaps a warning, predicts the future, as only fate can accurately do. Too many coincidental events occur, altering many lives, and many people search for answers, but the real answer lies somewhere deep within.
However, one accepts fate to be taking place in The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, clearly certain events are taking place, and they do not occur as a result of direct conscience decisions by the characters. These events of fate have an immeasurable effect on the characters and story, ranging from the prologue to the very end. Among the lessons of love and hate in this play, this message, that we cannot always control what happens to us proves to be very important and relevant.
Baz Luhrmann’s Appropriation of Shakespeare and Modern Context
In the 1997 film, Romeo + Juliet, Baz Luhrmann has attempted to take the original play by William Shakespeare, and create an appropriation of it for today. He takes what we value about the text: the themes, evocative language and poetry, the timeless storyline and humor, and places it in a context which is accessible and appealing to the audience of today. For this appropriation to be successful, the constant aim was putting things in terms we (especially young people) can identify with, in things appropriate to today. Through the use of the film medium, Baz Luhrmann gained access to varied editing styles, different casting, costume and set design, soundtrack, and camera techniques, which all helped in presenting the story with an updated view, while still retaining its cultural significance.
Just as going to see a play was popular culture in Shakespearean times, seeing a film at the cinema is a very popular form of entertainment today. Luhrmann most likely chose this new medium because of its ability to reach the widest range of audiences – whether they be the “aristocrats and academics” (today’s film critics) or the “slaves and peasants” (teenagers!) By using film he’s making it accessible and appealing to as many as possible, but without altering the most important aspect of the play: the Shakespearean language. Also, through film it’s easier to bring new meanings to the story, to add music, motifs, and special effects that are strangers to a stage, and to make ambiguous aspects of the language clearer, more obvious and easier to understand through visual interpretations.
One example of the updating of the play is the fast-paced editing of the film. From the very beginning we are launched into quick shots and freezes of the characters (whose roles are presented upon the screen as if we’re watching the familiar serial/soap genre) – with little time to absorb what is happening. For many, this speedy editing style is appealing and keeps the audiences attention, in an age where short attention spans reign and interests dwindle at a terrifying rate. Luhrmann has addressed this issue and made the story appropriate for the needs of today – attention grabbing, racy, and through culling of the text, no more than two hours traffic on our screen.
The editing style is also used in conjunction with recurring images to make it clear to the audience whether scenes are for action and rivalry or reserved for the lovers. For example, the quick, angry, violent petrol station scene (with the sign “Add more fuel to your fire”) and underlying connections between heat and rage. This contrasts strongly to the watery love scenes between Romeo and Juliet, where there are long takes, a slow pace, and water in the form of fish tanks and pools. These techniques make the story very clear, easy to understand and the scenes more distinguishable, and in doing so the film becomes more accessible to a younger audience who may otherwise not understand the complex aspects of Shakespeare.
The important choices made in casting the film also decided on the film’s success. In choosing Leonardo Dicaprio (a popular teen idol) for the role of Romeo, Luhrmann had already begun capturing the younger audiences by appealing to popular culture. These teenagers may not have even considered seeing a Shakespearean film, but because the director chose Leonardo Dicaprio as opposed to an older, less popular actor, they arrived in their millions In addition, their image of this actor can be transmitted to his character, so the face of Romeo is instantly linked with the idea of love. The casting of black actors into the film (as Chief of Police, and Mercutio) reflects society’s changing values in respect to equality and acceptance of many cultures, and makes the film more appropriate to modern audiences.
The costume design is another aspect that has been updated to be more suitable to today. Romeo arrives at the party as a knight in shining armor, Juliet as an angel; this could be a subtle suggestion of the relationship that will unfold, through the use of these clichéd images. Mercutio arrives dressed as a drag queen, perhaps a comment on today’s society and its wider acceptance of homosexuality.
The use of settings is a lot more pronounced in the film than it was in the play. For instance, the petrol station is linked with fuel and fire, the shots of urban skyscrapers with a family name on each represent their rivalry in modern terms, and the neglected Verona Beach reflects a run down society. In particular, Luhrmann has used the settings to enhance the mood for the scene, and this is particularly evident in Romeo’s banishment to Mantua. The desert-like caravan park is extremely barren and desolate, and reflects Romeo’s feelings of emptiness with the prospect of being away from Juliet and his town. These types of settings have been appropriated to once again add to the clarity of the storyline and make it easy to follow by making the tone of the scene obvious.
An advantage of using the film medium for an appropriation was having the opportunity for a soundtrack or constant music beneath each scene for extra emphasis. Much like the casting of popular actors, the modern soundtrack released with the film attracted young people to view it, because of familiarity with the modern songs. In addition to these songs, there was also a use of more traditional, classical music, (e.g. the choir’s song) to set the quieter serious scenes apart from other scenes with pop music: like one where Everclear sings “I feel just like a local god when I’m with the boys, we do what we want, yeah we do what we want” fitting perfectly with a scene where Romeo is ‘hanging out’ with the Montague boys at Verona Beach. These key changes in style of music help distinguish scenes and let the audience know what type of scene it is going to be.
Another aspect adding to the success of this appropriation was the use of certain camera techniques. The extreme close-ups gave an extra feeling of closeness to the characters and the circling motion of the camera around them emphasized the theme of this intense love, as if there was nobody else in the world apart from them. These techniques mixed with the fast moving camera in the action shots once again distinguished certain scenes apart from others, and made it a clearly presented and more interesting film with new angles and modern techniques.
Finally, the constant references to today helps viewers to really relate to the film. From the beginning with the television report–style narrator, up until the end at the neon-lit church, our senses are drenched with all things modern. Pool halls, urban skylines, drag queen costumes, pop music, and popular actors flash across the screen in a fast-paced truly modern way. Love is explained to us through the use of ecstasy the love drug, family feud is explained by rival company buildings, sword fights are translated to shootouts, and in general the play is put in terms widely understood by the majority of people today – through a film. Using all the techniques opened up by making this play a film, Baz Luhrmann certainly hasn’t missed anything in creating his appropriation of Shakespeare’s work, and for this reason Romeo + Juliet is truly successful in being accessible and appealing to the young audience of today.
Religious Theme in Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet Film Interpretation
Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, the 1996 cinematic adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, is imbued with religious imagery. The feuding families display such images on everything from their cars, to their clothes, to their guns. In addition, a statue of Jesus Christ looms over the city, bearing witness to the events unfolding. When taken at face value, religion should bring a person peace and give additional meaning to their life. However, throughout the film, the presence of religious imagery often indicates conflict and violence. Luhrmann uses the omnipresent religiosity to contrast against this violence and to heighten the sense of tragedy.
The religious imagery is indicative of conflict. Luhrmann opens the film with the recitation of the prologue in a modern interpretation in which it is read by a newscaster. In Luhrmann’s hyper-visual style, the sequence quickly becomes chaotic as the camera quickly zooms into the television then pushes through to an image of a street in Verona Beach. The camera rapidly zooms through the streets and lands on the face of a large statue of Christ, reminiscent of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. This statue is revealed to be framed by two large buildings which are owned by the Capulets and Montagues. The frenzied opening is backed by a religious chant, which further heightens the tension and indicates the large presence of religion that will be reoccurring throughout the film. When Romeo and Juliet first meet at the party, Juliet is dressed as an angel. While angels are usually regarded as symbols of peace, Juliet’s angel brings conflict as she falls in love with Romeo- a rival of her family. When the two marry, the church that they are in is filled with with religious symbols. While these symbols fit the context, the church is more extravagant than any regular church. The purpose of this is to further remind the audience of the lavish nature of this setting. Because this scene features the secret union of a Capulet and Montague, it is laden with conflict. The children have gone behind their parents’ backs to marry, and the undue amount of religious imagery present here reflects and contrasts with this conflict.
Moreover, the presence of religious imagery often marks violence. In the comical first scene, the Capulet and Montague boys clash at a gas station. Before they come to blows, members of both houses are shown harassing a group of young nuns. This scene shows both physical violence and sexual violence. Nuns are chaste, so the boys and their lustful comments pose a verbal attack on them. Later in the film, the Montagues and Capulets fight once again on the beach. Religious symbols in this scene are subtle, but distinctly present. Mercutio wears a necklace with a cross on it and Tybalt’s gun has an image of the Virgin Mary on it. The cross is often used as a symbol of protection, yet in this scene, Mercutio is killed. The Virgin Mary is also contradictory as she is a symbol of purity, yet Tybalt uses this gun for murder. As Mercutio dies, a hymn plays in the background. It adds a heightened sense of ominousness to the scene as he calls for “a plague on both your houses.” In the next scene, Romeo kills Tybalt in revenge, using Tybalt’s own gun. It is revealed that this is done directly in front of the ever-seeing statue of Christ. Romeo looks up at him as he cries “I am forgetful,” and Christ looks down on him in a manner that can be viewed as damning.
The deaths of Romeo and Juliet occur in a tomb. As opposed to the typical idea of a tomb-dark, somber, frightening- the tomb is well lit because of the countless candles lit around Juliet’s body and the fluorescent crosses that light the path to where she lays. The pain and suffering that has been brought upon the families because of the strife between them climaxes with the deaths of their children and heirs. The bright and beautiful tomb, full of symbols and figures of crosses and saints, signifies the peak of the feud and how it ends in death. As Romeo and Juliet die in the tomb, the light coming from the candles and crosses contradict the darkness that will befall their families, whose bloodlines end with the two lovers, upon their demise.
Luhrmann’s prominent religious imagery contrasts with the significant violence and conflict that occurs throughout. While religion often represents peace and virtue, Luhrmann uses it to represent the opposite in the film. The presence of religious figures and images contradicts the turmoil that occurs over the course of the film and serve to heighten the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.
Question and Conformity: a Controversial Juliet’s Womanhood
In Act 4 Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet, Friar Lawrence, Paris, and Juliet converse about the upcoming marriage of Juliet and Paris. In the scene, Juliet’s new identity of an independent woman is forged through her vigor in dealing with Paris and the Friar proving her strengths in men’s domains. However in both conversations her strength as a woman comes into question. The Friar places her into a category, while her conversation with Paris reveals her newfound dynamism springs not from her own dissatisfaction with her place in the familial structure, but from the love of Romeo. He, a man, generates her questioning of her dutiful daughter persona. So as she exits her role in the Capulets, she simultaneously enters another as a doting wife willing to enter any circumstance for her husband. Although a strong woman, Juliet’s interactions with men throughout this scene demonstrate that she remains uncertain in her place in society.
This scene cements Juliet’s transformation from doting daughter into a formidable woman. Before an acquiescent character, now she becomes bold and fiery. After Paris has exited, she begins to list circumstances that are more desirable than a marriage to him: a leap from a tower, being chained with roaring bears, having to lie with a fresh corpse in a grave. Friar Lawrence offers her a potion to give the appearance of death to escape the impending marriage, but mentions, “If no inconstant tot womanish fear, Abate thy valor in the acting it” (4.1.121-122). After Juliet’s listing of the acts she would partake, she is still defined by her gender, which in spite of her acts of “masculine” bravery defines her; the Friar simply cannot believe that a woman could actually engage in such activities. The Friar’s gendering of Juliet appears to be further out of context considering that she has already pursued a secret marriage and threatened suicide (And with this knife I’ll help it presently” (4.1.55)). The Friar’s stereotype eventually punishes him, however, as he gives Juliet the potion that eventually results in her death. His underestimation of Juliet and women results in tragedy, which could be Shakespeare’s commentary on the plight of women. However, like Shakespeare’s, the Friar’s position on women’s societal ranking varies; when Paris tells him of his marriage to Juliet, the Friar responds, “You say you do not know the lady’s mind? Uneven is the course. I like it not” (4.1.4-5). Here he favors for a woman’s right to choose her husband, a notion outside the norm at the time. Nevertheless, he resides more within the patriarchal view despite Juliet’s grabbing the potion and yelling, “O tell me not of fear” (4.1.123). Despite her protests, her motivations parallel the Friar’s limits on women, for it is not her own strength that allows her to perform the challenge, but the strength she derives from Romeo.
After separating herself from her family in the previous scene, Juliet now completely diverges from the ideals that her family has set forth for her, mainly the forced marriage to Paris. Just as she deceived her parents with her control of language and use in the form of double speak, she now implements it against Paris. This occurs when she convinces Paris she loves him while actually referring to Friar Lawrence, “I will confess to you that I love him” (4.1.26). She eliminates the final connection to her parents’ way of life by deceiving Paris. However, in separation there remains a connection to the familial structure through her lover Romeo. This evidences itself in how completely out of tune Juliet and Paris are in their conversation, in which Shakespeare contrasts the sarcasm of this encounter with the loving language of the Romeo and Juliet’s first meeting. Shakespeare uses the stichomythia in the first time Paris and Juliet engage on stage to display their incompatibility; their sentences are choppy and Paris misinterprets Juliet’s language throughout the section. In the “star-crossed” lovers’ first meeting their lines in stichomythia align perfectly to form a sonnet, which emphasizes their oneness. Therefore Romeo has brought about Juliet’s affinity for language and self-sufficiency, which is furthered by the dialogue.
In their double conversation Paris mentions that Juliet’s face has been slandered with tears, to which she replies, “this may be so for it is not mine own” (4.1.37). While keeping one man, Paris, aloof and unaware, she also keeps one man’s (Romeo’s) hold over her and accepts the controlling male nature of the marriage. Juliet has broken away from her parents, the nurse, and the familial structure, but opts for another familial structure with Romeo. There is no liminal stage where she remains solitary; she always remains connected to a male figure. Her exploration into her own feelings and desires are tied to Romeo, so in essence her strong womanhood’s source lies within a man. She displays individuality in choosing her own lover over what her parents had decreed, but at the same time falls into the category of subjugation to patriarchy.
The question becomes whether Juliet can even exist without Romeo. At one point she states she intends to “Live an unstained wife to my sweet love.” The key to this phrase is that she is not living a life, but a wife. Her world will revolve around Romeo as it already does. Her acts are done purely for him and his affection. She threatens suicide because of Romeo’s banishment, furthering the idea that without Romeo she is nothing. It must be noted that Romeo also threatens suicide when the Prince banishes him, leading to a hypothesis that perhaps the marriage would be of equality. Shakespeare does not reveal whether this would be the case by killing the lovers at the end of the play, leaving another ambiguity in his stance on womanhood.
Juliet is the strongest female figure in the play; however, she remains under the control of men and the family. Despite her escape from them at one point, she willing reenters the structure of oppression, giving her character and the play a paradoxical nature that both questions and conforms to the status quo of womanhood.
The Discourse of Misogyny
Feminist literary criticism has become an integral part of the way in which we study literature in the 21st century. By analyzing the way in which the female condition is represented in works of literature, we can establish how women were repressed in the patriarchal societies of the past. The issue of misogyny is prevalent in a large amount of classic literature and poetry, with well-known authors such as Jonathan Swift, Ernest Hemingway, and William Shakespeare being scrutinized for the way in which they portrayed women in their work. Many scholars and critics have examined William Shakespeare’s body of work and have argued that he is discriminatory towards women, particularly in plays such as Richard III and The Taming of the Shrew, while others have argued he promotes female equality in plays like Twelfth Night and Macbeth. By examining the roles of female characters and their interactions with men in Romeo and Juliet, as well as the excessive promotion of marriage and the importance placed upon female beauty rather than character, it can be argued that William Shakespeare exhibited misogynistic tendencies.
While Romeo and Juliet is not among the Shakespearian plays typically examined for instances of misogyny, the potential to argue that it exists within what is considered to be one of the most tragic love stories of all time is too great to ignore. The female characters in the play can be seen functioning as nothing more than sources of pleasure for the men to draw upon, either through sexual means, conveying crude humor, or using them as an excuse to engage in acts of sex and violence. For instance, the character of the Nurse is depicted in scenarios of blatant sexual references at her expense, such as when she is seen with Romeo, Mercutio, and Peter. Without any prompting, Mercutio makes a nasty remark to the nurse: “A bawd, a bawd, a bawd. So ho!” (2.4 132). Here, Mercutio is accusing the nurse of being a bawd, acting as a go-between for Romeo and Juliet, to organize sexual intercourse (Bladen, 2011). Mercutio’s cry of “So ho!” suggests that the Nurse would only be viewed as sexually arousing if one was desperate, and “his language doesn’t stray from a sexual theme throughout this scene and it is clear that he views women only as sexual objects, unworthy of diverting Romeo from the male social group” (Bladen, 2011).
The male and female character interaction in Romeo and Juliet is ripe with misogyny in terms of the relation between sex and violence. At the very beginning of the play, in Act 1, scene 1, Gregory and Sampson make a disturbing joke about raping and killing the Montague women, with Sampson saying: “When I have fought with the men, I will be civil / with the maids; I will cut off their heads” (23-24) and “Ay, the heads of the maids, or their maiden- / heads. Take it in what sense thou wilt” (26-27). Here, the Capulet servants are making the connection between sex and violence, taking humouros pleasure in the notion of raping and beheading the Montague women. It’s not enough for them to simply murder the women; they must engage in the violent act of rape as well, a clearly misogynistic addition to the already gruesome crime. Although this is presented in the form of a joke, and while the interaction is purely hypothetical, it reveals the disturbing way in which men viewed women – as powerless sex objects.
The excessive promotion of marriage in the play also reinforces the misogynistic notion of women as powerless and sex objects (and sometimes both). This is especially true in the case of Capulet and Lady Capulet. There is no affection from Capulet to Lady Capulet; the closest instance is when he calls upon her to share his grief over the loss of Juliet in Act 5, scene 3: “O heavens! O wife, look how our daughter bleeds!” (210). Even in this example, he is “simply including her in a feeling that is paternal and familial, and he calls her, as he always does, simply ‘wife’” (Lerner, 1986). The character of Lady Capulet is given no identity, and receives no feelings as an individual; she is essentially powerless and proves that marriage and romance are not necessarily intertwined (Lerner, 1986). The fact that Shakespeare refused to allow one of the few female characters in the play experience any sense of personal identity or feelings is suggestive of misogyny – certainly the male characters are allowed to express their thoughts and feelings at regular intervals, and one would think that marriage would prove a suitable reason for both a man and a woman to express their feelings.
The excessive promotion of marriage consumes the character of Juliet in particular. By Act 1, scene 3, Juliet’s mother, Lady Capulet, is already pressuring her to consider marrying Paris:
Well, I think of marriage now. Younger than you
Here in Verona, ladies of esteem,
Are made already mothers. By my count
I was your mother much upon these years
That you are now a maid. Thus, then, in brief:
The valiant Paris seeks you for his love.
In this passage, Lady Capulet is promoting the idea of marriage to her daughter, explaining that. at Juliet’s age, she was already a mother; by contrast, Juliet is a virgin. This unnecessary promotion of marriage is especially evident in Juliet’s age – she is a mere fourteen years old, practically a child. This urging of Juliet to marry Paris appears to be Lady Capulet’s only function in the play, and this function serves her husband, Capulet. Capulet, although originally reluctant to have Juliet marry Paris so young, does want the two to get married, as it would provide the Capulets with a higher social status due to Paris’s rank as a kinsman of Prince Escalus. The important aspect to consider here is Lady Capulet’s promotion of marriage serving as an element of her husband’s agenda. As a man, Capulet is the one with all the power and control; Lady Capulet is merely the messenger. This is indicative of further misogyny on Shakespeare’s part, although it is veiled through the convention of marriage and its excessive promotion.
The misogyny present through the importance placed upon beauty rather than character, however, is not as veiled as the excessive promotion of marriage. Shakespeare illustrates this superficial perspective quite aptly in the characters of Romeo and Benvolio. At the beginning of the play, Romeo is pining over the unseen character of Rosaline; as a solution, Benvolio instructs Romeo to compare Rosaline’s appearance with that of other girls at the Capulet’s feast:
At this same ancient feast of Capulet’s
Sups the fair Rosaline whom thou so loves,
With all the admired beauties of Verona.
Go thither, and with unattained eye
Compare her face with some that I shall show,
And I will make thee think thy swan a crow.
In this passage, Benvolio places no significance upon the character of women. He solely considers their outward appearance, telling Romeo that once he sees the other ‘beauties of Verona’, and compares Rosaline’s physical appearance with theirs, he will find her as unattractive as a crow. This preoccupation with female beauty is misogynistic. Shakespeare is suggesting that women can only be of value to men based on their appearance, and that any romantic or emotional attachment to a female can be discarded once a better-looking one comes along. It completely disregards any notion that a woman might have character or substance, choosing to degrade them to a set of pre-approved attributes of beauty, and nothing more.
This same disposition is also evident when Romeo sees Juliet for the first time: “It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night / As a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear – / Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear” (1.5 52 – 54). Romeo is immediately enamored by Juliet’s beauty, and nothing more. He declares that she stands out in the darkness, the same way an earring would stand out against the dark skin color of an African; he then claims that she is too beautiful, that her beauty is too good for the world. He goes on to discuss Juliet’s beauty in greater detail, but has already made it evident that he sees nothing but her outward appearance. Romeo has ruined any chance of Juliet impressing him with substance or character, and has condemned her to a role that consists purely of physical beauty.
Having examined the issue of misogyny in Romeo and Juliet through the way in which female and male characters interact, the excessive promotion of marriage, and the artificial importance of beauty over substance, it is evident that Shakespeare exhibited misogynistic tendencies. Although the problem of misogyny exists in a plethora of classic literature and poetry from past centuries, second wave feminism has drawn attention to the issue and the importance of promoting gender equality. We are fortunate enough to live in an era where female characters full of substance are no longer non-existent, but it is only through pursing feminist literary criticism and the waves of feminism to eradicate misogyny that such an era exists at all.
Bladen, Victoria. William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. St Kilda, Vic.: Insight Publications, 2011. Print.
Lerner, Laurence. “Shakespeare and Love: Romeo and Juliet.” Essays on Shakespeare in Honour of A. A. Ansari. Ed. T. R. Sharma. Meerut: Shalabh Book House, 1986. 117 – 135. Print.
Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. New York: Washington Square Press, 1992. Print.
The Role of Women in Shakespeare’s Plays
In Shakespearean plays, women have always played important roles. Whether their purpose was to create the base of the play, main conflicts, or generate moral and cultural questions, women are always put in arduous situations. Often, the role of women surpasses the role of male heroes in Shakespeare’s writings, it is almost unfathomable and almost provocative, considering societals’ moral compass in that period. In Romeo and Juliet, the Nurse plays one of the main women characters. Her role is to care for Juliet like a present-day nanny. Juliet views her as a second mother. Contrasting due to her being in a different class then Juliet’s actual mother, Lady Capulet- the lower class. The nurse also adds humor to the play; in Act 2 Scene 4 she states “What saucy merchant was this that full of ropery?”. This lightents the tragic ora of the play and only her and Mercutio do this.
In addition, Hamlet has a captivatingly strong female in it. Queen Gertrude, widow of Old Hamlet, has a type of conditional strength. When she remarried to Claudius, that alone takes great bravery. A new marriage so soon after her husband‘s demise would be subject to canard in the people she was ruling. In this Shakespearean play, the negative connotation invoking the women is exhibited by the main character, Hamlet. He says harsh things to women and treats them as if they are inferior to him.
At first it seems as if he is just misogynistic, but in actuality he treats the women this way because of how they’ve betrayed him through their actions; his mother Gertrude married only a month after Hamlet’s father’s death, and second female Ophelia heeds her father’s command not to see Hamlet despite professing her love for him. Hamlet sees both women as weak and too dependent on the men in their lives, and his bitterness leads him to believe that all women are untrustworthy. He becomes cynical about women in general, showing a particular obsession with what he perceives to be a connection between female sexuality and moral corruption. This motif of misogyny, or hatred of women, occurs sporadically throughout the play, but it is an important factor in Hamlet’s relationships with Ophelia and Gertrude. Despite the women being viewed negatively, their role in the story is very important to the display of Hamlet’s personality.