Romeo and juliet from play to big screen







Romeo and Juliet: From Play to Big Screen

In 1596, William Shakespeare published the tragic tale of two star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. The origins of this story are uncertain but Shakespeare’s chief source for his adoption of the story was from “…The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet, a poem by Arthur Brooke (1562). He also knew the story from Palace of Pleasure, by William Painter, which appeared in several editions prior to 1580.”(Boyce 563) Shakespeare’s classic tale is about “two young lovers caught in the crossfire of a senseless family feud.”(Shakespeare 3) This feud between the two families ultimately is the cause of the two lovers untimely demise. In 1996, Baz Luhrmann produced a modern film of the classic tragedy entitled William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet. Adding familiar images and common ideas, Luhrmann brought the classic story to modern times. Though Romeo + Juliet has many differences from the original version from Shakespeare, it supports the original characters, themes, dialogue, and key issues of the classic tale of the star-crossed lovers.
There were many differences among the two stories, among these differences were setting, weapons, the classic “Balcony Scene,” other new adoptions to the film, the concentration on the main characters of Romeo and Juliet, and the implementation of imagery to the storyline. First, the setting of the story is probably one of the biggest differences between the two stories. The original version of the tale is set in Verona, Italy. The newer version is set in a fictitious Verona Beach, California, a city with the appearance of modern day Los Angeles after a riot. The new environment gives familiarity to the viewer, allowing them to relate to the situation at hand, bringing it to a modern time. Another change to the story was the weapons used within the story. The original story used daggers as weapons whereas the newer version uses guns (appropriately titled sword, dagger, etc.). The famed “Balcony Scene,” where Romeo and Juliet avow their love to each other was dramatically changed in many aspects. In the original version, Juliet appears on the balcony and utters the famous words “O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?” (Shakespeare 45) Juliet then goes into the speech about names, asking Romeo to deny his fathers name. Romeo is hiding in the shadows below and hears the words of Juliet. After hearing Juliet’s speech Romeo steps into the light. Romeo and Juliet profess their love for each other and they plan to get married in secrecy. This is a very romantic and heart-filled scene. The new version, on the other hand, takes place in the pool of the Capulet’s home. The same dialogue is spoken between the two lovers but the sexuality of the film takes away from the true romanticism of the original play. Only part of the scene takes place on the balcony. Only where Juliet is telling Romeo goodnight takes place on the balcony. This, in part, takes away from the story. Many things in the new version were changed to make the transition from old times to new. Guns, letter courier services, cars, drugs, and policemen all replace swords, messengers, Monarchs, and the Watch. These modern elements neither take away nor add to the storyline. When the character’s fight with swords in the original play, the audience understands the magnitude of the hatred between the two families. This same magnitude is conveyed when the characters fight with guns. Because the play focuses on the feuding families and the desires Romeo and Juliet have for each other, time changes, props changes, and slight dialogue, action, and scene changes does not make a substantial difference in the overall plot of the story. One aspect of the play that really bothered many Shakespeare fans was the change of the meaning of Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech. Mercutio’s long speech about Queen Mab in the original version, according to Robert Evans, “presents what were the main reasons for marriage- money, place, and love- and then presents what in the milieu of Romeo and Juliet was a principle destructive force- violence.”(Evans 79) In the new version, Mercutio is merely referring to a mood-altering drug called Ecstasy. Also, in the new version, the two house’s loyal servants were portrayed more as