A comparison between the play Romeo and Juliet and the movie Romeo + Juliet.

Romeo and Juliet is an old classic play written by Shakespeare. Like all of his other plays, Shakespeare expresses the concerns of his time through words and acting successfully. Baz Luhrmann adapts it into a modern setting while still showing concerns of the original play. This makes concepts of the play which may have been difficult to grasp more easy to understand for modern audiences. The modern adaptation transforms sixteenth century Verona into a Miami-like city in the 1990s. The film follows the storyline and in some cases, the exact dialog. The contemporary setting, however, still has an old classic feel to it as it also keeps the themes and concepts of the play. Luhrmann makes two of the main concerns, fate and feuding, quite clear.

In the introductory scene, the newswoman talks about the concerns between Romeo and Juliet with pictures in the background showing the two brawling families. The theme of fate has been changed in Romeo + Juliet to be more understandable by a modern audience. The woman recites the prologue which is then repeated by a man in an opera-style soprano voice, which goes well with the soap opera-like introduction of the characters. The line “A pair of star crossed lovers, take their lives” suggests that two lovers whose relationship is not favoured by the stars will be ill-fated. Since this is at the start of the play, the audience will already know how the story will end. This is mainly shown through dramatic irony; the audience knows that the relationship between Romeo and Juliet will end with tragedy, however the characters do not. This first scene of the film links us to the end of the story because it shows the audience what is going to happen in the end. This shows us the fate of Romeo and Juliet and uses modern media to portray it. By this method of portrayal, the traditional Shakespearian concept of fate reaches out to a modern audience.

During the final scene of the film, where Juliet and Romeo both die, the concept of fate is explored once again. The scene focuses on the ill-fated fate the stars planned out for them. The main showing of fate is that Juliet wakes up straight after Romeo consumes the deadly poison. The coincidental timing of each event is clearly based on fate. Lurhmann makes the scene more convincing to a modern audience by modernising it. Instead of stabbing herself with a dagger, Juliet shoots herself fatally with a gun. Since guns are used more in modern times this is more relevant and more understanding towards a modern audience. The fate of the two lovers is almost completely defined in a modern way, using the police pursuing Romeo. This is relevant to us as a modern audience because we have a greater understanding of Shakespeare’s concerns of fate. At the end of the play, the death of Romeo and Juliet seems to be planned out by the stars, marked out by destiny. In the film, the death is shown with paramedics and ambulances. A significant proportion of the modern audience would not completely understand the concern of the lover’s fate so well without the use of modern day vehicles or imagery of the bodies being carried on stretchers.

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