William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, act 1 scene 5 is a key point in the play Essay

Published: 2021-07-28 16:50:06
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In William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, act 1 scene 5 is a key point in the play. It is where the two young lovers meet and where the plays main storyline begins to form. The scene is included in all adaptations of the play, which illustrates its importance. However, in each of the two film translations of the play directed by Baz Luhrmann and Franco Zefferelli the scene has been modified to suit the context and setting of the movie. The first, made in 1996 and directed by Baz Luhrmann is set in Americas Verona beach in modern society.
The film is aimed at the teenage / young adult market and this is reflected by the modern day setting which includes aspects of society such as drug, gun and gang cultures in order to entertain the target audience with subjects they can relate to. The second adaptation of the play is directed by Franco Zefferelli and was made in 1968. It is intended as a true refection of Shakespeare’s work and is set around the era and location which Shakespeare intended- the 1590’s, Verona, Italy. The society of this time is far different from that of modern day.
For example, almost all men carried swords, so fighting in the street was common, Fathers chose suitable husbands for their daughters, people married and had children earlier from 13-14 years of age and young girls were not allowed out of their house without a guardian/ chaperone. The target audiences are adults and students, as it allows the chance to see the context and society in which Shakespeare wrote his plays and sonnets. One of the first and main differences between Shakespeare’s original work and the two film adaptations are the changes in the text.
The first observable contrariety comes at the very beginning of the scene, where the servants are preparing for Lord Capulet’s party. For a Shakespearean play, this would have been a very important element of the scene, allowing the stagehands to alter the scenery for the party scenes, and also to provide the comic actors in the troupe with a chance to display their talents. It was also a good way to show the contrast between the wealthy characters and those of a lower social standing. However, both directors chose to omit the scene from their film.
This is probably because it isn’t necessary to conduct scene changes in a motion picture and was seen as a good way to shorten the movie and cut production costs. As a prelude to the party scene, during Romeo’s speech at the end of scene four, Baz Luhrmann shows Romeo taking a mind- expanding pill. Obviously, this is now an all too common act for modern partygoers, but wasn’t seen as much in Shakespeare’s era. Of course drugs were available, but they weren’t used in the relaxed, recreational manner of today and so it could only be concluded that Mr.
Luhrmann included this to make the film easier for a young audience to relate to. Nonetheless, we now know that Romeo is ‘high’ on drugs and not fully conscious of his surroundings, which is illustrated with ‘point of view’ camera shots depicting blurred images, bright lights and slurred sounds. This may now make us cast aspersions on Romeo’s affection for Juliet, as we know that he his not in his right mind. It could be argued that this is a bad piece of directing, as it is the love between Romeo and Juliet that the play’s main story revolves around.
Therefore, we must have no doubt that the love they feel for each other is real Baz Luhrmann also brings other aspects of modern life to Lord Capulet’s party which were not included by Shakespeare, the first being a huge firework display as Romeo and his friends arrive at the party, giving us but a small taster of Lord Capulet’s wealth, and the preparation which the party has needed. Other ‘moderisations’ of the scene are the ‘bouncers’ on the door wielding ultra-modern automatic rifles and a metal detector in case of any weapons being sneaked in.
These safety checks are perhaps what would be expected if the party was being thrown by royalty, symbolising the importance of the Capulets and their guests in their society. In contrast to this, Franco Zefferelli’s attempt to represent the original text is shown by his lack of any new inclusions. However, he does cut down Lord Capulets speech to- “welcome gentlemen! I have seen the day that I have worn a visor and could tell a whispering tale in a fair lady’s ear such as would please. ‘Tis gone, ’tis gone. You are welcome gentlemen! ” and completely removing lord Capulets conversation with his kinsman.
Such extractions of text are present in Baz Luhrmann’s interpretation too, as Capulets welcoming speech is cut down to a simple – “welcome gentlemen! ” and once again, his conversation is totally omitted from the scene. These alterations are made as perhaps the directors see the speeches as unimportant to the overall story and as a result, are just a waste of time and money. Also, it is possible to ‘see’ more in a movie than a play and so it would be easier for the director to just show Capulet welcoming his guests rather than including a full welcoming speech from the host.
Also, both directors have chopped and changed Tybalt’s argument with Lord Capulet after he sees Romeo and wishes to fight with him. In Franco Zefferelli’s version for example, large parts are omitted and Lady Capulet is given a very small part to say- “you are a princox”. Baz Luhrmann chose to confine the argument to within a few lines and also decided to move Tybalts- “Patience perforce with willful choler meeting Makes my flesh trembler in their different greeting. I will withdraw, but this intrusion shall
Now seeming sweet convert to bitterest gall” to the close of the scene, which creates tension between scenes, as we are left pondering this vengeful threat and what actions may result from it. Throughout the course of the scene, the only dialogue of any real importance is the sonnet spoken between Romeo and Juliet, which is reflected in the fact that both directors made no change to the original text for this part of the scene. However, the sequence of events during and after the sonnet differs slightly between the two versions.
For example, in the Baz Luhrmann version, Romeo kisses Juliet’s hand after the line – “To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss” and then he kisses her on the lips after the line – “then move not, while my prayers effect I take. ” These actions are true to those of the original play, which is odd, as up to now, it has been Franco Zefferelli who has stuck to the script. Surprisingly, it is he who chooses to alter these actions, deciding that Romeo should kiss Juliet after the line – “Thus from my lips, by thine my sin is purg’d. This is not a good choice, as the sonnet finished a line ago, and the flirtatious banter reaches it’s crescendo in the final line of the sonnet, leaving the perfect time for the kissing. However, Franco Zefferelli failed to notice the significance of this, and as a result he loses drama from his kissing scene. After the initial kiss, Baz Luhrmann chooses to include shots following the young couple as they attempt to elude Juliet’s nurse and yet more kissing ensues. This extra part is included to entertain rather continue the story and also perhaps to depict the level of love and lust felt between the two.
Once again, the audience is given a subject that they can relate to, making it easier for them to understand how Romeo and Juliet feel about each other. For the rest f the scene, Franco Zefferelli reverts to his former method of accurately reconstructing Shakespeare’s work and little of the original text is changed. Conversely, Baz Luhrmann chooses to omit the nurse’s brief talk with Romeo, Capulet’s short dialogue and all the rest of the text. Instead, the nurse tells Juliet who Romeo is and Romeo discovers Juliet’s identity when her mother calls for her.
As with prior text omissions, Baz Luhrmann most probably saw these pieces as an easy way to shorten the film and keep cost to a minimum. When choosing actors for each of their films, both directors had several factors to consider, such as target audience, setting, budget, current favorites etc…. Firstly, Baz Luhrmann knew that he had a large budget which, meant he could enlist the talent some ‘big name’ actors to star in his film. He also knew that to appeal to the teenage market, his Romeo and Juliet must be attractive and well known.
In addition to this, both the actor and actress needed to appear older than the character, but not too old. This needed to be in place so that the director could include the sex scene of the play without causing a scandal, as the age of consent in England and the U. S. A is 16, whereas the characters are only 14/15 years old. Knowing all this, I think that Mr. Luhrmann chose his two leading characters well, Romeo has boyish good looks, and the actor Leonardo DiCaprio was very popular at the time of production, especially with teenage girls.
In correlation to this, Juliet is a very pretty actress who looks younger than she actually is, fitting the bill perfectly and the prospect of viewing her in a sex scene would attract a wide female audience, but particularly with the teenage bracket. As for other characters, Baz Luhrmann has also done well in his selections – Tybalt is a typical gangster type tall, dark hair, wild eyes etc.. Nurse is an Italian-American woman who looks like a ‘motherly’ figure, Capulet is a stereotypical corporate businessman and Mercutio is a lively, energetic Afro-American.
All of these characters suit their role well and each provide a certain aspect of popular entertainment humour, fear, evil etc which are necessary for a film to be well received. In contrast to this, Franco Zefferelli did not have the budget to employ world famous actors, making his choices a lot more difficult. However, as the film isn’t aimed at the younger generation, the need for popular actors is lessened greatly and the need for actors who know the text well is increased. Once again, the director’s choice was good, with each actor adapting to his or her role well.
The character of the Nurse in particular was a casting triumph, the actress portrays the character flawlessly, providing all of the comic dialogue as if she had written it herself. Through these characters, Zefferelli has tried to produce an accurate reflection of Shakespeare’s work, relying on the talents of the actors and actresses rather than their reputation to make the film popular and educational. To accompany the dialogue, create atmosphere and represent feelings, both directors have included music with their scene.
To tie in with his films modern style, Baz Luhrmann chose two pieces of music to play during the party. The first is the song “young hearts” being sung/mimed by Mercutio. The director chose this song and the way it is performed for two reasons. Firstly, comic entertainment. The sight of a tall, well built black man wearing make-up, a short skirt and tight top performing a disco classic is enough to make anyone laugh. The song is performed as Romeo staggers into the party, still under the influence of Mercutio’s drug.
The wild performance of Mercutio and the fast beat of the song may also be meant as a reflection of the atmosphere and mood of the party. The second reason Baz Luhrmann chose this song to feature in his film are the lyrics – “young hearts, run free, never be hung up, hung up like my man and me! ” These lyrics are directly related to the character of Romeo, whom we have learnt to be hasty and foolish in matters of the heart, as shown in his ‘devotion’ to Rosaline who he thinks he loves, but instantly forges upon seeing Julie.
The words of the song are warning young people not to fall in love, but to be free and careless, something that Romeo should possibly take heed of. As contrast to this, when Romeo first sees Juliet, the music changes and a solo artist is introduced, performing a slow, romantic ballad. This sharp contrast is included to show the dramatic change in Romeo’s mood after the drug has worn off and he has seen Juliet. Also, it helps to mark a change in the pace of the as the night draws on and the heat of summer makes the guests lethargic.
The romantic lyrics of the song are again related to Romeo as he quickly falls in love with Juliet. In this version, the sonnet spoken between the two is more steady and deliberate, where as in Franco Zefferelli’s version it is conducted more as conversation than a poem. As a result, the romantic tension that is developed in the original play does not build to any great height. However, as the film is set in the 1590’s any unsupervised contact between young persons of the opposite sex would be considered improper, and so Juliet talks to Romeo whilst pretending to watch a dance so as not to be thought promiscuous.
It is herd to conclude whether or not the sonnet is performed in this way to fit it’s historical context or simply because this is how the director interpreted the text but what is gained through historical correctness is lost via lack of entertainment value. The music in Franco Zefferelli’s film is performed by a group of musicians, such was the only way in Shakespeare’s era. When Romeo and Juliet first meet, they are dancing a seemingly popular dance known as the Maritzka, which appears to be an actual dance of the Elizabethan age.
If it is, then it is to the director’s credit that he has continued to keep even small details in the correct historical context. However, further research would be needed to prove this theory. As with Baz Luhrmann’s film, the first tune is quick and merry, again illustrating the general mood of the jovial party. After the dance is over, a solo singer is brought in, and a slow song is sung over gentle notes of a classical guitar. It is over this song that Romeo and Juliet speak the sonnet. The words of the song speak of young love being like a rose, blossoming and then dying.
Just as with the song in Baz Luhrmannn’s production, the words of the song bear a special significance to the plot, and both are played again at certain points of the film. These similarities in the use of music show that even though times and social contexts change, people’s emotions and feelings can be reflected and brought out through music, whatever the style or method of performance. As the scene is set in a fancy dress party, costume is an imperative factor in creating the correct atmosphere. Both productions include fancy dress, but it is easy to see the contrast in choice of costume between the two contexts.
For example, in the 1590’s Zefferelli’s version the guests just wore simple facemasks in conjunction with their best attire. The design of the mask does not bear any significance with character wearing it, but instead of this, Zefferelli has chosen to highlight the clothing of the times. By doing this, Zefferelli has made his scene very useful to his student audience, who may be interested in different aspects of Elizabethan life, including clothing. Baz Luhrmann however, has used the party sequence to show us more about the characters personalities through their costumes.
For example, Romeo is dressed as a knight, suggesting courage, bravery and loyalty. Juliet is presented in a snow-white angels costume, symbolising purity, goodness and brilliance. However, we know that she has disobeyed her parents in the past and perhaps this is a false image? Conversely, Tybalt is attired in sequined devil outfit, complete with horns. Through this costume, we can see that Tybalt is an evil, fiery character, and he doesn’ t mind people knowing this fact. Murcutio’s flamboyant, extravert personality is conveyed by him being dressed as a women, complete with make-up, high heels, mini skirt and a tight top.
Baz Luhrmann uses these images to strengthen any ideas the viewer had about each characters personality, and it is possibly to draw strong stereotypes from the information we have been shown through costume. In both versions of Romeo and Juliet that have been studied, the language used is directly derived from Shakespeare’s original text. Even in Baz Luhrmann’s modern adaptation, where the classical style dialogue may appear out of place, the imagery created through the language of Shakespeare could not have been replaced and still has significance in the modern society of Baz Luhrmann’s movie.
For example, Romeo’s speech on his initial sight of Juliet remains unchanged in both versions. The directors chose to do this because some of the imagery used – “She that teaches the torches to burn bright! It seems that she hangs upon the cheek of night” does not require alteration, and is as relevant in modern life as it was then. This type of powerful imagery was extremely important In Shakespeare’s theatre, as Juliet’s part would have been played by a man, and the audience would need to be told how beautiful she is and the impact she has had on Romeo.
This would especially important for those members of the audience who had a poor view of the stage, and relied on the dialogue to follow the story, Overall, the best presentation of act one, scene five is that of Baz Luhrmann. He provides all aspects of entertainment drama, romance, drama, etc.. whilst still portraying all of Shakespeare’s intended images. He achieves this through good casting, contrasting old language and modern society and through excellent use of imagery.

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