One of Shakespeare’s most well acknowledged and famous plays Romeo and Juliet was a written in such a manner which would have been liked by a wide range of audience on the Elizabethan stages. Similarly Baz Luhrumann has attempted to recreate Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet into a feature film with some touches of the 21st century to suit the modern audiences today worldwide. Throught the main themes and the prologue of the play, Shakespeare has tried to hold the audiences interest.
The prologue has played a very important and central point of the whole play. Shakespeare set the scene in ‘fair Verona’ because of the simple reason that he didn’t want to offend the British audience and the Queen, as the characters are shown as very violent and short tempered. This already has a very large impact on the Elizabethans as it gives the audience a very proud feeling of being British and the also to the Queen that her monarchy is comparatively superior.
Plus to show the Italian culture and the stereotypical image of the Italians, which suited the situation very well. The play was to be staged on a Elizabethan stage which was organized in such a way that the sittings would be arranged according to the class, so the Aristocrats would on separate chairs at the back of the theatre whereas the peasant would be standing in front and were named the Groundlings as the were on the ground. This proves that all ranges of audience came to watch his plays.
Which means that he would have to write plays according to the taste of the Queen, the Aristocrats and the groundlings. Shakespeare created the prologue keeping in mind the audiences taste. The Prologue is written in forms of a sonnet, a trailer to what the audience was going to see. The main themes of the are summarized to give the audience a glimpse as it says “From ancient grudge break to new mutiny”, this means that there is going to Violence and blood shed leading to peace.
Then it says that Romeo and Juliet will fall in love and their fate is death,”A pair of star crossed lovers will take their life”, “and “Doth with their death-marked love”, this grabs and holds the audiences attention as it tells them what’s going to happen later on so the audience stays to see how the conflicts occur. The prologue seems to unfold the entire story by referring to the “lovers” and they “doth with their death “, this makes audience absorb the situation and also creates suspense among the audience
In Act 1 scene 1 the story is opens in the streets of Verona. Both of the Capulet servants Sampson and Gregory are in a chatting about their enemies. During this discussions Shakespeare holds the audiences attention through using some puns and bawdy humour “Tis true and therefore women being the weaker vessels are thrust to the wall, and thrust his maids”, this kind of bawdy humour was acknowledged by all the audience, again this was a tactic to grab the audience’s attention.
The dialogues in act scene 1 consisted some Stichomythia, which a was enjoyed by the audience as it is enjoyable to watch an argument and the Elizabethans would be delighted in word-plays, especially the puns and sexual humor’s. Then Benvolio from the Montague family enters and begins a “quarrel” with Samson and Gregory. “Let us take the law of our sides, let them begin”, this dispute between the two servants from the Montague and Capulet demonstrates the foolishness of the quarrel between the two families and how pointless it is and engages the audience with some humour.
In the next part ahead Shakespeare creates a very different atmosphere compared to all the disputes and quarrel. Montague and his wife asks where about is his son, Benvolio then says that he has been seen walking around alone unwilling to get out, and is in love with a girl who doesn’t seem to like him, “Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love”, the language used in this line describe the mood swings that Romeo is going through. Romeo has fallen in love and feels that time flies in love, and that time drags on when there is no love in his life, “Not having that, which, having, makes them short”.
The girl is the cause of Romeo’s miserable attitude who’s name is Rosaline, who doesn’t appear in any of the acts as Shakespeare wanted to keep her anonymous and create a curiosity among the audience, for another the fact that she was his past and Juliet was going to the future love and to show that Romeo was love-sick from the beginning. Romeo urges for Rosalines love and he makes his room appear as if it is night, because light represents love to him and he is out of love.
The sadness in the scene is in strong contrast to love that he feels throughout the play “When then brawling love, O loving hate”, Shakespeare’s consistence use of oxymoron’s is to portray Romeo’s love-sickness, the use of contrasts continues “Misshapen chaos, well seeming forms”, to show the audience the abstract thoughts of Romeo in his “course of love”. Baz Luhrumann has used Shakespeare’s concepts combined with his direction and modern film techniques to engage today’s modern audiences. He has shortened the script, as the attention span of today’s audience is lesser than the Elizabethans.
The prologue has been presented in a very differently to suit the modern concept, A women on television presenting a news which is the prologue. Luhrumannn has used television a modern source of information to convey the prologue in a more contemporary manner, as it will interest more of today’s audiences of today. The camera angle slowly intensifies into the television, as if he wants the audience to indulge themselves in to the story. This kind of cinematic techniques is a preview of the drama and violence coming up in the film.
The dramatic music helps to strengthen the affect. This has been influenced by music videos to suit the younger audience. He has presented as if the whole story is smashing news on television and that it is a live coverage. When the newsreader mentions “both alike in dignity”, it shows two equal towers to show the households are alike. Baz Luhrumann symbolizes the family crest “sword” as a gun in the film to suit the modern audiences . He highlights the contrast by showing similar towers of the “two houses” with fast modern music to enhance the contrast.
He then uses the scene in the petrol station to show the “ancient grudge” and the conflict between the two families. The sign, which says, “Add fuel to your fire,” predicts the further disputes. The costumes, which Luhrumann uses in the petrol station scene, distinguishes the two families, as they are modern and helps them portray the image of contemporary gangs, it also facilitates them to create an identity. The use of fast camera shots helps Luhrumann to engage the audience in the fight scene between the two families.
The movie continues as it opens out on the next scene, where it demonstrates a very modern setting, with modern punk costumes to suit younger audiences taste. On the other hand he has kept the dialogues, as it is to maintain Shakespeare’s concepts. The scene with quarrel between the four members of the Capulet and Montague’s are set in a petrol station to make the quarrel more obvious and outstanding. The ‘Add fuel to fire’ sign symbolizes the ancient grudge, which breaks to new mutinity and meaning add fuel to your anger. The part where Tybolt is smoking and the use of guns also symbolizes the danger of the fight.
Samson gets hit by the citizens which portrays the characterization, this means that Samson is stupid and brainless character and Gregory is in control. This implies that the characters are written to engage the audience as the characters portray a certain image and humour through that. Again Luhrumann has tried to maintain the themes of the play, which in this case would be ‘Hate’ this plays a very important role in the movie, in the film Luhrumann has shown the two differences and hatred between the families by the separations of the towers, cars, and two sides of the city.
And why was there hatred? Nether of Shakespeare or Luhramann decided to explain the ancient grudge as it the point of the story. As it didn’t seem necessary for the audience to know the reason Another important theme “Love”, it is a grand passion similarly to “Hate” which has been the support of Romeo and Juliet journey. Romeo’s love for Rosaline has been portrayed in an exaggerated way in the first act, as he becomes cynical while describing her “She is rich in beauty, only poor” and “That when she dies, with beauty dies in store”.
As mentioned earlier in the prologue “star crossed lovers”, which means the play is based on “Love”. Luhramann has presented the bawdy humour more physically than verbally, the shot where a woman is dancing on the streets while a man is watching her. Which leads to the scene where Romeo enters which is shot on the beach with the sunrise to show the calm but depressing atmosphere. The scene moves on to showing Romeo writing his diary, and reading his diary in his mind as he is writing, this idea of a voice over was a modern concept of Luhrumann, that grabs the audience’s attention.
For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo”, this would have been said by the Prince in the play whereas Luhrumann has changed it to show the same newsreader from the prologue ending the show with this line. The two star-crossed lovers had to give their life in order for their families to end Overall both Shakespeare and Luhrumann’s main motive was to engage their respected audiences. With different techniques Luhrumann wanted re-create the play in to a film to suit today’s audiences, keeping in mind the themes, which Shakespeare had included.