For over four hundred years, William Shakespeare?s ?Romeo and Juliet? has remained one of the most popular stories and plays of all time.
Writers, literary critics and the general public all agree that ?Romeo and Juliet? is a story of the ages. ?Romeo and Juliet? is popular because it deals with a variety of issues that most people can relate to. The play deals with themes such as love, hate, death, fighting, sexual issues and friendship.
Contemporary audiences find ?Romeo and Juliet? enduring for many reasons. It deals with issues that adolescents are dealing with at that time of their lives. Adolescents also find the play appealing because of the language and how it is used, and also the sexual undertone of some of the script. Romeo and Juliet were also very young, which makes many of the characters easy to relate to.
Baz Luhrman?s film interpretation of ?Romeo and Juliet? was very different from other interpretations, such as Zefferelli?s film. Zefferelli?s ?Romeo and Juliet? was closely set to the original text. It was set in medieval times, with the script remaining basically as was originally written. In comparison, Baz Luhrman?s ?Romeo and Juliet? was set in modern times in an Hispanic city, with all the fighting done with modern day weapons instead of swords. The script also remained mostly unchanged, but the meaning behind some of the words differed slightly. Therefore, comparison and discussion about these two interpretations can be easily achieved.
Two key episodes in ?Romeo and Juliet? are Act 2, Scene 4, when Mercutio teases Romeo and the Nurse, and Act3, Scene 1, when Mercutio meets his fate. One might say that Mercutio teasing Romeo and the Nurse is not a key episode in the text, but that is not quite true. Although this scene does not have a big impact on the outcome of the play, and one does not necessarily remember this scene when one thinks of ?Romeo and Juliet?, this episode is important. It is very humourous, and provides audience with a break from the intense storyline. This scene also allows the audience to get an insight of what certain characters are like. Act 2, Scene 5 appeals to contemporary audiences, as it is very humourous, through the use of sexual innuendo and puns. The sexual humour is quite popular with most adolescents, which makes this scene an essential one for the adolescent audience.
In Baz Luhrman?s ?Romeo and Juliet?, Mercutio teasing Romeo is accentuated by the relative length of the scene. Mercutio starts to tease Romeo when he arrives, using a mixture of good-hearted insults and sexual puns. Mercutio and Romeo then start to rumble, a well-meaning type of wrestling. There are not many other Montagues present except for Benvolio when this is happening. When the Nurse arrives to see Romeo, Mercutio does not tease her, except for saying Farewell, ancient lady (Line 118, Act 2, Scene 4) which is an attack on her personal appearance. One realises that most of this episode has been cut out for an undisclosed reason. One might think that this could be because the exchange of insults may be deemed to be derogatory to some people.
The language in this episode has a very sexual undertone to it. Mercutio uses a lot of puns, including sexual ones. The language makes this episode appealing to adolescents as it gives them a chance to laugh and release tension. The characters are also appealing as they are easy to relate to. The characters are also concerned with things that an adolescent is concerned with. The main reason that Baz Luhrman?s interpretation of the episode is appealing is because of the language and how the language is portrayed in the staging of the play.
Zefferelli?s portrayal of this episode contrasts with Luhrman?s interpretation. Zefferelli?s film does not have Mercutio teasing Romeo, except for a few comments about Rosaline. Mercutio only starts to tease Romeo when the Nurse starts talking to him. In comparison, Zefferelli includes the episode where Mercutio taunts the Nurse. The taunts to the Nurse are very physical, and Mercutio makes physical movements to accompany his insults, for instance Mercutio lifts up the Nurse?s dress. There is sexual innuendo in the language that Mercutio uses, and there is also a group of Montagues, and they intimidate the Nurse because of their numbers. This episode is appealing to adolescents because of the physical language and movements used, which allows the audience to laugh. The characters are also appealing, such as Mercutio the joker. The whole passage has a sexual undertone, which is also some of the concerns of most adolescents.
Mercutio?s death is also a key episode in the text. If Mercutio had not died, then Romeo would not have killed Tybalt. Therefore Romeo would not of been banished, and he would of known of Juliet?s plot to fake death. This would have averted the whole tragedy. This episode is appealing to contemporary audiences as it is exciting, has a fight and a death. Adolescents may be able to relate this episode to gangs, and loyalties between friends. Friendship is very important to adolescents, and therefore this scene would appeal to them.
In Zefferelli?s interpretation, the Montagues and Capulets use swords for weapons, which is how Shakespeare had written it. This fact says much on how this scene is going to be staged, as it is most likely going to be staged very similar to Shakespearean plays. The colours that each family wears can tell one about the plot. The Montagues wore blue, while the Capulets were red and gold. Red is more of an assertive colour, which makes one think that the Capulets will be the aggressors. The fight is set in the middle of town, with many Montagues and Capulets watching.
The language in this episode remains very similar to that of the original play, and the words are said with the anticipated expression. The three characters that are very strong are that of Romeo, Tybalt and Mercutio. Their concerns are about pride and winning, which are concerns that many people confront today, especially adolescents. This is why Zefferelli?s portrayal of this episode is appealing to the contemporary audience.
Mercutios death occurs on a Hispanic beach in Luhrman?s ?Romeo and Juliet?. Guns are used instead of swords, and the Montagues wear bright beachy clothes, while the Capulets are dressed in black leather, which gives connotations of evil and foreboding. The language is accentuated with physical actions, such as Tybalt spitting to emphasise that Romeo is a villain. One notices that Mercutios fatal wound is not seen occurring, but from Mercutios reaction one can tell he is wounded. Mercutio?s death is enhanced by the lightning and thunder, which shows there is a storm coming. This is a symbol of the storm at the time of Mercutio?s death and also of the one to come for the other characters. All the characters in the episode are strong, and their concern is winning the battle. From this we can see that this episode is very appealing to contemporary audiences.
Therefore it is evident that Romeo and Juliet is an enduring play because of its adolescent appeal. Through the use of language, characters and storyline, it appeals to contemporary audiences. Through Mercutios taunts and his death, imaginations are captured, and William Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet will remain popular throughout the years.
Courtney from Study Moose
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