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'Romeo and Juliet' for a Modern Audience

Richard Eyre has aimed to engage with a modern audience in this production. The subject matter (love) suits all audiences. It is something we can all relate to – any age, any culture, any period. However, Richard Eyre has tried to make this play appeal more to a modern audience in this audio-tape prduction. There are several ways in which he has tried to do this. It was probably meant to be played in schools, with most rude lines missed out. The fact that there is no visual image means that pupils can concentrate more on the words of the play, and understand their meaning, rather than just watching the actions of the play.

The first thing we hear on the tape, before the prologue, is people coughing. This implies that somebody is in trouble, and creates a sense of violence and also a bit of mysters – why are people coughing? Then we hear the words of the prologue. The man speaking is a Londoner.

People would have wanted to speak like the capital of their country in these days. The accent was more American-sounding than our English accents today. However, it is shown that the production is being brought staight upto the 21st century by the elimination of Elizabethan accents.

In the first scene, a lot of puns were used in the original play. However, in the Richard Eyre production, many of the old puns were omited, to keep it snappy. We notice also from this scene that different sound effects are used according to the character seaking.

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When Romeo is present, faint music or sound effects are played, however, if a rough servant is talking, harsher backround sounds will be used. An example of the play being modernised is used in this scene after Tybalt arrives, where we are told that knives were being used for fighting, rather than swords. Fighting is shown by the clashing of a few knives, groans, and cheering.

This is an effective way of showing action, however it is still difficult to know what fighting techniques are being used etc. When Romeo and Benvolio are talking at the end of this scene, where Romeo is trying to express his ‘love’ for Rosaline, no background music is used and there are no changes to the original text. This will have been because the language is easy enough to understand, and it is easy to tell what s going on without additional effects. We can tell, just from the words, that Romeo is being over-the-top and is describing artificial love, he loves the idea of being in love.

At the beginning of the next scene, we are obviously outside, and we hear a woman being thrown into a fountain or swimming pool. This does not seem to be of any relevance, but it is probably suggesting misbehaviour, as later on in the scene, Benvolio is given an interesting idea. Women were seen as posessions in Elizabethan times, and in line 32, the word ‘mine’ is changed to ‘she’ on the tape production, to eliminate posession. This is another example of how the play is being brought up to the 21st century. It is also quite easy to get lost with who is talking to who in this scene, so the editor puts extra words in to the direct listener. For example, when Romeo is talking to Bevolio, ‘, Benvolio’ may be added at the end of the sentence.

The third scene is where Lady Capulet tells Juliet and her nurse about Paris and his proposal of marriage. We are immediately warmed to the nirse, she seems more of a motherly figure, rather than Lady Capulet, who comes across more of a cold character. When the Nurse starts rambling, the tape misses the occasional word or two out, we can still tell that the nurse is rambling, but it makes the speech less boring, only the funnier parts are spoken. Lady Capulet describes Paris in a poetic conceit. This shows her class, and the rhyming couplets make what she says seem more artificial.

The next scene os the party scene. It starts with lots of loud, flashy music, and the atmosphere is created with this and tooting car horns. We immediately get the impression of testosterone, and lads planning to have a good time.

On the other hand, there are also many negative qualities also. Losing visula impact means that we cannot see the expressions on the characters faces, and we have to rely on their voices to understand their emotions, which is sometimes more difficult than it sounds. You need a strong imagination to compensate for the fact that you cannot see anything. How will backgrounds be established just from a few sound effects? Actions are also very difficult to put over without being able to see what is happening. For example, in a fight, how would you be able to tell who is winning, and who gets killed? Also, it is very difficult to understand the play first tme through of listening to the tape. Everything moves very fast, and especially with so many missed out parts. If you miss something that has been said on the tape, it is harder to pick up what is going on rather than if you were watching the play.

Other arguements can be made against the idea of the mixture of modern regional accent speaking in Elizabethan language. This is completely inappropriate and unrealistic to Shakespeare’s dialogue.

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'Romeo and Juliet' for a Modern Audience. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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