Modernization in Romeo and Juliet
Modernization in Romeo and Juliet Full Essay William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is one of the most well known tragedies of all time. Two star-crossed lovers, driven apart through the hate between their families, die tragic deaths when they can’t be together. People can interpret the play in countless ways. There have been many versions made throughout the years. Through movies and art form this play has been adapted and changed. In 1997, Baz Luhrmann directs his own modernized version, “Romeo + Juliet”.
This movie uses the original text, omitting some parts. Baz Luhrmann puts his own take on the story changing how the viewer sees the play. The modern adaptations in Baz Luhrmann’s version of Romeo and Juliet cause the viewer to have a different perspective on different scenes of the play specifically the prologue, party scene and in the tomb. The modernization in the movie plays on the plot of the original play, and causes the viewers to think information in the prologue.
Shakespeare begins the play with the prologue which was recited by the Chorus once and then the play started. The first part of the prologue begins with, “Two households”, the Montagues and the Capulets, “both alike in dignity”, both with the same social standing, “In fair Verona, where we lay our scene”, in the city of Verona where the play takes place, “From ancient grudge break to new mutiny”, a long standing hatred erupts into new violence, “Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean” where citizens will join and stain their hands with the blood of other citizens (1-4).
The next thought Shakespeare puts into the prologue is, “From forth the fatal loins of these two foes”, the children of the enemies, “A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;” will fall in love and take their own lives, “Whose misadventured piteous overthrows”, and their unfortunate death, “Do with their death bury their parents’ strife” will put an end to their parents feud (5-8).
Shakespeare ends the prologue with, “The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love”, the story of their doomed love meant for death, “And the continuance of their parents’ rage”, and their parents anger, “Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove”, which doesn’t end until their children die, “Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;” is what will be presented in the next two hours, “The which if you with patient ears attend”, which if you listen carefully, “What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend”, everything missed in the prologue will be presented onstage (9-14).
In contrast, Luhrmann’s movie has the prologue telecasted to the viewer by a newscaster on a TV screen, who says the entire prologue, and then the TV screen fades out. This initially makes the viewer feel an urge of immediacy. There is a need for an on the spot news report. This wouldn’t have been the feeling in the original play; the Chorus would have read the prologue to the audience with a normal speed in their voice. The modernized movie continues the urgency with the prologue given a second time. This time it is read faster. The modernized city of Verona is really emphasized. In fair Verona” (2) is flashed on the screen and the images show two hotels, one with a sign saying “Capulet” and the other with a sign saying “Montague”. This takes out the need for the first line of the prologue and shows the viewer that these two families are enemies and it puts a completion element into the mix. The two households don’t like each other because they need to compete with each other. The prologue continues with Newspapers like “The Verona Times” and “Verona Today”, and magazines like “Time” and “Bullet” flashes on the screen with articles about two families fighting, with the words of the prologue as headlines.
This shows that this feud was a national thing that everyone knew about. It was a big deal. Shakespeare didn’t present the feud between the families as a worldwide deal. He just made it seem as though all of Verona knew about the enemies. Viewers might think that the grudge is a bigger deal then it actually is. When talking about the two households, there is a continued appearance of the Jesus statue and other religious symbolism. Then, there are police cars and sirens with people fighting on the streets.
This shows how religion, like the law, is no longer an effective means of maintaining peace and harmony in modern society. Shakespeare didn’t mention religion in the prologue at all. This will tell the viewer that religion may have a big impact on this version of Romeo and Juliet verses the original one. The movie flashes “a pair of star cross’d lovers take their life” (6) in big letters across the screen and then ends the prologue. Lines seven through fourteen are taken out the second time. This implies that the death to the children may not end the feud between the families.
The death of the Romeo and Juliet could just be because that was their fate and that was how they were supposed to die. Modernization throughout the prologue gave the viewers a different feeling of what was going to happen than Shakespeare’s simple prologue read by the Chorus. Just like the prologue, in the famous party scene, the modern adaptations cause the viewer to interpret the scene in a different way. Just before the party scene begins, Romeo and Mercutio are talking about dreams and how dreams are the product of nothing. In Baz Luhrmann’s version, Mercutio then gives Romeo a pill to make Romeo high.
As Romeo ponders whether or not to take the pill he is saying: I fear too early, for my mind misgives Some consequence yet hanging in the stars Shall bitterly begin his fearful date With this night’s revels, and expire the term Of a despised life closed in my breast By some vile forfeit of untimely death. But he that hath the steerage of my course, Direct my sail.
On, lusty gentlemen. (1. 4. 107-114) This is foreshadowing what will happen later. Romeo is saying the something that happens tonight may result in his own death. But, after saying that, Romeo takes the pill anyway and starts to go into the party. The drug causes Romeo to see overpowering colors everywhere and the sounds around him get louder, the speed of the images around him get slower and Paris seems like he is growling at Romeo. These are all effects of the drug. Romeo now seems disorientated and the viewers can see that.
Romeo dances for awhile but then goes to the bathroom because the party and drugs are too overwhelming for him. This is where Romeo first sees Juliet. The viewer may connect the drugs to Romeo meeting Juliet. If Romeo didn’t take the pill Mercuito had given him, then Romeo and Juliet wouldn’t have met causing a problem for themselves. Romeo first sees Juliet through a fish tank. The movie goes into a calming feel and there is gentle singing in the background. The fish move around corners and then Romeo sees Juliet peering into the tank as well. This was a total coincidence.
Juliet was tired of the party as well and came into the bathroom area too. Shakespeare’s version has Romeo and Juliet looking at each other from across the room while dancing, but in the version they randomly meet together. This causes the viewers to think that this was fate, instead of a romance that was brought together gradually. The timing of them meeting is very different between the two. Once Romeo and Juliet have seen each other, the dancing begins. Juliet starts by dancing with Paris. In Shakespeare’s play, there are no lines for Paris and no indication that Juliet even saw him.
So, this is something the director would have put in. While Juliet is dancing with Paris, she is constantly looking at Romeo. This causes the viewer to see how much Romeo and Juliet connected. When Paris kissed Juliet’s hand goodbye, Romeo got a questioning look on his face. This was his jealously showing. Juliet not even giving attention to Paris shows how much true love can affect someone. Shakespeare’s play didn’t get this feeling. The costumes the characters wear in the party scene make viewers make assumptions about the characters. Juliet comes out in an angel costume which makes the audience see her as an innocent girl.
She is pure and can’t do anything wrong. There is Paris who is the man Juliet is supposed to be looking for at the party. He is an astronaut costume. He is the perfect type of guy. Every kid wants to be an astronaut when they grow older but very few people achieve that goal. Tybalt is in a devil costume. He is the opposite of Juliet. It is like he is working against her. He will try to drive Romeo and Juliet apart. Then there is Romeo who is the knight in shining armor. He will be there when Juliet needs him. He will go through any obstacles to get to his princess, the girl of his dreams.
With these costumes, the audience gets another perspective on the characters that Shakespeare’s original play wouldn’t have given. The party scene pushes the plot forward and has the audience see another perspective on the events happening. Just like the prologue and the party scene, in the tomb with Juliet has a modern feel to it which has the audience have a different perspective on the scene. Just before this scene Juliet had taken a sleeping pill from Friar Lawrence to get out of her marriage with Paris. The pill would make it seem as though she were dead, but she was just in a deep sleep for a few days.
There was a funeral for Juliet and Romeo didn’t find out about Juliet’s plan. So, Romeo was told that Juliet had died and was buried in the Capulets tomb; he rushed to the tomb to see if that was true. As Romeo is riding toward the tomb, in the movie, the music in the background gets techno, but also dark and mysterious. This is giving the viewer a feeling of dread, like something is not going to be good. The music gets faster and faster, and when he reaches the tomb, an orchestra starts playing melancholy, slow music. Then, it stops and Romeo starts speaking. The buildup of music fills the viewer with a eeling a dread. Shakespeare couldn’t capture this feeling as well because he just had the words of the characters. When Romeo steps down into the tomb, he sees candles lit all around Juliet with crosses surrounding her. She isn’t like every other people in the tomb; she is definitely set out apart from the others with more candles and things around her. There are many people buried in a tomb and in the movie the audience couldn’t see this as well. There was a feeling that Juliet was the only one in the tomb and that no one else mattered but her. There were even candles lighting a path to go up to her laying place.
This made the scene more surrounding around her. There weren’t any distractions from Juliet. Everyone’s focus would be on what happened what Romeo went up to her. Paris doesn’t come to see Juliet while Romeo is there. All the lines Romeo and Paris exchange with each other are taken out. The viewer feels that the scene in the tomb is more of a moment for Romeo and Juliet. No one else can cause disruptions. Romeo sees Juliet and starts to cry. He takes off the ring, which he has on his neck hanging on a chain, and puts it on Juliet’s third finger on her left hand, her ring finger. This symbolizes the marriage the lovers had.
Romeo doesn’t want to be alone in the world without Juliet. In modern day, people will see Romeo put the ring on her ring finger and know what it means. Shakespeare didn’t have anything about a ring in his play; this was an adaptation that Luhrmann had made that added to the plot. Romeo overwhelmed with grief talks to Juliet’s body asking why she had to die and how lovers were meant to be together, he doesn’t want to ever leave the tomb. He kisses Juliet and concludes with: Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide. Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on The dashing rocks thy seasick, weary bark.
Here’s to my love! (drinks the poison) O true apothecary, Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die. (5. 3. 126-131) In the Shakespeare’s original play, Friar Lawrence comes to help Juliet when she wakes up from the sleep. He would have seen Romeo dead and tried to get Juliet out of the tomb without her seeing Romeo. But, Juliet ends up killing herself when she sees Romeo. In Baz Luhrmann’s version, Juliet is awakening just as Romeo is talking to her. Juliet sees Romeo take the poison just as she hits it out of his hand. But, it was too late; Romeo drank the poison and was going to die.
The timing of this makes the audience have a sinking feeling in their hearts. If only Juliet could have woken a few seconds earlier, the lovers could still be together. The audience doesn’t get that feeling when they are watching Shakespeare’s play because Romeo was long dead before Juliet wakes up. The modern timing adds to the feeling of dread. The modernization in this scene of the play, which is the last one, completes the play with wholeness, and more understanding. In conclusion, the adaptations made by Baz Luhrmann make the viewer see Shakespeare’s play in a different perspective.
The prologue used modern media, flashing words on the screen and timing. This set up the entire play. The dance scene uses drugs, costuming, and timing to create a moment where Romeo and Juliet meet. This continued the plot. The last scene of the play, in the tomb was modernized with music, timing and items. This wrapped up the play. Baz Luhrmann brought a different view to Romeo and Juliet though modernization. He used many movie techniques. He had his own modern interpretation of the 16th century classic which gave audiences something to think about.