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Romeo & Juliet This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Literature, like any art, is open to interpretation. The timeless tale of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is a prime example. Although Shakespeare wrote in Elizabethan England, his plays have often been interpreted in a modern setting since he left virtually no set or costume description in the text.

We saw the story of Romeo and Juliet brought to modern times with "West Side Story" quite successfully, but to keep the original dialogue, as our latest version promised, would be a completely different task. This piqued my interest, as well as countless other teenagers who ran to the theater on opening night (or was it the stars Leonardo DiCaprio, and Claire Danes?). Whatever the reason, those in the audience were in for quite a show.

The scene opens with a very familiar artifact of the nineties: the television. And the news reporter lays the scene "in fair Verona," (Verona Beach, that is.) Here we are introduced to the players with giant titles, "Tybalt, Prince of cats, Captain Prince, Dave Paris, bachelor of the year" et al. Soon the audience is thrown amid gang violence where everyone packs "sword" brand guns, for the "Do you bite your thumb, sir" scene, one of my favorites and comical in any setting. At this point I was both laughing at its ridiculousness, and wondering how the director, Baz Luhrmann would capture the innocence of love in a setting more reminiscent of "Pulp Fiction."

We then meet Romeo in Sycamore Grove, theater ruins by the sea framed by a golden glow; at this moment the entire theater sighs. Next we travel to the Capulet's costume ball, which Janet Maslin of the New York Times described more like "Priscilla Queen of Verona." Here Juliet and Romeo meet dressed as an angel and a knight, and the mood thankfully changes. The famous "balcony scene" reenacted in every high school, proved itself to be far from mediocre and for the first time I felt drawn into this movie.

I found this film to be extremely inconsistent, ranging from flamboyant "Hollywoodization" to the belief in a bizarre, mystical world. Surprisingly, there were only a few scenes where the dialogue seemed out of place. However, one representation that I disagreed with was the magical "Queen Mab" speech told by the drag queen Mercutio, to be a drug trip, though plausible in this setting.

Though sometimes wavering a bit too far into its surreaiistic madness, "Romeo and Juliet" retains its creative integrity. The ocean side theater remnants of Sycamore Grove frame the tropical storm which is personified in the violent fate banishing Romeo to the barren trailer park and separating the "pair of star-cross'd lovers" on earth. The setting is laced with countless angels, glowing crosses and other holy images, which remind us that no matter how devout the characters are, nothing could deter their cruel and ironic earthly fate.

Although this movie was far from "classic," it had its moments, and once I convinced myself that Shakespeare wasn't turning in his grave, the movie was a lot more enjoyable. It marked the achievement of Luhrmann's goal, and perhaps will revive Shakespeare in the eyes of a new audience. Whethter you go to admire or criticize, this movie is well worth the trip to the theater


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

BasketballChick5 said...
Mar. 21, 2010 at 12:19 am
I LOVE ROMEO AND JULIET!!! and west side story???
 
idkkkk replied...
Sept. 30, 2010 at 4:11 pm
West side story is a modern version of romeo and juliet. It deals with two people from two different sides of the town that are in different gangs/families. They fall in love and the guy ends up dying i never got a chance to watch it all so i dont know if the girl does too.
 
bob said...
Mar. 3, 2009 at 1:21 am
this is not romeo and juliet if it is combined with west side story!!!!!!!!!!
 
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