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Romeo and Juliet

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“1 Two houses, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona, where we lay our scene. From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life.” In the beginning of Baz Luhrmann’s production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, one sees a newscaster reciting the prologue that opens the tragic tale. The Capulets and Montagues, both wealthy families, hold a grudge against one another. Each family has only one child. Romeo Montague is rash, no more than seventeen, and thinks he is desperately in love with Rosaline. Juliet Capulet is thirteen years of age, beautifully spoken, and being forced to wed with the county Paris. The fated lovers meet at Capulet’s party and fall passionately in love; thus resulting in the tragic ending of Romeo and Juliet. Baz Luhrmann took his personal vision of the play and created a marvelous film from his opinion. After watching Luhrmann’s motion picture, viewers will understand Shakespeare and the tragedy, Romeo and Juliet.

Luhrmann sets the play in a modern day setting. Verona is depicted as a place no different from the California coast. After the prologue, one sees the Montague boys driving in a yellow convertible down a busy highway. As the Montagues and Capulets rendezvous at a gas station and fight against one another with pistols, Luhrmann takes what would be a sword fight and converts it to a shooting battle. Although the setting is modern, the speech is still Shakespearian. Luhrmann takes Shakespeare’s language and uses images and familiar things in ways that allow the viewer to understand as well as comprehend what the actor is saying. Baz Luhrmann did an outstanding job with the scenery and dialogue that helps the viewer understand the meaning of Shakespeare’s play.

Furthermore, if one has read Shakespeare’s work, the motion picture will give the reader an enhanced visual perspective of the play. Movies give a reader better understanding of a piece of literature by helping them see what the scenes and characters may be like. At points during the reading of the play, one might become puzzled or left wondering about scenes or entire acts. But, throughout or after watching the film, the reader will have an entirely different outlook on the whole play based on the director’s opinions. In contrast, books give one who reads them more knowledge of the world of literature. Shakespeare gives readers a larger outlook on writing and how it can differ from work to work. Plays like Shakespeare’s are unique. One will never find a tragedy as beautifully written by any other playwright. As well as knowledge of literature, books give readers knowledge of the world in general. Readers will leave Shakespeare’s work feeling as if they understand more than when they started the masterpiece.

All in all, after watching Baz Luhrmann’s production of Romeo and Juliet, one will understand better the basic meaning of William Shakespeare’s tragedy. Luhrmann’s film helps one to understand the theatrical production in a more modern setting with imagery to pull one inside the play. But, in contrast to watching the film, reading Shakespeare will give readers knowledge from the literature and language used. To conclude, in the words of Mandy Richey, 2 “It’s good to read Shakespeare, but it’s meant to be seen.”





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