Posted: June 18th, 2021
The renowned love story of Romeo and Juliet, originally composed by William Shakespeare in 1597, has been transformed into a modern-day story to shed a contemporary perspective on the universal themes of love and hatred, two prominent themes that are seen in the original play. Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (1996) is a transformation of the original play to a film with a modern context for a contemporary audience. The universal themes of love and hatred can be seen through both the original play and modern-day film. Th The renowned love story of Romeo and Juliet, originally composed by William Shakespeare in 1597, has been transformed in the modern-day world to shed a new perspective on the universal themes of love and hatred that can be seen through the original play. Romeo + Juliet 1996 transforms the original play into a modern-day film for a contemporary audience.
The universal theme of love is reoccurring throughout both the play and the novel. Shakespeare’s play, Romeo + Juliet, is set back in the thirteenth or fourteenth century in Italy, Verona. It is the most famous love story in the English literary tradition naturally, making love the play’s dominant and most important theme. The play focuses on romantic love, specifically the intense passion that springs up at first sight between Romeo and Juliet. In the play, Romeo + Juliet, love is a violent, ecstatic, overpowering force that supersedes all other values, loyalties and emotions.
In the course of the play, the idea that love is just as destructive as hate comes about. Love in Romeo + Juliet is a brutal, powerful emotion that captures individuals and catapults them against their world, and at times, against themselves. “O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright! It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear— Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear. So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows. Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight, For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.” In the form of a soliloquy, Romeo vocalizes his thoughts about Juliet the first time he saws her at the Capulet ball.
He instantly falls in love with her. The use of emotive language and metaphor creates strong imagery as he says that Juliet’s beauty and a radiance appear to make the torches grow dim. That she’s a dazzling jewel illuminating the night sky. That Juliet stands out from the other girls like a snowy dove in a flock of crows. Romeo has never seen any being more beautiful than Juliet and is instantly eager to win her over. ‘Romeo; “If I profane with my unworthiest hand, this holy shrine, the gentle fine is this: my lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready to stand. To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss” Juliet; Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much, which mannerly devotion shows in this; for saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch, and palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss” Romeo; O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do.”’ This is Romeo and Juliet’s first exchange after he spots her at the Capulet ball. In these examples, Romeo and Juliet speak in a sonnet, evoking religious imagery with the use of an extended metaphor.
This introduces the idea that religion was extremely important in Elizabethan society and that Romeo and Juliet’s relationship will transcend traditional religious expectations. Angling for a kiss, Romeo refers to his lips as “two pilgrims” that worship at a “holy shrine”, Juliet’s lips. Here, Romeo implies that kissing Juliet would be a religious experience. “These violent delights have violent ends, And in their triumph die; like fire and powder, Which, as they kiss, consume: the sweetest honey is loathsome in his own deliciousness, And in the taste confounds the appetite: Therefore love moderately: long love doth so.” Spoken by Friar Lawrence before he marries Romeo off to Juliet, this short speech advises the young Romeo to love in moderation. In this quote, the friar uses the example of honey which, although it’s delicious, can make us feel ill if we eat too much too quickly.
There is also an example of fire and powder, as they meet, can cause destruction. In the same way, while rushing into a loving relationship is tempting, it’s far wiser to be moderate with our passions if we want a marriage that will endure for a lifetime. This quote also foreshadows Romeo and Juliet’s “violent ends” that come as a result of their “violent delights.” This whole speech given by the friar contains oxymorons and metaphors to convey Shakespeares’ perspective on the love in Romeo + Juliet.
Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (1996) is a partial transformation of the original play to a film with a modern context for a contemporary audience. Lurhmann has set the story at Verona Beach in modern-day Los Angeles. The action-packed drama immediately engages the audience with the fast edited montage of Verona. While being a modern-day transformation it has still preserved the same ideas of love that are seen in the play written during the 14th century.
A brutal, powerful emotion that can supersede any other values in life, including life itself. Unlike the play, the lovers first see one another in a bathroom in the Capulet mansion with a fish tank between them. The fish tank acts as a barrier between the two, representing the idea of Romeo and Juliet’s forbidden love due to the conflict between their families. Having a barrier between Romeo and Juliet also heightens the sense of yearning for one another, creating curiosity in both the characters and suspense to the audience. The camera angles are close up, which provides inclusion for the audience and can emphasize how the lovers feel when they first lay eyes on each other.
The song “I’m kissing you” is being played in this scene as a woman at the party sing’s this song to the guests. This highly influences the mood and romantic tone of the scene. When Juliet is whisked away from the fish tank, Romeo goes after her to find her dancing with Paris. As Romeo watches Juliet with a captivated expression, he says “Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight, For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.” The full soliloquy is not necessary here as the audience can easily read how Romeo is feeling as the camera angle is close up to his face. Romeo has such a captivated expression on his face, the audience can so very easily read what he’s thinking and feeling with only being provided 2 lines of the soliloquy.
The next scene, Romeo sneaks up to Juliet and angles for a kiss by saying “If I profane with my unworthiest hand, this holy shrine, the gentle fine is this: my lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready to stand. To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.” The exchange between Romeo and Juliet is filled with metaphors regarding saints and pilgrims, evoking strong religious imagery. At the Capulet costume party, Juliet is dressed as an angel, wearing all white, symbolizing purity and innocence. Juliet’s costuming is perfectly suited to the scene as Romeo refers to her as a ‘holy shrine’. After their flirty exchange, Romeo and Juliet sneak into the elevator, where they finally kiss. The elevator, while going up, is symbolic of rising to heaven and the confined space acts as the two lovers’ own world.
The lighting is white, bright and has a heavenly aura, conveying the idea that when they’re when they kiss one another it is a religious experience. In terms of physical intimacy, there is a lot more of it displayed in the film as this helps to convey the passionate romance between Romeo and Juliet. Instead of having the direct quote from the friar, he looks concerned and shocked about how fast Romeo moved on from Rosaline to Juliet. The friar doesn’t willingly agree to marry the two straight away as he has doubts, this in itself is foreshadowing the “violent ends.” It then cuts to the start of the fight scene with a montage of the beach etc.
In Romeo + Juliet, hate plays a pivotal role in both the play and film. In the play, love and hate are both intense passions and the language Shakespeare uses to depict love and hate shows that the two are similar. This being, love is just as destructive as hatred and that they are just two sides of the same coin, as both of these passions are ultimately what drive Romeo and Juliet to take their lives. Shakespeare conveys the theme of hate in the main form of family rivalries as he is trying to convey that its foolish to hold on to old grudges as a great deal of hate comes from doing so, and such hate can have the most catastrophic impacts.
The Montagues and Capulets let an old family rivalry take over their lives and if they had let it go, they may have been able to save the lives of Romeo and Juliet. The rivalry between the Montagues and Capulets is stated in the prologue and said to have been going on for quite a long time. The opening lines from the play tells how the hatred between the two families led to the death of their children. “From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, where civil blood marks civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life. Doth with their deaths bury their parents’ strife.” The theme of hatred is continuous throughout the play, however, the fatal fight scene between the Romeo, Mercutio and Tybalt exhibits the tragic impacts of hatred. The scene starts off in Verona S
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