At the time in which Shakespeare lived many people married at a young age. This may seem a little strange to many people nowadays. But the life expectancy was very low compared to how it is today. This was because not much was known about the causes of death and how the body works. In that time they did not have much technology. They did not even know about hygiene.
William Shakespeare wrote ‘Romeo and Juliet’ between 1596 and 1598. It is one of the world’s most famous love stories. It is staged frequently and has been made into a film. The play is based on a long poem written by an Englishman, Arthur Brooke, in 1562. But Brooke probably found the story in old French and Italian books and rewrote it. Shakespeare, in any case, added details of his own – and put into it some of the most beautiful and poetic words he ever wrote.
The play is about the story of two lovers, Romeo and Juliet who fell in love and had to marry in secret because their parents and family were engaged in a bitter feud with each other. The very first lines of the play tell us about this long-standing quarrel, Two households, both alike in dignity (in fair Verona, where we lay our scene) From ancient grudge break into new mutiny, Also, Juliet’s father had arranged another marriage with an older man called Paris. The end of the story involves the two lovers killing themselves; Romeo kills himself because he thinks Juliet is dead when she is actually using a potion to make it look that way. And Juliet dies because she kills herself after waking up to see Romeo dead. The death of the two lovers unites the families.
The fifth and last act opens in Mantua. In the beginning of the first scene Romeo is in a cheerful mood, thinking of his beloved Juliet about whom he has dreamed. The dream is a prophecy. The dream presages the tragic awakening of Juliet, which occurs in the last scene, but his joyous spirits into putting a happy interpretation on the dream misguides Romeo. And breath’d such life with kisses in my lips, That I reviv’d and was an emperor. Ah me! How sweet is love itself possess’d when but love’s shadows are so rich in joy! His dreams presaging “some joyful news at hand” is closely followed by the arrival of Balthasar, from Verona who interrupts his musings.
The mood immediately changes as Balthasar arrives. He gently tells Romeo of Juliet’s apparent death. After that Romeo is no longer the visionary or the sentimentalist. At once he has become the energetic determined man of action. You can see the depth of his emotion in this scene because of his short, simple, sharp sentences, Is it e’en so? Then I defy you, stars! Thou know’st my lodging: get me ink and paper, And hire post-horses. I will hence to-night. (In the time of Elizabeth most people believed in world order, social hierarchy that meant that everything had its place even a stone.) His mind is made up in a flash and it is made clear that Romeo has had no word about the potion from Friar Laurence, and that he fully believes that Juliet is dead.
Balthasar departs so he can hire horses for Romeo ‘s return to Verona. Romeo resolves to visit a miserable, poverty-stricken Apothecary, who dwells near by. The sale of poison is forbidden by law in Mantua so he hopes to bribe the Apothecary to sell him poison. Romeo’s speech sketches a remarkably clear picture of the poor Apothecary and his strange stock-in-trade. Shakespeare’s little portrait of the man and his shop comes to life and lives in the memory. Shakespeare creates the Apothecary poor with tattered clothes who is weak and skinny. To add importance and recognition to this part of the scene Shakespeare uses alliteration: A dram of poison, such soon-speeding gear As will disperse itself through all the veins…
Having succeeded in obtaining poison, from the Apothecary, Romeo declares his intention of ending his life by Juliet’s side. Later on in the first scene you can see that there is a certain mature firmness and determination to be noticed in Romeo’s character. He is no longer a romantic youth.
Scene two is a short one. Its basic purpose is to explain why Romeo received no word from Friar Lawrence about the potion and the plan to secrete Juliet away to Mantua. Friar John, who was sent by Friar Laurence to carry a letter of explanation to Romeo in Mantua, reports that he has not been able to leave Verona. While trying to find another monk to accompany him to Mantua, he became suspected of plague infection and was kept in quarantine. He has not been to Mantua, nor was he able to send the vital letter. Friar Laurence is worried: Unhappy fortune! Sending Friar John for a crowbar to open the tomb, he decides to go himself to comfort Juliet when she wakes, and keep her hidden till Romeo can fetch her: Poor living corse, closed in a dead man’s tomb! The reason why Romeo has not received news of the truth of Juliet’s burial now becomes clear. It is pure chance that Friar John cannot deliver the letter, chance that leads to the final act of the tragedy. Friar Laurence reacts with typical practicality and commits a further deception in order to cover his previous deceitful acts.
The last scene takes place in the vault of the Capulets, which stands in a churchyard. It is nighttime. Paris has come to visit Juliet’s grave in secret. A servant to keep watch and warn him if anyone approaches accompanies him. Paris strews Juliet’s tomb with flowers, as her marriage bed would have been, and promises to do this for her every night: Nightly shall be to strew thy grave and weep. He then hears his servant whistling so he then withdrawals.
The servant is warning of the arrival of Romeo and Balthasar. Romeo tells his servant first to deliver a letter to Lord Montague the next morning, and secondly not interfere, whatever he sees Romeo doing, or Romeo will tear him limb from limb. He says to Balthasar that he is only visiting Juliet’s tomb to see her and take a ring from her finger. When the servant agrees, Romeo wishes him well and gives him money: Live, and be prosperous’. Balthasar is still concerned, however, and hides nearby to keep watch.
Romeo turns to the tomb, likening it to a wild animal that has eaten Juliet: I’ll cram thee with more food’. He begins to open the tomb when Paris, who, knowing Romeo to be the killer of Tybalt, fears he is about to desecrate the tomb, challenges him. Romeo sees Paris, greets him kindly and advises him not to interfere, for if he does, Romeo will have to kill him, which he does not want to do. Paris continues to defend the tomb, Romeo and he fight and Paris dies, with a final plea to be buried next to Juliet. His Servant, seeing all this rushes off to find the watchman.
Romeo suddenly realises who Paris is – the man who should have married Juliet. He takes Paris’s hand, feeling at one with him in their common unhappiness: One writ with me in sour misfortune’s book. Then he opens the tomb, and places Paris in it. Then at last, he looks at Juliet. His last speech is beautiful and moving. Believing her to be dead, he wonders at Juliet’s beauty. She still looks alive especially by looking at the colour of her lips and cheeks: Death, that hath sucked the honey of thy breath, Hath had no power yet upon thy beuaty. This statement is very ironic and the audience might react to this as if they are annoyed and bothered that he is not aware that Juliet is alive. This adds great tension. It is so powerful that even people who know the ending find it very gripping. He calls to Tybalt, whose body lies close by, and begs his forgiveness. It is as if his death is going to be avenged by his suicide. He prepares to die beside his wife, drinks the poison as if it was a toast to Juliet, it works quickly, and he kisses Juliet and dies.
Friar Laurence comes hurrying towards the vault. He meets Balthasar, who tells him that Romeo has already entered the vault, and hints that Romeo has fought and slain some unknown person. The Friar goes into the vault and sees the bodies of Paris and Romeo.
At this point Juliet stirs and speaks to the Friar, whom she sees before her. A sound of people approaching is heard. The Friar is anxious to hasten away. He shows Juliet the bodies of Paris and Romeo, and urges her to fly with him. She refuses to leave the vault and he goes alone. Juliet now turns to her beloved whom she is resolved to follow into death. She first tries to drain the bottle of poison, which is empty, then kisses his lips in the hope of poisoning herself that way. She is distraught to find that Romeo’s lips are still warm. Then, disturbed by the noise of the Watchman approaching, Juliet seizes Romeo’s dagger and stabs herself: This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die.
The lovers are dead, reunited, and the tragedy is over. There seems to be an anti-climax, which follows, but this is necessary to complete the story by making public see what has happened and reuniting the families.
Paris’s servant shows the Watchman the site of the tomb. They find Paris, Romeo and Juliet newly dead after searching for them. Prince Escalus and the Capulet and Montague families are summoned, and Balthasar and the Friar are taken into custody. The Prince arrives, and then the Capulets, who hear the news with horror. Lord Montague, who announces the death of his wife, is equally moved.
The Prince now demands to know what has happened, for the sake of justice, and the Friar is first to speak. He accuses himself of having partly caused the tragedy, and briefly tells the story of the marriage, and the effect of Tybalt’s death and Romeo’s banishment on the lovers, how Juliet persuaded him to give her the potion, and how news of this failed to reach Romeo. He ends by explaining the events after he reached the tomb and finally offers his life as forfeit for his responsibility in what happened: let my old life Be sacrificed.
Balthasar tells how he brought Romeo news of Juliet’s death and accompanied him back to the vault, and then the servant relates how he saw Paris and Romeo fight. Romeo’s letter to his father confirms all that has been said, and so Prince Escalus judges that no further action should be taken, all involved having been punished, including himself for his leniency.
Lord Capulet and Montague join hands, agreeing to make statues of the lovers to honour them and signify the end of the feud: I will raise her statue in pure gold. The Prince speaks the last words of sorrow at the story of the lovers: For never was a story of more woe Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.
The climax of the tragedy, though known to us before, is still moving. The tension mounts with Romeo’s arrival and his fight with Paris, followed by the final acts of love contained in the double suicide. Both Romeo and Juliet die because they cannot bear to be without each other, to them the highest expression of their passion. Because of this the conflict is ended and the families are reconciled; but it is a bitter victory, for it has taken death to end death – the death not only of the lovers, but also of Paris and Lady Montague.
Even here, fate (or chance) still operates: it disturbs us, while at the same time adding to the dramatic impact, that Romeo chances to kill himself just before Juliet wakes.
The lovers gain honour they have not previously found. Both have matured, Juliet more than Romeo, and chose their deaths knowingly, if unwisely, firm and unswayed in their resolution, each considering love of the other to be more important than living. Beside this, Paris’s formal though genuine affection seems lifeless, and the mourning of their families merely a postscript.
However, by the end of the play, all have learned a lesson. The parents now mourn truly for their children and we feel they will indeed do their best to end the feud. The Friar admits his mistake and, for that, is pardoned. Prince Escalus, the representative of law and order, realises that his weakness is as much to blame as the families for what has happened.
The final lines close the play on a note of sorrow, and are spoken not by the family but by Escalus. Although the lovers’ relationship has been a private affair, it affects not only their families but also all of Verona; the lessons it teaches are for all of us.
Although Baz Luhrmann’s film is much the same to Shakespeare’s play it has its differences. The first difference you will probably discover is how they have modernised it. It appeals to modern audiences because the majority of the audiences prefer it. For example guns instead of swords, modern cities and modern vehicles to make it more interesting. They also change some of it to fit in with the current times such as the hostage on the church steps instead of the fight with Tybalt to show desperation.
The film starts off with a soliloquy. Romeo is smoking casually. Everything is light such as his shirt. I think that this is trying to show that he is in a peaceful state. It is also perfect to show bad news. The colours are not very bright which could mean that there will not be any joyful news. Balthazar arrives and there is a camera shot of him standing solitary in the middle of the open barren. Also describe his feelings. You can see the sunset and calm music starts to play with a simple melody played by a guitar. It is very relaxing and then the music gets faster as he gets angry. The music stops and then starts again as he talks and then become louder then ever with the tempo increasing at the same time. I think that this music is trying to show you what is going on in his head and it links with what he is doing. It speeds up as if music is displaying his rage.
The camera then has shots on the city using a helicopter. The camera then all of a sudden goes to the priest and it bangs. This shows that the scene is fast paced and full of tension. When he buys the potion I noticed how Baz Luhrman did not use the apothecary once. The man who sells the potion is shown as fat in contrast with Shakespeare’s old skinny apothecary. The shop in the play seems to be one with weirdness. It can be thought as empty too. There are just two or three books a turtle hanging from the ceiling, a crocodile on the table scales and some shelves with pots etc. The one in the film is different to this.
Whenever Romeo talks music and other sound effects start like when the money goes there is drums. It is slow to begin with then gets faster as chase goes on. It helps the pace. The music stops and starts especially on the priest and starts again on the chase. When he grabs the hostage which is a substitute for the fight with Balthasar. This shows his desperation to see Juliet. The camera turns past on police officers and it keeps switching as they fire and gets faster as Romeo goes in it. It then all stops in a sudden when in the sanctuary. There are lights and candles symbolising the Capulets wealth. This is very different to Shakespeare’s play, as there is no candles and stuff like that. It is as if he his walking down the Isle to get married when Juliet is in her coffin. The candles look very exaggerated and over the top. As music starts it reaches a climax.
Moves when he looks away with camera showing candles in front of them. Music starts again and seems to get more tragic and emotional. She wakes up after her deep sleep and starts talking straight way. This shows un-realism as she has slept for ages. It is very different to the play. Romeo dies before she wakes up in the play. He dies much calmer than he should have especially compared to what the man said who sold it to him. It zooms in on faces a lot then zooms out to see candles then a close up. There is slow motion as she goes for the gun instead of sword compared to with the play. As soon as the gunshot comes out it zooms out and then zooms in again. There are then flashbacks with a good technique being used. It is first still then a white flash followed by black and white or dim to show T.V screen it then zooms out from T.V and ends like it starts getting smaller, fading away.
The basic story line remains the same but I think he has changed some parts for the better. There are parts in the play, which the audience find annoying like the fact that Romeo dies so close to Juliet’s wakening. In the film he makes it so they are both awake which gives a sense of relief. He has also done this successfully would out changing the basics principle of it and the ending. He also makes it more exciting by adding guns with some of them with the writing ‘sword 9mm’. There is also car chases and modern cities which adds a good atmosphere to the film. One thing that people may not like however is the old language but I think that it is good to hear Shakespeare’s poetic writings on screen. And if this was changed then there could have been just a little too much change in it. I think it is amazing how he changes all this but at end of it. It’s just like Shakespeare’s classic if you come to think about it.