The prologue and Act III, Scene I of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet are tackled in different ways by different directors. How does Franco Zeffirelli and Baz Lurhmann interpret these sections in order to bring the drama alive.
William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is about “Two star cross’d lovers” who take their lives. It is a famous tragic love story, which is as popular today as in Shakespeare’s time. Two film directors have produced the play but have interpreted it in different ways, in order to bring the drama alive.
Franco Zeffirelli directed his film in the 1970’s and produced a very traditional version. Where on Baz Lurhmann’s 1998 adaption, set in modern America and is very new although he does use Shakespeare’s language.
Both directors retain the prologue as an introduction to their films. Shakespeare’s prologue, written in sonnet form, gives an overview of the play and Baz Lurhmann + Franco Zeffirelli use it for different purposes.
Lurhmann’s prologue gives a very dramatic opening to the film. It begins a blank cinema screen, in the centre a television screen appears. It is not switched onto a channel so all the audience can see is static. Gradually the television screen fills the cinema screen, a clever device for it makes the audience think they are watching a television news flash. The television shows a black female news presenter who reads twelve lines of the prologue, while she’s doing this the TV fills our screen and we are able to see a ring which underneath says ‘Star cross’d lovers’.
Franco Zeffirelli introduces his version of Romeo and Juliet with a male narrator who speaks just eight lines of the prologue. It’s set in a deserted square, which seems calm with soothing music playing in the background, which contrasts with the chaos that occurs in the first scene.
Since Lurhmann’s version of Romeo and Juliet is modern, people are wearing fashionable clothes, have modern cars and transport. Also to defend themselves they have guns.
Zeffirelli’s version is very traditional. It was made nearly thirty years ago and sticks to the original very closely, much of the original is retained to provide authenticity. Unlike Lurhmann who made it more modern. Zeffirelli also used swords as weapons, unlike Lurhmann who used guns.
Baz Lurhmann’s Act III, Scene I opens with Mercutio shooting in the sea on the beach cleverly named Verona Beach. Benvolio Romeo’s cousin is with him, Mercutio’s bored so he’s entertaining himself by prancing about in the water.
When the Capulet’s appear, in the background you can hear western music. Which suggests theres going to be a duel. The Capulet’s have come to find Romeo because Tybalt had seen him at the Capulet’s party the night before. Juliet’s father had told him to leave Romeo alone and let him enjoy himself, so Tybalt, Perruchio and the others have come to confront Romeo.
Mercutio is very camp in this scene emphasizing ways. He says “And but one word with one of us? Couple it with something make it a word and a blow” which is mocking Tybalt’s masculinity and his anger becomes greater.
As Romeo appears Tybalt ignores Mercutio and says “Peace be with you sir here comes my man.” Romeo starts being serious and asks for peace, and puts his hand out. Tybalt hits his hand away and replies saying “Peace? I hate the word.” He then starts beating Romeo.
Mercutio can’t believe his eyes when he sees Romeo isn’t defending himself. He drops his gun in the sand, picks up a piece of wood and starts hitting Tybalt. Who then throws Mercutio onto the glass, which breaks into pieces.
Tybalt is so angry that he picks up a piece of glass and aims to stab Romeo but by accident he gets Mercutio, who is trying to protect Romeo. Mercutio doesn’t realise how deep the cut is and just says it’s a scratch. He then makes a couple of jokes about it like “Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man.” Afterwards he lifts up his shirt and starts to panic, then shouts “A plague on both your houses, you have made worms meat of me.” To curse both their families, Montague’s and Capulet’s for his death. It then starts to thunder and a storm begins. He says it three times before he finally falls down in the sand and Tybalt fleds.
Romeo is really upset and wants revenge, so he chases after Tybalt in his car and crashes into it, it overturns and Tybalt’s gun falls out of his car and into the road. Whilst Tybalt is trying to reach for it Romeo tries to grab it, but doesn’t succeed.
Tybalt puts the gun to Romeo’s head but he is so angry, that he doesn’t care and just keeps shouting at him. Romeo manages to knock the gun out of his hands and he takes it. Tybalt then runs up some steps trying to get away but then Romeo shoots Tybalt a few times and he falls into a fountain. Also when Romeo shoots Tybalt, a quick shot of Juliet appears on the screen.
There is then silence and a thunderstorm begins. Romeo then realises what he’s done, drops the gun and looks up at a statue of Jesus and shouts “Oh I’m fortunes fool!”
Franco Zeffirelli’s Act III, Scene I opens with the same text as Shakespeare. Benvolio and Mercutio are in the square, bored. Mercutio jumps into a water trough messing around. Benvolio warns Mercutio to get out of the public place, he says “I pray thee, good Mercutio, let’s retire. The day is hot, the Capels are abroad. And if we meet, we shall not escape a brawl, for now these hot days is the mad blood stirring.” He knows the Capulet’s are likely to cause trouble but Mercutio isn’t bothered and says, “I will not move for no man’s pleasure.”
When the Capulet’s came, Mercutio starts cracking jokes and winding Tybalt up and he gets quite angry with Tybalt when he says, “Mercutio, thou consortest with Romeo.” Mercutio answers “Consort? What, dost thou make us minstrels? And thou minstrels of us, look to hear nothing but discords. Here’s my fiddlestick, here’s that shall make you dance. Zounds, consort!”
When Romeo comes onto the scene, he’s very happy because he’s married Juliet who he’s in love with. However Tybalt now focuses all his attention on Romeo, Romeo however has no intention of fighting Tybalt ever. After Tybalt has insulted him, Romeo responds by saying ” Tybalt, the reason that I have to love thee doth much excuse the appertaining rage to such a greeting. Villain am I none. Therefore farewell. I see thou knowest me not”. To all watching this seems like a huge joke to annoy Tybalt but when Romeo will not fight Mercutio does by saying ” O calm, dishonorable, vile submission.” He thinks Romeo is a coward.