The death scene in Romeo and Juliet, act v Scene iii is a powerfully dramatic thing, with close reference to the text and Baz Luhrmans modern adaptation explain how the scene is dramatically affected.
You must consider the following:
The scene in detail up to the death of Juliet
Key moments in the scene, their impact on the audience and the significance of each
Shakespeare’s use of language for emotive/dramatic effect
How dramatic tension is conveyed by Luhrmann
The social/historical context of the play and audience reaction then and now
Anything else you consider relevant
Romeo and Juliet was written by William Shakespeare around 1595. It is a book about two “star crossed lovers destined to die” and the story leading up to their deaths. At the time it was written, fathers were very much more in control of what happened his families lives. Many fathers of time would have frowned upon the play as not only did Juliet not agree with her father when he arranged her marriage, but even the simple fact that Romeo and Juliet even started a relationship… knowing they were from rival families.
Baz Luhrmann made a modern adaptation of the book. The movie was a great hit, even with the younger audience. This essay will talk about both the original text and Baz Luhrmann’s modern adaptation.
The scene opens with Paris and his Page entering the churchyard where the Capulets family tomb is, and where Juliet lies. Paris arriving has already created dramatic tension, as we know Romeo is on his way from Mantua. Because of this we can tell there is going to be conflict between Romeo and Paris right from the start of the scene.
Paris’ intentions for being at the family vault are very simple; he wants to see Juliet on his own so he can grieve in peace. This shows Paris has genuine feelings for Juliet as if he just wanted to see Juliet so that people would think he has feelings for her he would have came when everyone else did, but he comes by himself at night when no one is around.
Paris sends his Page off to hide in the churchyard and to give him warning if anyone is coming. Almost immediately after he has hidden he whistles to Paris warning him someone is approaching. Paris says “What cursï¿½d foot wanders this way to-night.” This is very ironic as it is Romeo coming and he is cursed, he’s a “star crossed lover destined to die.” Along with the irony the tension is greatly increased here as we know what Romeo is planning to do and we can see why Paris would take it the wrong way.
As Romeo smashes at the tombs gate with his crowbar, Paris apprehends him. Paris misunderstands Romeos intentions and believes he is there to cause more trouble after killing Tybalt, which he thinks lead to Juliet’s suicide. Paris says “Can vengeance be pursued further than death?” confirming Paris blames Romeo for Juliet’s suicide. Paris, on many occasions, refers to Romeo as a “villain” this just re-instates that he doesn’t understand Romeo’s intentions and cant imagine he is there to grieve for Juliet… yet he is taking the ultimate sacrifice for her, ending his life to be with her. At one point Paris says “Obey, and go with me, for thou must die” because Romeo is there to do just that, kill himself for Juliet, this is verbal dramatic irony. Romeo retaliates to Paris’ verbal onslaught by calling him boy, he says “Wilt thou provoke me? Then have at thee, boy!” This shows Romeo’s disrespect for Paris, and that he thinks he is inferior. Romeo pleads with Paris to leave but he does not listen. Romeo also says “tempt not a desperate man” meaning, what Romeo is there to do is important, and if Paris gets in his way, Romeo is prepared to kill him.
Eventually the evident outcome begins and Paris draws his sword. They fight and Paris is slain. Paris’ Page runs off to get the civil watch. As he dies, Paris asks Romeo to lay him beside Juliet and Romeo complies with his last wish, and descends into the Capulet tomb, carrying Paris’ body.
The fact that Romeo does lay Paris beside Juliet shows he has great respect for Paris, which contradicts with him calling him boy previously. It also shows Romeo to have compassion towards Paris, and that he never really wanted to kill him and this is Romeo’s way of making amends with him. Romeo mentions Tybalt, this shows he is also trying to make amends with him and never wanted to kill him either.
At this point in the novel we feel incredibly sympathetic towards Romeo as we can see he feels bad about killing Tybalt and Paris, also after everything he has done for Juliet he now thinks she is dead, what’s more is we know he is about to kill himself for Juliet however we know that Juliet is still alive and so we feel immense sympathy for Romeo.
Throughout the novel Romeo has referred to Juliet in terms of light and when he sees her he says
“A grave? O no, a lantern, slaughtered youth;
for here lies Juliet, and her beauty makes
This vault a feasting presence full of light.”
Even in a dark tomb, with dead bodies all around her, he sees her just as beautiful as he always has.
Then Romeo notices all the signs of life, but doesn’t put it all together and it never occurs to him that she is still alive. He says:
“Thou art not conquered; beauty’s ensign yet is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks and deaths pale flag is not advancï¿½d there”
There is a great deal of irony here that Romeo is just about to kill himself for Juliet, just as she is recovering from the drugs.
Romeo takes the drugs and says “Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.” Romeo dies… and just as he does Friar Lawrence enters the family tomb.
Baz Luhrmann’s modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet did surprisingly well in the cinema, even introducing the younger generation to Shakespeare who previously wouldn’t have been interested in it. Although, in the adaptation there are a lot of bits left out none of the tension is lost, it could even be argued that the death scene in the adaptation is more emotional than the one in the play.
The first noticeable change in the adaptation is that Paris is written out and so the fight between Paris and Romeo doesn’t take place. There is a fast, action-packed police chase in the place of the fight. The chase has just as much tension as the fight. Then instead of laying Paris beside Juliet, a way of Romeo showing respect and compassion to Paris, he has a hostage, which he lets go, showing compassion towards the hostage instead of Paris. Just before he lets the hostage go, he shouts “tempt not a desperate man” to the police, which he said to Paris in the play before the fight broke out. Tybalt is also written out, this is to focus the most moving scene on the two lovers. Then as Romeo enters the chapel the atmosphere changes dramatically, from the chaos outside to the tranquillity inside. This may be trying to show how much better things are when Romeo is with Juliet.
Then as Romeo shuts the chapel door a ray of light leads him to Juliet, this is a visual representation of the line “For here lies Juliet, and her beauty makes this vault a feasting presence full of light.” She is laid out on the alter like a fairytale princess, surrounded by candles, which twinkle like stars, this reminds us they are “star crossed lovers fated to die.” Then as Romeo approaches Juliet there is haunting church music in the background, which gets louder and louder as he gets closer to her body. This has a very strong effect on the audience as they can feel Romeo’s despair and it is a very moving moment when he sees’ her dead body. The music also increases the tension as we know Romeo is going to drink the poison and we also know Juliet is going to wake up any minute.
Then as Romeo is standing over Juliet’s lifeless body there is an extreme close up of Romeo. He then comments on the fact that she still shows signs of life “…thou are not conquered…” This is dramatic irony as hes saying she doesn’t look dead but still thinks she is, and we know she isn’t. This has a powerful effect audience. Then Romeo says his last words and lifts the poison to his lips. Just as he drinks it Juliet touches his face. This is probably the saddest bit of the movie as this is were they both realise exactly what has happened. Then as Romeo lies dying, Juliet kisses his lips to try and get some poison off his lips. He then says, “thus with a kiss” a tear rolls down his face… “I die.” Juliet then lets out a cry which echoes around the whole church, this emphasises Juliet’s isolation and how alone she feels. There is then an overhead shot of the gun, this makes the audience very tense as we know she is going to use it.
She then picks up the gun, cocks it and the shot is heard off screen. There is then a shot up the transcept of the church and we can see an inverted cross, this may be a reminder that suicide is against Christian doctrine. At this point we feel tremendous pity towards them as we knew they never had a chance as they were “star crossed lovers fated to die.” Then the camera pulls away and this suggests their souls are ascending to heaven together. Luhrmann then puts together a montage of clips from the movie, this includes when they first meet at the Capulet party and see each other through the fish tank, the morning after the wedding, it then returns to the church. Then it goes back to a previous bit in the movie again, the kiss in the swimming pool. The water may be a symbol of rebirth. Then it whites out, this may be a symbol of them going to heaven as heaven is seen as all white.
Then the music of the woodwinds at the end of this sequence, after everything the two loves have gone through, gives a sense of peace at last. It is an unconventional adaptation of “…the classic love story moved…” to the futuristic backdrop of Verona beach. It has been classed as “spellbinding” and “wildly inventive.”
In conclusion, although the play and movie use the same lines, it keeps you entertained in different ways. The play uses tension by making it clear that certain things are going to happen before they do… and as it leads up to these points the audience becomes very anxious. In Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation there is fast paced scenes to create tension. The use of music also helped the modern adaptation as it plays on your emotions and creates and atmosphere. Overall I enjoyed the movie more as I think there is just more in it to make you want to watch on.