In this essay I am going to discuss how I would direct Act 3 Scene 5 from William Shakespeare’s, “Romeo and Juliet”, first produced in 1595. Since then, there have been modern productions where the original text has been adapted for film. Considering this, I am going to direct a film version, explaining in detail Act 3 Scene 5. I will develop ideas based on two films, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ directed by Franco Zeffirelli in 1968 and ‘Romeo and Juliet’ directed by Baz Luhrmann in 1997.
To make this play relevant to today’s society I will set it in modern day England because I do not think that a traditional setting will appeal to a modern audience. To portray the conflict between the two families I will have the Montagues and Capulets different religions. In Shakespeare’s original text, we do not find out why the families are opposed, and why it would anger both families for Romeo and Juliet to marry. We do know that in Shakespeare’s time, it was considered a mortal sin to be trying to be wed while already married. It was believed that you would certainly go to hell and no Friar would conduct the ceremony. Nowadays, it is the choice of the person who they marry. I will explain this situation by Juliet’s family being Hindus and therefore an arranged marriage would be a normal thing for her. This will also explain why it is such a bad thing for them to marry. The Montagues would dislike the Capulets possibly because of their racial background. This would represent the racism and discrimination that still goes on today. However Romeo and Juliet will represent the young generation of people who do not have these views and have put their families prejudices behind them, which is one of Shakespeare’s main plot lines.
Instead of changing the text so that it is in modern day language, I will keep the words how Shakespeare wrote them. I believe the language is essential to the feel of the play and many of the lines are famous and recognisable as they are. ‘Romeo, Romeo, where for art thou Romeo’ is known worldwide and is immediately associated with ‘Romeo and Juliet’. I also believe the language itself sounds romantic and would better express how the characters are feeling for each other. It will not matter that some lines will have to be removed to make it a suitable length for a film. I do not think any understanding will be lost because the new visual aspect, combined with the script, will successfully make up for this.
I will direct Act 3 Scene 5 from line 65, where Lady Capulet enters. Prior to this, Juliet has said goodbye to Romeo, who after getting married and spending the night with Juliet, must leave for Mantua. In the rest of the scene, it is revealed to Juliet of the arrangements for her to marry Paris. Her parents are united in this decision and when she refuses, they threaten to disown her. Alone with the Nurse, Juliet asks her for advice. She replies that Juliet should marry Paris and Romeo is nothing compared to him. Juliet is shocked, as the Nurse is one of the only people she trusts and who knows of her love for Romeo. She pretends to agree with her advice and says the only person who can help her is Friar Lawrence. She claims she will do what he suggests or if that fails, take her own life.
I chose this scene because I believe it is crucial to the development of the plot and the outcome of the play. If the Capulets, on seeing Juliet’s strong objections, had not forced her to marry Paris, she would never have had to take drastic measures to avoid it. She would never have had to take the potion of the Friars, leading to death of both her and Romeo. She would have been able to get in touch with him another way and the whole tragedy need not have happened.
The actors I want for this film would have to represent the characteristics and personalities of the original way the characters are portrayed in the text. When you read the play, you get a personal opinion of what the people look like and I am using what I think, based on what they say and do. In Act 3 Scene 5 line__ to end, there are four characters, Juliet, the Nurse, Lady Capulet and Capulet. In the scenes previous, Juliet comes across as being pretty because Romeo forgets all about Rosaline when he sees her, young, ‘on Lammas Eve, she shall be fourteen.’ and innocent as she is inexperienced. In this scene, she develops and we see a new side to her. She is outwardly defiant and confident as she disobeys her parents. I think that actress Parminda Nagra (Bend It Like Beckham) would be perfect for the role. She is young, in my opinion, pretty and she has experience in taking on a role where she is fighting against her authoritative parents over what she wants to do with her life.
In the play, the Nurse comes across from the text as a narrator, a comedy character, middle aged, assertive and strong,
‘Out upon you, what a man are you?’
The Nurse stands up for herself when being taunted by Mercutio and the rest of the Montagues. I believe that Dawn French (Absolutely Fabulous, The Vicar of Dibley) would fulfil this role and the look of the Nurse well. Although only known as a comedy actress, French is trained in speech and drama and could well take on a more serious role. She appears motherly and kind, points needed for the person Juliet confides in. I believe she would play part well, mainly because of her talent for comedy.
To play Lady Capulet, I would like Oscar winner, Catherine Zeta Jones (Mask of Zorro, Traffic, Titanic, Darling Buds of May). In the text, Lady Capulet comes across as tall, strong, strict and able to boss Juliet around,
‘Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee.’
She is commanding of Juliet and does not take ‘no’ for an answer. Jones is a versatile actress who has successfully played several different kinds of demanding roles. I believe she has the look of a strong woman who is the head of a household.
Capulet is portrayed as a tall, large man who is overpowering and well respected. He stops Tybalt from fighting Romeo at the ball, and takes charge of the situation in Act 3 Scene 5. He creates a sense of authority and dominance that people do not disagree with. I think that Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas, Nixon, Romeo and Juliet) would be good in this role. Luhrmann had also cast him as Capulet in his 1997 version and I can appreciate the reasons why. He is a talented actor who not only works in film but television, theatre and more recently, opera. This means he has a loud voice and an air of control around him. He has played important, powerful characters previously and is currently working on an adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’. This means he will be familiar with his work and how Shakespeare wants his characters to be like.
I think costume is important in this scene as it can subconsciously show that Juliet and her parents are on different sides. Capulet and his wife would be wearing clothes similar in colour and style and this would contrast with Juliet’s clothes. This will represent them as opposites in the argument. Capulet and Lady Capulet would be dressed in bold, domineering colours, such as blue and black. They show the characters have authority and are strong. Blue and black are colours commonly used by police, hence a force of law. Juliet would be dressed in red and white, the direct opposite of her parents. Red also symbolises rebellion and defiance, Juliet’s attitude to the marriage with Paris. The Nurse would wear plain, light clothes, as she does not take sides. She represents the middle, neutral ground in this argument as she tries to reason with Juliet after her parents leave. She does not tell Juliet what to do.
This scene takes place in Juliet’s bedroom, therefore an unmade bed has to be visible and the balcony through the window. This is reminding us of her night with Romeo. The sun will be shining through the window on to the bed, representing previous lines. ‘It is the East, and Juliet is the Sun’, ‘Yond light is not daylight, I know it’ Juliet will be positioned by the window because she will be surrounded by light and the morning sun, representing hope. The bed will separate her from her parents, on the other side of the room. This will show them to be divided and apart. Her parents will be standing by the door way with the door open, showing the inside of their house to be dark and gloomy. This again separates them. The Nurse will be kneeling by the bed, between them. This is because she is caught in the middle of the argument, between her loyalty to Juliet and her obedience to her employers. She is kneeling because she has no say in the matter and keeps quiet, therefore not part of the actual argument. This shows submission and that she cannot help Juliet in this situation.
There are several key lines within this scene that should be emphasised, as they have specific relevance to the main themes of the play, which are love, hate, death, fate and loyalty. To accomplish this, I will use dramatic devices such as lighting, music, camera angles and gestures from the actors. This will convey the emotion in the scene across to the audience and make them focus on important ideas or lines.
The most important feature of Juliet’s dialogue in this scene is the double meanings,
‘Indeed I never shall be satisfied With Romeo, till I behold him. Dead Is my poor heart.’
Lady Capulet interprets this to think that Juliet wants Romeo dead, but in fact she is saying her heart is dead because of him.
Throughout the scene there are moments like this. I would emphasise them in the hope that the audience will pick up on the double meanings. To do this I will do a close up on the actor or actress, to make it memorable, and have the actor pause for a few seconds after the line has been delivered. This will add to the impact of the line and give time for the audience to think about what has just been said.
When Lady Capulet is talking to Juliet about Romeo she mentions Tybalt and she assumes this is why she is upset,
‘That he shall soon keep Tybalt company.’
This line ties in strongly with some of the themes of the play like death and fate. What Shakespeare intends by this is for us to realise that she wants Romeo dead, like Tybalt has but, as the play progresses, we see that Romeo dies in the Capulet vault and therefore is literally, ‘keeping Tybalt company.’ There is a strong sense of irony throughout this scene. I would emphasise this particular line by panning across with the actress as she walks nearer to Juliet, and then cutting to Juliet’s horrified reaction. I would also increase the lighting on Lady Capulet, to symbolise she is, although unaware, enlightened to what will happen.
More irony is present later in the scene. Most of the characters unintentionally say things that later come true. This is a direct link with one of the play’s themes, fate.
‘Delay this marriage for a month, a week, or if you do not, make the bridal bed in the dim monument where Tybalt lies.’
Juliet is saying she would rather die than marry Paris but in fact, this becomes the case. Shakespeare has let the audience know that both of the main characters die by including the Prologue but he also drops clues throughout the play, letting you know more details about the death before it has happened. This is to intrigue the audience and keep them interested. I would stress this line because if the audience pick up on its relevance, it will make it more exciting to watch. I would emphasise its importance by using music. In the lines before it, I would have the music slowly building up to a climax when the line is being said and then going quiet and slow. This will have a dramatic subconscious effect to the audience. The line will stand out, but because music will be playing throughout this scene, it will not be obvious why. This technique was used in the Luhrmann’s adaptation. He used stops and starts of music particularly for the important scenes, such as the death scene.
More themes of the play are touched on in this scene,
‘God pardon him, I do with all my heart.’
Juliet shows the audience that even though Romeo killed her cousin, Juliet is able to forgive him and still loves him. He stays true to Romeo. This ties in with the themes of love and loyalty. To emphasise this, I would zoom in on Juliet’s face, stopping when only her head and torso is in view. While she delivers the line, she could place both hands on her heart and glance towards the window. This would show her heart is still true to Romeo and that she is still thinking of him. Shakespeare wanted the loyalty and love for each other that Romeo and Juliet have to be apparent throughout the play. I would carry this idea on by emphasising this line.
To show Capulet’s authority and dominance over Juliet in this scene, I would use a point of view shot as Juliet, being towered over by her father. In this way the audience could relate to how Juliet is feeling and sympathise with her. I would do this when Capulet insults Juliet. He repeated calls Juliet ‘proud’ and calls her names such as ‘young baggage, disobedient wretch’, ‘tallow-face’, ‘sickness-green carrion’ and ‘unworthy.’ Although considered mild or amusing today, in the sixteenth century they would be considered extremely strong and forceful. By making these insults look dramatic and harsh, this would better convey Capulet’s intense displeasure.
The scene ends with Juliet on her own speaking her thoughts, a monologue. She reveals how she is feeling about her parent’s ideas,
‘Ancient damnation, O most wicked fiend’
and tells the audience that if she cannot get out of it, she wants to die.
‘If all else fail, myself have power to die.’
This again ties in with the theme of fate and so I believe it is as important as the rest of the scene. To emphasise her distress, I would pan the shot around her, slowly zooming and then resting at a close up on her face when she delivers the last line. I want the picture of just her face and how angry she is to be memorable so at the very end I would cut to a black screen.
I believe that my direction of Act 3 Scene 5 by adaptations, choice of characters and use of dramatic devices will make this scene successful.