William Shakespeare, the world’s most famous playwright, Romeo and Juliet, the greatest love story ever told. For over four hundred years this play has been performed for audiences of all ages. Containing famous lines such as;
“Romeo, Romeo wherefore art thou Romeo”
And “A plague on both your houses”
This play has been studied time and time again by students in schools and universities world wide, so is very well known. For a person to play the lead role, Romeo, who the play revolves around, comes with extremely high expectations. Many people know the lines to the famous scenes so there will be a lot of pressure on him to get them spot on. The actor needs to be well experienced but also young and traditionally good looking.
Romeo is the most important character in the play and in Shakespeare’s time he would have used his best young actor possibly trained by himself. Shakespeare would have taken a lot of time to ensure that Romeo’s actor knew exactly what he was doing and that he performed is role perfectly. In the sixteenth century the theatre was the main form of social entertainment so it was a big exciting thing when people attended a show. Because it was such a special event they expected it to be wonderful and were very appreciative of a good performance, but this also meant that they could be very hostile if they were disappointed.
Because of the size of the theatre and the fact that it was open air also they didn’t have the luxury of microphones! the actors would have to be really good at projecting their voices. Speaking clearly and making clear obvious gestures on stage were also important for everyone to be able to follow the story line easily.
Many films have been produced using the story line of Romeo and Juliet. There are ones like Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet and Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet that follows Shakespeare’s original very closely. Then there are ones such as A West Side story that follow along the same lines but in a different form. In all Romeo and Juliet films there are different interpretations of the language as many of the meanings have changed a lot over four hundred years. Some of the humour and jokes have been lost such as in the first scene between Sampson and Abram
“Do you bite your thumb at us sir?”
“No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir, but I bite my thumb, sir.”
This would have been seen humorous, as to bite your thumb at a person was an offensive and rude gesture
Nowadays this means noting to the average person so we interpret different lines to make them comical to us. Romeos actor would have to have a good understanding of the language, so when he performs he can put across his lines convincingly and with confidence. It is vital that Romeo can do this because he is the main character who the play revolves around. We witness Romeo maturing throughout the play from the beginning when he plays the part of a foolish young hopeless romantic
“Out of her favor where I am in love”
“This love feel I, that no love is this”
To the end when we witness him feeling “true love” and being prepared to die for this.
“Here’s to my love! Drinks. Oh true apothecary! Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die Dies”
Juliet is also a main character but because in the sixteenth century women were not allowed to act in the theatre the part would have been played by a young boy so Shakespeare tried to keep Juliet’s piece to a minimum.
Romeo is put across as an individual character. He is into poetry, love, romance and uninterested in fighting unlike all his peers. Most of the conflict that Romeo comes across is internal. In the beginning he has to over come his “love” for Rosaline, he seems to think that life is not worth living without her, until he sees Juliet when he immediately forgets about Rosaline and we hear no more of Rosaline from Romeo. Even when Romeo does fight it is in the name of love, he fights and kills Tybalt after he finds out that Tybalt had killed Mercutio and he also fights and kills Paris when he goes to visit Juliet in her family vault.
You can interpret Romeo’s character in a way that Shakespeare meant for us, he is a romantic character who’s life revolves around love and is deeply in true love with Juliet, or a more modern day person may see him as a young hopeless romantic, who went from one infatuation to the next. Romeo may appear to be foolish to us nower days as he has let his heart rule his head, which as romantic as it may seem is not a practical way of life.
Juliet was also infatuated with Romeo, so they thought it was the real thing and took it too far, which ended up in them both dying. The second time Romeo meets Juliet in almost every line he speaks about love and how he is in love with her
“And but thou love me, let them find me here;
My life were better ended by their hate, than
Death prorogued wanting of they love”
Romeo states here that after their second meeting he is already prepared to die for Juliet.
There are many enormous contrasts in this story, such as the characters Romeo and Tybalt; Romeo tries to avoid fighting and violence at all costs but Tybalt is always looking for trouble.
Tybalt; “Boy, this shall not excuse the injuries that thou has
Done me, therefore turn and draw!”
Romeo; “I do protest I never injured thee, but love thee Better than thou canst deviseâ€¦”
This scene shows Tybalt trying to force Romeo into fighting with him, and Romeos reaction to this, trying to be peaceful and calm telling Tybalt that he loves him.
This is a contrast within one scene between two characters, but in entire scenes there are complete contrasts, with this whole mood of the play changing, such as Act 2 scene 2 the balcony scene and Act 3 scene 1 the fight with Mercutio and Tybalt.
In the balcony scene, the actor playing Romeo needs to act in a contrasting way to in the fight scenes. Romeo is normally quite calm and sure of what he is doing apart from the scene when Mercutio is killed then Romeo loses it and kills Tybalt in a rage. The audience is quite shocked at this because of the Romeo’s unusual behaviour. In the fight scene Romeo would have to appear distraught and angry but scared all at once, this could be quite tricky on stage in front of an audience but maybe slightly easier would be as a film. Tybalt would be played by a larger and more athletic man, so Romeo would have to fight in a very agile manner in order to beat him which may be hard for a modern actor to have to learn how to sword-fight, if he had not done it before.
So the actor would need to be able to learn quickly. The balcony scene is a complete contrast of the fight with Tybalt. Romeo’s actor would appear to be nervous but determined to make his love shown. In the beginning he would be listening intently, completely captivated by Juliet, unsure of when he should but in, and when he does speak it needs to be in a very dreamy desperate fashion. Romeo would act excited and nervous like a child while he is in the Capulet Orchard already he seems prepared to put his life on the line just to see Juliet;
“Alack, there lies more peril in thine eye
Than twenty of their swords. Look thou but sweet,
And I am proof against their enmity.”
Romeo is basically saying that he is more scared of missing her than being attacked by the guards. In this Shakespeare gives us a contrasting imagery of both love and violence.
In conclusion, the actor will need to be able to act like a love struck fool who is obsessed with Juliet. To help give across this feeling it is very important for there to be a good relationship between the two actors.