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A contrast between Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet' and the film version directed by Franco Zeffirelli 1968 - Essay Example

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As is always the case, the depiction of the characters and the flow of the plot of a play or book is different from the movie on which it is based. ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is no…
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A contrast between Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet and the film version directed by Franco Zeffirelli 1968
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ROMEO AND JULIET ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is arguably William Shakespeare’s greatest and most widely recognized play. As is always the case, the depiction of the characters and the flow of the plot of a play or book is different from the movie on which it is based. ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is no exception. Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 movie version of the play is acclaimed as one of the greatest love story movies of all times; he has however deviated from the play in four major areas (
The first difference involves the unveiling of the plot of the story. In the play, Romeo is in the process of recovering after being jilted by Rosaline (Act 1, Scene 1, Line 155). A rejected lover’s instinctive reaction is to find another love as soon as possible, and Romeo does this, becoming amorously involved with Juliet. The movie however does not depict or refer to Rosaline at all, thereby not laying the foundation as to why Romeo became involved with Juliet.
The second difference is discernable in the portrayal of the lovers’ mood during the marriage scene. In the play, Romeo and Juliet are both in a serious mood, which is reflected by the way they speak (in Act II, Scene 6, Line 6 Romeo remarks that the Friar’s holy words were solemn enough to join his hand with Juliet’s in marriage. In the same scene {Lines 33/34 (}, Juliet declares that her love for Romeo has grown so much that she is not able to estimate even half of its rich value). In Zeffirelli’s movie the marriage scene is frivolous, with Romeo and Juliet shown kissing, cuddling and giggling all through it.
The third difference is apparent in Juliet’s chamber during her funeral scene. In the play, although the Friar knows that Juliet is in fact not dead, still he maintains a deadpan expression throughout the funeral scene, properly condoling the Capulet family, telling them to dry their tears and prepare to bring Juliet’s body to the church for the last rites to be dispensed (Act IV, Scene 5, Lines 68-86 { romeo_juliet/full.html}). In the movie, the Friar almost lets out the secret that Juliet is not dead by being unable to control a giggle; luckily none of the mourners notices what would seem to them a strange act on the part of the holy man (Zeffirelli, Franco. “Romeo and Juliet {1968}).”
The last difference lies in the final scene when the real funerals of Romeo and Juliet take place. In the play, the Montague and Capulet families bury their feud forever, shake hands and make up, with Lord Montague pledging to erect a gold statue of Juliet in Verona (Act V, Scene 3, Line 295). The reconciliation between the two families gets a very brief scene in the movie where both families nod distantly to one another as they enter the church.
In the movie, the character of Romeo (Leonard Whiting) takes a beating during the opening plot. By not showing Rosaline at all, Romeo is depicted as a Lothario – one who tries to seduce girls at any and every opportunity: a far cry from his portrayal as a true, ardent lover who falls in love with Juliet as a result of a human, emotional consequence.
The characters of Juliet (Olivia Hussey) and Romeo suffer as they are made to look foolish and just in search of quick love during the marriage scene. (Zeffirelli, Franco. “Romeo and Juliet {1968}).” Marriage is a solemn occasion, one that signals the start of a life-long relationship; the movie’s portrayal of the lovers kissing and giggling during this important ceremony is not in good taste. This scene is vastly different from the play wherein the lovers are very adult-like in their stance, displaying a proper dignity and respect for the solemn institution of marriage, appreciating it as a culmination of the deep love they have for each other, and realizing what a huge step it represents in their lives.
The character of Friar Laurence (Milo O’Shea) is maligned during Juliet’s funeral scene in the movie where he is portrayed as a giggling conspirator who is unable to keep a secret – that too at such a crucial occasion (Zeffirelli, Franco. “Romeo and Juliet {1968}).” One wonders what would have transpired if any mourner had noticed the Friar’s giggle – he or she would have demanded an explanation, at which a flustered Friar could very well have blurted out his secret – an act which would have changed the entire context of the story (and one which would make Shakespeare turn in his grave!).
Romeo and Juliet are again short-changed in the movie’s final scene, where their supreme sacrifice is not recognized. Unlike the play that clearly shows the Montague and Capulet families being reconciled, Zeffirelli chooses not to dwell on this important matter (Zeffirelli, Franco. “Romeo and Juliet {1968}).” The lovers try their best to bring about reconciliation between both families; they fail to achieve this in life, but succeed after death. By this definition, Zeffirelli has missed out on what construes a slightly happy ending to an otherwise tragic story (
In conclusion, it must be said that Franco Zeffirelli had the advantage of better technology with which he could have managed a better presentation of the play. Due to the limitations discussed above, Shakespeare’s play far outstrips the movie in drama, cohesion and presentation. William Shakespeare may have lived centuries ago, but he was, is and may well always be, an unconquerable legend.
References used:
Anon. “Romeo and Juliet: Movie vs Book.” 2005.
Shakespeare, William. “Romeo and Juliet.” (n.d.)
Zeffirelli, Franco. “Romeo and Juliet (1968).” 10 July 1996. Video Paramount. Read More
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