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Compare Baz Luhrmann's version of the Shakespeare classic 'Romeo and Juliet' with the original text.

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Introduction

Compare Baz Luhrmann's version of the Shakespeare classic 'Romeo and Juliet' with the original text. Recently in class, we read the prologue and opening scene of 'Romeo and Juliet' by William Shakespeare. And then compared it with the 1996 production of the play by Baz Luhrmann. In the original play, 'Romeo and Juliet' begins with the chorus speaking, telling us the background to the story. Baz Luhrmann modernises this by using a newsreader on a television set reading it as if it were a news story. She reads only the first twelve lines of the speech because they are the most important. In the top right hand corner of the television screen there is a picture of a broken ring and a caption, "star-crossed lovers" which is a line in the prologue. The ring represents the broken love between Romeo and Juliet, "death-mark'd love", but also the division between their families. The line "star-crossed lovers" is used because it is one of the most important lines in the prologue, because Romeo and Juliet's fate was in the stars. After she finishes speaking, dramatic, orchestral music begins. When the music reaches a climax, "IN FAIR VERONA" appears, in dark, bold writing and the prologue is repeated, but this time a man speaks it, and only uses the first eight lines. The line, "Two households both alike in dignity" is interpreted in many ways. ...read more.

Middle

Then the "Caputlet Boys" pull in and we notice that their number-plate is "CAP 005". These two number-plates fit with the line, "Two households both alike in dignity". A Capulet man, Abra is introduced. At this point we are shown the butt of both the Montague gun and the Capulet gun. On both there are similar crests, which again show us that they are 'alike in dignity' and share the same wealthy backgrounds. The Montague then follows with the line "I will bite my thumb at them, which is a disgrace to them if they bear it". In Shakespeare's time this action would have been a very strong sign of disrespect, but, because the film is set in more modern times, the majority of people would not understand the significance of this action. Luhrmann therefore makes him also wave his hand in a rude way and make a stupid, mocking noise. Their argument continues, is screamed across the forecourt and is very aggressive: "Do you quarrel sir?" "Quarrel sir? No sir." There is a loud throbbing drumbeat in the background that helps to add a lot of tension. Abra then says, "Draw if you be men". In the original text, Sampson speaks this line. Benvolio then replies with, "Part fools, you know not what you do. Put up your swords" A modern day audience would find it very peculiar if they started to fight each other with swords, so instead of changing the text, Luhrmann has been very clever and has given the guns the brand name "Sword". ...read more.

Conclusion

His tone is demanding and aggressive. Luhrmann has left out a lot of his speech, because he might have seen it as unimportant. The Captain then repeats himself for emphasis, "On pain of torture, from those bloody hands, Throw your mistempered weapons to the ground!" He speaks in a furious and demanding tone. As he finishes speaking the music reaches a climax, and then stops when he stops. Captain Prince is then shown in his office with the Montagues and the Capulets. Again, a lot of the less important lines of his speech are left out. He enunciates "Three civil brawls" and, as he does so, on each word the camera goes from the Montagues to the Capulets to Captain Prince. This is because that is whom the "civil brawls" are between. His speech ends on, "If ever you disturb our streets again, Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace". This is very dramatic and is the most important line, because Romeo and Juliet's lives will pay the forfeit of the peace. It is also the most effective line to end the scene on, because Captain Prince's threat hangs over the rest of the play. I think that the way Baz Luhrmann has interpreted the text and made it his own is very clever. I think that one of the cleverest parts is where he makes the gun's brand name fit the text. The film is so close the original text but yet it is very modern and is almost like a different story altogether. ...read more.

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