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How does Baz Luhrmann's film adaptation of the Prologue from 'Romeo and Juliet' visually highlight Shakespeare's rich imagery and language?

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Introduction

How does Baz Luhrmann's film adaptation of the Prologue from 'Romeo and Juliet' visually highlight Shakespeare's rich imagery and language? Shakespeare's use of language reflects the theatre of his day as the audience had to imagine much more than in a contemporary theatre. In late 16th Century Britain, there were no 'sets', artificial 'lightning' or elaborate 'sound effects'. Also, there were only a few actors playing different parts in similar costumes and the plots could easily be misunderstood. Therefore, language and imagery had to do all the work as words were the only tools available to help the audience to imagine the scenes vividly. I will analyse the Prologue to highlight Shakespeare's use of language for dramatic purposes and compare it to the film director Baz Luhrmann's interpretation of this in his language for his film version. The Prologue is vital; it highlights the major parts of the plot in the play, eliminates potential confusion and acts as an informative 'trailer' for the play. It gives us information about the setting, some background information about its principal characters, and emphasizes key events of the plot in the play. ...read more.

Middle

The modifier 'fair' in front of the word 'Verona' suggests that Verona is a peaceful religious place and the words 'alike in dignity' imply that the two families are both well-respected in 'fair' Verona. Luhrmann reflects these modifiers in a close up of the statue of Jesus and the newspaper article on both families side by side and Jesus at the middle to highlight that Verona is a peaceful moral town. The word 'fair' is strongly emphasized in the film. It appears as flashing text on the screen at least three times to echo the ironic juxtaposition of peace and war in this opening sequence. Shakespeare also uses alliteration in the sonnet to emphasize the hatred between both families. The alliterative repetition of "C" is a sibilant sound that creates a violent, brutal effect for the audience. It tells us that the Montagues and Capulets are two rival families and they are both involved within a family feud. Even the townspeople are involved because the families do not keep the feud in the privacy of their own home but have been seen fighting in the public streets and displaying violence. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Prologue itself creates this sense of fate by providing the audience with knowledge that Romeo and Juliet will die even before the play has begun. It is the ironic fate of the two lovers. Their death is not their fault, but it is their misfortune for which they are not entirely responsible. In the film version these words appear as flashing text at least three times. The words also appear in the top right corner of the screen just below the picture of a broken star-crossed ring when the reporter reads out the Prologue. Luhrmann thus emphasizes this key Shakespearean theme for the modern film viewer. Shakespeare uses rich imagery, modifiers, and literary devices in the Prologue to enhance information about where the play takes place and the major parts of the plot in the play. In the modern film adaptation, Luhrmann uses different camera shots and positions to establish the setting of the play. He uses non-diegetic sound like incidental music to create the tensions in order to highlight the feud between the two families. He uses many impressive images to visually convey Shakespeare's rich imagery and language and successfully 'translate' the Prologue for a contemporary audience. ...read more.

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