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To what effect does the recent film adaptation of Romeo & Juliet bring the play into a modern and contemporary understanding?

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Year 10, Michael Pernikis, 10U, "Romeo & Juliet" ESSAY Question: To what effect does the recent film adaptation of Romeo & Juliet bring the play into a modern and contemporary understanding? 'Romeo & Juliet', was written by poet and playwright, William Shakespeare. The romantic play, 'Romeo & Juliet' involves many recognisable emotions and themes including passion, love, hate, agony, and sadness. This essay will examine how Baz Luhrmann reproduces Shakespeare's classic love story into a contemporary modern world so audiences today can access and understand the universal themes of the play in a familiar environment. One way Baz Luhrmann modernises the original text by Shakespeare is by replacing Elizabethan swords with the modern day guns. At the 'gas station' scene, Capulet men say: "draw if you be men". Lord Capulet states: "Hand me my long sword" and Benvolio shouts: "put down your swords for you know not what you do". The guns not only adds to the tension in the scene but also gives information about the owner. Guns can tell what owner is like by the gun's appearance. ...read more.


This change does not change the meaning of the play, it's only changes the appearance, which in turn develops the understanding for modern audiences. The costumes help portray the function of the characters. Baz Luhrmann not only changes the costumes but characters as well. An example is the Priest. Luhrmann replaces the old classic friar who would wear traditional clothes with a new modern priest. The Priest in the film is not always in the traditional costume and has a tattoo on his back. He is also interested in potions and plants. These extra details make the Priest contemporary and it shows the difference between different centuries. The new Priest appearance makes audience understand his character, which is modern and he is therefore friendlier towards Romeo than the traditional "ghostly father". In Luhrmann's film, he modernises the Capulet ball in a clever way. He dresses people in the costumes to symbolise the function of each character. Romeo is dressed as a knight to represent the tragic hero in the film. Juliet is dressed as an angel to represent her innocence, love and purity. ...read more.


This is effective for contemporary audiences because Prince is using a helicopter to watch over the city. The only scene that Luhrmann does not drastically change is the very last scene in the play. Luhrmann explores the traditional essence of the play. Juliet says "This is thy sheath; there rust and let me die". In Shakespeare's play these are not the last words. Luhrmann decides to cut the last lines because it makes the tension last for some time which makes a great and powerful end, reminding audiences that the 'Two hours traffic of our stage' is a tragedy. In conclusion, Baz Luhrmann makes the play modern but still keep the details of the original text and this makes the play more interesting to watch. By presenting the play through film Luhrmann creates a new kind of visual text. Many people remember through watching and Luhrmann makes the play more accessible for audiences. For youngsters today it is hard to understand the Shakespearean language and the film makes it easier for them to understand the meaning of the play. However, Luhrmann still keeps the language in its original format, and that is for the reason, Shakespeare is a dramatic genre. Michael Pernikis 01/05/2007 English GCSE Coursework ...read more.

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