Romeo and Juliet in the Movies Term Paper

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play Romeo and Juliet written by William Shakespeare during the Elizabethan Times in the late 1500s with four modern day movie adaptations: West Side Story directed by Robert Wise in 1961, Romeo and Juliet directed by Baz Luhrmann in 1996, Shakespeare in Love directed by John Madden in 1998 and Romeo Must Die directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak in 2000. The findings conclude that Romeo Must Die has little to do with the original play in terms of plot and passion. Shakespeare in Love evokes some of the passion that Romeo and Juliet had, but deviates substantially in events. While the movie Romeo and Juliet comes closest to the story line of the original play, only West Side Story succeeds in capturing the romantic passion first relayed by Shakespeare.

There is a lot in common between the play Romeo And Juliet and the movie West Side Story. This movie parallels not only the plot of the Romeo and Juliet play, but also the passion romance between the two lovers.

The opening scenes in both are remarkably similar. In West Side Story the Sharks harass a man, as the members of his Jets gang show up to his aide. Then the cops arrive to break up the two gangs, just as Prince Escalus had broken up the fight between Romeo's and Juliet's cousins. And, Riff talks Toni into attending the dance at the gym as Benvolio talks Romeo into attending the masquerade ball held by the Capulets. At the dance Toni meets Maria and Romeo meets Juliet at the ball where love at first sight occurs for both couples. Juliet and Maria are warned against love for inappropriate choices. Anita tells Maria that she shouldn't be involved with an Italian-American and Lady Capulet and the Nurse caution Juliet about the differences between the Montague and Capulet families. However, both women are determined to continue their true love rather than be forced to marry people that they are not in love with.

The balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet parallels the fire escape scene in West Side Story where Romeo and Toni propose their undying love. But, Maria and Toni do not get married, which is in contrast to the secret marriage of Romeo and Juliet. Marcucio in Romeo and Juliet, is killed while battling Tybalta. And, in West Side Story Riff is killed in a knife fight with Bernardo. Both deaths are accidental and cause Romeo and Toni to kill the close relative of their lovers, Tybalta and Bernardo. However, In Romeo and Juliet, the two lovers both die, in West Side Story, Maria lives. This is perhaps the largest different between the two stories. Juliet killed herself with Romeo's dagger after discovering his death. Both Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story end in the sad reconciliation of two fighting factions at the cost of the lives of young lovers.

The 1996 movie Romeo & Juliet stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes and is directed by Baz Luhrmann. This version of Romeo and Juliet is contemporary in setting accompanied by a rock 'n' roll soundtrack, except that some of the detail is futuristic and some is rooted in Elizabethan times. Luhrmann has left Shakespeare's words more or less intact. The film was organized visually to make the dialogue easier to understand than the original play. The Capulets and the Montagues maintain their age-old feud through their gangs and Verona looks like Miami. Luhrmann turns the Montagues into flower-shirted, Miami Beach-like thugs, who use 9mm revolvers rather than swords. The Capulets are street princes in funereal black and also armed to the teeth. Mercutio is an African-American in dreads, who dresses in drag and is a kung fu expert. It's a bit odd to see the gangs in modern dress and then hear them articulate their threats and quarrels in Elizabethan English.

The movie fails to capture the same degree of passion as the play. Ethnic differences between the white Montagues and the Cuban Capulets underlie the mob families' ongoing feud. But the Capulets and the Montagues bear an unsympathetic kinship to the Crips and Bloods rather than the compassionate bitter family rivalry established in the play. The feud between the family erupts when a carload of Montagues take on…[continue]

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