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Compare and contrast the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli version and the m...

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Compare and contrast the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli version and the more recent Baz Luhrmann version.

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  • October 22, 2003
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After watching both Baz Luhrmann's and Franco Zeffirelli's versions of Shakespeare's tragedy, "Romeo and Juliet," one would not be hard pressed to find contrasting differences. Franco Zeffirelli's is set in the Renaissance era and Baz Luhrmann's in modern times. We will embark on a voyage through the anomalies in setting, costume and omission in both versions and contrast and compare the two. We will also distinguish the difference in depictions of Mercutio and Friar Lawrence in both movies.

In Franco Zeffirelli's account of "Romeo and Juliet", a good amount of the story is inference, left up to the viewer to figure out by watching closely. In Baz Luhrmann's, everything is spelled out quite plainly for all to see. For instance, Luhrmann's translation show's the conclusion of the story when Romeo and his friends are on the way to the Capulet's party. In Romeo's last words in Act I Scene 4, he says:

I fear too early, for my mind misgives

Some consequence yet hanging in the stars

Shall bitterly begin his fearful date

With this night's revels, and expire the term

Of a despised life closed in my breast

By some vile forfeit of untimely death.

But he that hath the steerage of my course

Direct my sail. On lusty gentlemen. 1.4.113-120

While he is speaking we see flashes of Romeo's thoughts, where he is walking through a church looking miserable and then his death. Now Romeo in Zeffirelli's form is left alone, speaking and looking fearful. We see the premonition in one version and in the other, are left to imagine what he is speaking, feeling it instead of seeing it.

A more detailed account of differences in these movies is in their costuming and setting. We can take both of these into account during the scene in which the Capulet's are having a masque party. In this scene Romeo and his friends crash the party, getting an invitation even though they were not invited. In the Zeffirelli version, the scene is set in a castle with the muted...