Romeo and Juliet - Film and Text Analysis

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In Romeo and Juliet, love is depicted in several ways. Both Luhrman and Shakespeare represent love in different ways in different contexts to both the Elizabethan era and the contemporary audience. Both the original and later manifestations of the text are valued because they both communicate to the audience on the values of love and society by employing a variety of devices.

The central subject dealt within Romeo and Juliet is the subject of love. William Shakespeare and Baz Luhrman thus represent love to their audience beyond the distinct ideas of love as simple sentiments. In the play, there are 2 basic levels – the real world of Verona and the private, intimate sphere of Romeo and Juliet's love.

The fulfillment of Romeo and Juliet's love in the social life of Verona is hindered by external influences; the most obvious of which is the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues. The "ancient grudge" is one of many conditions and incidents, which together can be, considered an influence counter-acting the relationship between Romeo and Juliet.

Despite the obvious obstacles of conflict and hate, the love of Romeo and Juliet is born and subsists. When Romeo meets Juliet for the first time during the Capulets' feast (I.v), the language and form of the dialogue shared by Romeo and Juliet shows that heir private sphere is totally different from public life.

Shakespeare thus presents their fist conversation via a sonnet, a poetic convention very popular in the Elizabethan age. A sonnet's expression of the lyrical "I" allows Shakespeare to break the limits of dramatic performance and to involve his audience emotionally as if they were recipients to a poem. This therefore means that Shakespeare represents Romeo and Juliet's love by making the audience of the two different levels – one where all forms of social order break down, and the other, where Romeo and Juliet are the centre of the universe.

Luhrman also presents this concept of two opposing levels as a representation of love via the use of cinematic techniques. In the aquarium scene, camera distances vary from medium close-shot to close-up and back again. The idea of social and physical barriers is presented by having the fish tank between the two of them, keeping them apart – thus visualizing to the audience the opposing level of Romeo and Juliet's love. When the two lovers kiss, the cameras encircle them, thus suggesting that Romeo and Juliet are at the centre of their own universe, in total disregard or lack of awareness of the social chaos (as suggested by the blurred images) around them.

The language of Shakespeare also helps to create this intimate and different sphere of love. When Romeo catches the sight of Juliet, he imagines "touching her, make blessed my rude hand". To "touch her hand" is a linguistic representation of touch, a tactile sign. In the pilgrim sonnet, the focus of attention is touch, by semantic means. The words "hands" and "lips" appear four times each, "kiss" and "touch" twice each, and besides which, there are expressions with physical implications like "tender", "mannerly" and "palm". This is also alluded to by Luhrman for the cameras keep on encircling them, focusing on her hands on his back and vice versa, thus presenting to the audience the physicality of their love.

When Romeo and Juliet first together in a sonnet, its syntactical structure and semantic means create an intimate sphere of love, whereby which the private emotional experiences of the lovers in intently explored in isolation and in relation to the ideas of love, destiny and death. However, while Shakespeare implies as to the physicality of their love, Luhrman shows it (the touching) – not only to show what Shakespeare was suggesting), but also to meet the expectations of a contemporary audience which prefers action to implication.

In the sonnet, Romeo and Juliet take it in turns to speak the...
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