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Modern Languages and Performing Arts - ROMEO & JULIET (the play & the film)


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Universitatea Petru Maior

Facultatea de Stiinte si Litere

Specializarea: Limbi Moderne Aplicate

Modern Languages and Performing Arts


(the play & the film)

During the 16th century, many English dramatists and poets adapted a wide range of Italian stories and poetry to create their own material. The availability of these sources reflects the English interest in Italian culture during this period as the influence of the Italian Renaissance spread. The term Renaissance means 'rebirth' and refers to the period after the Middle Ages when a revival of interest in classical Roman and Greek culture emerged. One Italian source that Shakespeare draws upon in Romeo and Juliet is Francesco Petrarch, 1304-1374, an Italian poet, who was responsible for developing the sonnet.

Romeo and Juliet is a mixture of comedy and tragedy written by William Shakespeare in about 1595. The play dramatizes the fate of two young lowers whose tragic deaths are brought about by feuding between their families ( the Capulets and the Montagues) and by their own passionate temperaments. The lovers are doomed by their own impulsive decisions and by the actions of the parents who are interfering in Romeo and Juliet's lives.

Romeo and Juliet does not make a specific moral statement about the relationships between love and society, religion, and family; rather, it portrays the chaos and passion of being in love, combining images of love, violence, death, religion, and family in an impressionistic rush leading to the play's tragic conclusion.

It is only through death that they can preserve their love, and their love is so profound that they are willing to end their lives in its defense.

Caroline Spurgeon states that 'In Romeo and Julietthe dominating image is light, every form and manifestation of it; the sun, moon, stars, fire, lightning, the flash of gunpowder, and the reflected light of beauty and of love; while by contrast we have night, darkness, clouds, rain, mist, and smoke.' This quotation reflects the main themes of this play.

Images of light and darkness fill the play.  Romeo constantly refers to Juliet as a form of light (i.e. "the sun").  Juliet also refers to Romeo as light, light that illuminates darkness.  She wants him to be cut into little stars after death so the world will be in love with night: "Take [Romeo] and cut him out into little stars,

And he will make the face of heaven so fine

That all the world will be in love with night

And pay no worship to the garrish sun."

The darkness shields their light, their love, from the eyes of their families. 

Love, in its many forms, is an important theme in the play.  The Nurse and Mercutio speak in vulgar terms about love, referring to its physical side.  Romeo's love for Rosaline is simply superficial, childish infatuation.  Paris represents a contractual love.  He does not actually know Juliet, just her family and what she represents.  He is marrying a name, not a person. For example, Romeo and Juliet's love is a light in the midst of the darkness of the hate around them. The love between Romeo and Juliet is a spiritual, romantic love. They die for their love.

Another important theme is the duality .Friar Lawrence speaks of Romeo and Juliet are both lovers and enemies.  The Nurse and the Friar both try to help the lovers but ultimately, Romeo and Juliet suffer.  The deaths of Romeo and Juliet themselves are a notable example of this duality.  Their suffering and deaths are tragic however, without them, their families would not have stopped feuding.  Verona was torn by the hatred between the two families.  The sacrifice made by the lovers allows everyone to begin healing old wounds. The families are reconciled by their children's deaths and agree to end their violent feud. The play ends with the Prince's elegy for the lovers: 'For never was a story of more woe / Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.'

Time has an important role in the plot of the play. Both Romeo and Juliet struggle to maintain an imaginary world void of time in the face of the harsh realities that surround them. For instance, when Romeo swears his love to Juliet by the moon, she protests 'O swear not by the moon, th'inconstant moon, / That monthly changes in her circled orb, / Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.'From the very beginning, the lovers are designated as 'star-cross'd' referring to an astrologic belief associated with time. Stars were thought to control the fates of humanity, and as time passed, stars would move along their course in the sky, also charting the course of human lives below.

Fate plays an important role in Romeo and Juliet.  Romeo feels that he cannot control the course of his life.Does fate actually control the course of events or does everyone play a part? If Juliet had not made such a show of obedience, Capulet may not have changed the wedding date.  If there had been more time, Friar John may have managed to get the message to Romeo in time and he would not have killed himself in Juliet's tomb.  If Mercutio hadn't jumped into a fight with Tybalt, he wouldn't have been killed.  He may also have survived if Romeo had not stepped between them.  In either case, Tybalt and Romeo probably wouldn't have fought, Tybalt wouldn't have been killed, and Romeo wouldn't have been banished.  There are several events that could have ended differently if someone had acted in just a slightly different manner or arrived just a moment earlier / later. 

The 1968 movie version is basically like the book (people wearing fancy hats and clothing). Despite the fact that sometimes the dialog was not exactly the way Shakespeare himself put it (i. e. in the opening scene with the servants) the acting was great and completely convicing.

Reading the play and watching the movie I came across some differences:

In the play:

1. At the feast, when Tybalt recognizes Romeo, he is ready to kill him on the spot ('to strike him dead I'll hold it not a sin'), but he is intercepted by Lord Capulet.

2. Tybalt deliberately stabs Mercutio in the chest and retreats, but after Mercutio's off-stage death, Tybalt returns intending to kill Romeo.

3. Immediately following the fight between Romeo and Tybalt (and Romeo's quick exit), both house lords and ladies and the Prince arrive on the fight scene.

4. Juliet's arranged marriage to Count Paris is scheduled for Thursday, but after Juliet's 'repentance', an overjoyed Lord Capulet moves the wedding day up to Wednesday.

5. Friar John cannot get Friar Lawrence's message to Romeo because he found himself involved in a quarantine, and instead returned the letter to Friar Laurence

6. After hearing of Juliet's 'death', Romeo buys a vial of poison from a Mantuan apothecary before riding back to Verona.

7. At the entrance to Capulet's tomb following Juliet's internment, Romeo is intercepted by Count Paris who tries to arrest the fugitive Romeo, but Romeo draws on Paris and kills him (in the final scene, the Prince, referring to losing 'a brace of kinsmen', also referred to Paris as well as Mercutio).

8. Near the end, following Romeo & Juliet's respective suicides, Friar Laurence, arrested and brought back to the tomb by the Prince's Watchmen, reveals to the Prince, both Lords and Lady Capulet the truth of Romeo & Juliet's clandestine wedding and his other plans. (His story is confirmed by a letter intended for Lord Montague that Romeo had given to Balthasar.)

9. In the tomb, we learn through Lord Montague that his wife died of a broken heart upon learning of her son Romeo's banishment.

10. The play ends in Capulet's Tomb.

11. The final line ('for never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo') is recited by the Prince.

In the film:

1 .Tybalt runs to Lord Capulet to protest Romeo's presence.

2. The stab wound is accidental (known only to Tybalt and a few of his men), and Romeo chases the retreating Tybalt.

3. Following Juliet and her Nurse's grieving, the scene is instead shifted to the steps of Verona Castle.

4. The wedding remains scheduled for Thursday.

5. Balthasar, galloping on horseback to tell Romeo of Juliet's 'death', passes the unhurried messenger on the road. Later on, as Romeo and Balthasar ride back to Verona, they pass by the messenger, who is obliviously making adjustments to the cargo on his donkey.

6. The scene was eliminated and was replaced by Balthasar and Romeo riding to Capulet's tomb; though it is still daylight as they ride back to Verona, night has already fallen when they arrive. It is never revealed in the film where Romeo got the poison from.

7. That scene was eliminated altogether, but the Prince's line at the end was not changed. Reference to the scene was made for the film, however, indicating that it may have been filmed, but cut before the final release.

8. The Friar is not seen or heard from again after fleeing in terror from the tomb, and thus the revelation of the secret marriage was never shown in the film, though both houses evidently knew about Romeo and Juliet's marriage by the time of the double funeral.

9. Lady Montague is still alive in the final scene at the temple.

10. The final scene (the double funeral) unfolds at the steps to Verona's Temple. The end credits roll as processions from both houses make their way side by side into the temple.

11. The unseen narrator who performed the introduction ('Two households, both alike in dignity') also gives the closing lines.


  1. William Shakespeare - "Romeo and Juliet"
  2. Romeo and Juliet - movie version 1968

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