The Adaptation of Romeo & Juliet


William Shakespeare used his remarkable talent to delight his audiences for over 400 years. Of his many splendid plays, perhaps none is more popular than “Romeo and Juliet”, the timeless tale of a pair of star-crossed lovers and their family strife. There have been many movie adaptations of this world’s most tragic love affair, but none had brought out the true passion of the story as successfully as Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 “William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet”. This film is an amazing feat of imagination. The characters speak Elizabethan verse, but the setting has been shifted from the chivalrous, swashbuckling sixteenth century Verona to the twentieth-century “Verona Beach” of tropical heat and lethal competition. Luhrmann’s film provides the audiences with an excellent example of the themes of family conflict and ill-fated love, particularly in Act 3 Sc.1, when Romeo is banished from Verona, and Act 1 Sc.5, when the star-crossed lovers initially met. This will be proven by examining the scenes through a look at the changes of cinematography, language, music and plot of this outstanding adaptation of the world most well-known love story.


Act 3 Sc.1 is about unnecessary deaths and family strife. It is where most people believe the turning point of the story. Although in other scenes, the themes were usually contorted slightly in many ways, but the themes of Act 3 Sc.1 are definitely presented as the original play. Nonetheless, there were many small changes of the details in the scene, such as the setting, plot and some of the lines. Also many things were added, such as the outstanding cinematography and the very emotional music, but only to emphasise on the tragedy of the scene, which Luhrmann has succeeded to do.


The setting of the scene is the very public Verona Beach. As Luhrmann has in any another scenes of the movie, the uses of colour were plenty. Right from the beginning, we see the effects of the colours. The sky is a rich mixture of orange and yellow while the sea is a dirty brown, which creates a very insecure feel for the audiences.


As this is the scene where everything goes wrong, Luhrmann decided to use a little “Pathetic Fallacy” to add to the disaster. Pathetic Fallacy is the attribution of human emotions or characteristics to inanimate objects or to nature. For example, sunshine means happiness, contentment, and peace. On the other hand, storm means anger, chaos, discontentment and confusions. Through their different types of literature works, it seems Elizabethans strongly believed in Pathetic Fallacy. That was another reason why Luhrmann has chosen to use it in the play. In this particularly scene, the use of Pathetic Fallacy appears several times. The beginning of the scene is an example. As Benvolio advises Mercutio to leave the beach, but dark clouds start moving in, sound of thunder arises. This is a foreshadowing of something bad is about to happen, using Pathetic Fallacy. Other use of Pathetic Fallacy, such as when Tybalt affronts Mercutio by saying “Mercutio, thou consortest with Romeo”. Clouds are getting darker, and wind are getting stronger; a storm was coming, and the fight was clearly about to begin. This use of Pathetic Fallacy delivers the tension between the Montagues and the Capulets to the audiences and creates the excitement for them as well.


Luhrmann’s unique way of framing the shots is a big component of successful recreate of the agitated and tragic atmosphere of this scene. The beginning of the scene is a perfect example. Mercutio is firing at the sea, and Benvolio sits on the lifeguard-seat and watches Mercutio. Luhrmann frames both Montagues boys from a far angle, where the audiences can see the dark clouds moving in, and the waves angrily clash into the land. The camera then jumps to Mercutio, and presents his satisfaction. The camera moves to Benvolio as he speaks. When the Capulets’ car enter the scene, the camera gives Benvolio a sudden extreme close shot of Benvolio. So close, that one can see fear in his eyes. His detailed facial expression also reinforces his dread.


Another great use of framing in this scene is when Tybalt affronts Mercutio by saying “Mercutio, thou consortest with Romeo”. This part of the scene, creating tension is important. Pathetic Fallacy is