William
Shakespeare's
Romeo & Juliet: The
Contemporary Film,
the Classic Play
William Shakespeare
Screenplay by Baz Luhrmann
and Craig Pearce

Grades 9, 10, 11

about this book

One of the greatest love stories ever written, Romeo
and Juliet is a play that bears repeating and
revising for each generation.

The screenplay of the contemporary film of Romeo and
Juliet and the original classic version of the play are now
available in one book for readers to enjoy. The
screenplay is by Craig Pearce and Baz Luhrmann and the
book includes notes on William Shakespeare's play by
John Bettenbender. This major motion picture from
Twentieth Century Fox stars Leonardo DiCaprio and
Claire Danes.

The setting of the contemporary version is a modern city,
and the characters carry guns instead of swords. The
Montagues and the Capulets are gangsters who take their
feuding to the streets. At a masked ball Romeo Montague
meets and falls in love with Juliet Capulet, but, as in the
original play, their love is ill-fated. In addition to love,
violence and death play important parts in both versions.
Although the dialogue is briefer in the contemporary
version, the characters still speak the beautifully lyrical
words of Shakespeare.

teaching ideas

Using William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet in the
Classroom

Even the most reluctant reader is drawn to the tragic love
story of Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Juliet is often a
student's first experience with Shakespeare and is
traditionally taught in English or language arts classes. But
there are obvious connections to the social studies, art,
drama, and film studies curriculum that can expedite
students' understanding of the text and context of both
versions.

Suggested Classroom Activities

Pre-Reading Activity

Students bring an array of experiences to the classroom
that can enhance their study of Romeo and Juliet. In
order to understand what these are and build upon them,
have class members write a series of ungraded journal
entries in which they describe their familiarity with (1)
Shakespeare's life and plays, (2) feuding families, (3)
street gangs, (4) film or stage productions of West Side
Story, and (5) stories of forbidden love. Students can
draw upon and share previous experiences with these
topics as the class studies the various versions of
Shakespeare's story.

Thematic Connections

Love -- Several types of love occur within the play. In
the beginning, Romeo suffers from unrequited love:
Rosaline did not return the love he bore her. Then he and
Juliet experience love at first sight and pledge to marry.
But they are star-crossed lovers and their love is destined
to end in tragedy. Romeo may have had premonitions
about unhappy outcomes, but neither he nor Juliet have
any doubt that theirs is a forbidden love.

In addition, Juliet instructs Romeo in true love, love that
does not rely upon convention or flowery oaths to
heavenly bodies, such as the inconstant moon, but that
binds person to person for its own sake. To explore the
concept of love in Romeo and Juliet, suggest each of five
students personify one of these kinds of love and discuss
their significance concerning the young lovers' relationship.

Tragedy and the Consequences of Violence -- Both
the play and the screenplay are heavily laden with
violence. The audience knows from the beginning that the
lovers will commit suicide, and indeed all violent acts lead
to this tragic event. After reading both the play and the
screenplay, ask students to discuss which version is more
violent and which version offers more hope for
overcoming violence by establishing peace between the
two families. Remind students they should be prepared to
defend their thoughts by citing specific scenes and
passages.