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Romeo and Juliet, a play written by William Shakespeare based in Medieval Verona during the Elizabethan Era was a play that outlined the tragic romance of two teenagers who risk everything to be together because of their family’s longstanding feud. Baz Luhrman adapted the play to create a modern version based on Venice Beach in Miami in 1996. Luhrman has used Shakespeare’s version of the play as a foundation when creating his more recent version to engage a modern audience in Shakespeare’s ideas. Many differences between the two versions of the play are shown in the love at first sight scene and in Mercutio’s death scene. These differences are shown with the use of dialogue in Luhmann’s film and different camera angles.

Luhrman’s love at first sight scene shows Romeo and Juliet in a very private space, close up to a fish tank where the pair makes eye contact and perhaps fall in love. This scene is almost like a cliché love at first sight where Romeo and Juliet lock eyes and then become inseparable throughout the rest of the movie; in life and death. However, Shakespeare’s version of the love at first sight scene was shown in more of a public setting. Romeo sees Juliet from a distance and asks a serving man for her name and from there on Romeo has the determination to speak with and soon marry the woman he has so called, fallen in love with at first sight. Tybalt hears Romeo’s voice and determines that he is a Montague. This causes a division between Romeo and Juliet as Romeo now needs to try to hide from or avoid Tybalt who wants Romeo slain. In Luhrman’s scene, Tybalt does not see Romeo until much later and his conversation with lord Capulet is much shorter than it is in Shakespeare’s scene. Luhrman does this to show how Romeo and Juliet will find a way to be together no matter how dangerous or how challenging and that is the main point of this scene. Shakespeare also does not show Juliet falling in love with Romeo until he grabs her hand and they speak. In Luhrman’s version of the scene, Romeo finds out Juliet is a Capulet because he sees her go to her mother, Lady Capulet, but doesn’t have a conversation with the nurse asking who Juliet is, like in Shakespeare’s version of the scene where Romeo asks the nurse “is she a Capulet?” Luhrman uses dramatic irony when Romeo looks up and sees Juliet as a Capulet and is stunned. It makes the entire scene more dramatic and shows the main challenge the couple will face to be together which is their family’s hatred. In both versions of the scene, Romeo and Juliet are devastated when they find out their “only love sprung from [their] only hate” but the entire play shows that they are destined to be together.

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Mercutio’s death scene in Luhrman’s version of the play is almost the same as Shakespeare’s version of it. However, Luhrman includes much more suspense between Tybalt and Mercutio’s fight and Tybalt and Romeo’s fight. This shows the anger in each of the characters building up and their thoughts on what will happen next, which makes the whole scene a lot more dramatic. Shakespeare’s version of the scene goes more like a flowing conversation rather than a physical fight which is what Lurhman includes a lot of throughout the entire scene. Violence is one of the main things incorporated throughout most of Mercutio’s death scene in Luhmann’s version as it displays a great amount of physical hate between the two houses, showing anger and malevolence. Luhrman can incorporate this in his scene because Shakespeare does not show specific areas where the characters are fighting. Speaking while fighting is something Lurhman also does a lot of in this scene because when characters are vicious both verbally and physically, it portrays a greater level of fury between them. In both scenes, Romeo tries to make a truce with Tybalt, but Tybalt rejects and challenges Romeo to a fight. Romeo tries to walk away but Tybalt being “sleek” and “fiery”, manages to get to Romeo before he leaves which begins a brawl between the two houses that soon leads to Mercutio’s death.

Luhrman’s version of the film was overall preferable for a modernized audience than Shakespeare’s original script. Luhmann’s modification in setting, music, and dialogue gave the film an alluring and lively influence engaging a greater audience. Overall Baz Luhrman’s interpretation of the play was remarkably and beautifully styled to create a prime and contemporary film. 

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Essay on Dramatic Irony in ‘Romeo and Juliet’.
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