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Violence is an important concept in William Shakespeare’s play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ as the two families act out their hate by adopting brutal means. Tensions, violence, brawls, deaths, and clashes not only drive the plot of the play but also give the reader an idea of how normalized violence, death, and honor killings were at that time. This is very clear to see during scenes in which the clashes of the feuding families are shown. Shakespeare’s 1597 play opens with a violent brawl in a marketplace. In Act 1, Scene 1, lines 18-21 we can see: “Gregory: The quarrel is between our masters and us their men. Sampson: ‘Tis all one. I will show myself a tyrant. When I have fought with the men, I’ll be civil with the maids. I’ll cut their heads off”. This shows the impact and normalization of violence in Verona, which is fueled by the hate of the families for each other, pride, and desire for power. In Verona, they constantly want to one-up the other family, be it by throwing a bigger feast or by cutting off more heads, which shows the sense of loyalty among the Capulets, Montagues, and their men. The dialogue between Sampson and Gregory depicts the importance of upholding their masters’ honor, even if they have to behead people for that, and violence. The scene further escalates to show the Montagues inciting the Capulets to start a fight indirectly so that the prince does not accuse the Montagues of starting bloodshed and also to show the Capulets that the Montagues are ‘tyrants’ and the real ruling family of Verona and are more honorable and powerful than the Capulets, which eventually led to a violent brawl in which innocent bystanders were hurt. But there seemed to be an utter disregard for innocent people being harmed as people at that point in time took pride in being brutal and a tyrant as that pleased their male ‘pride’ or egos, which was one of the driving forces of their violent behaviors as they were actively seeking ways to prove themselves as a more manly, dominant, strong and powerful person.

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While the portrayal of male pride in such a violent may be acceptable, contemporary composers have decided to alter it to suit the contemporary audience. In Kelly Ashbury’s 2011 film ‘Gnomeo and Juliet’, the theme of violence is portrayed as well, but in a more subtle and relevant way, as it is more of a petty competition rather than a brutal fight for honor and male pride. In ‘Gnomeo and Juliet’, the gnomes are still actively working to one-up each other, not in the amount of killing or the tyranny, but in the beauty of their gardens. Loyalty and teamwork can be seen right through the film as each and every gnome tries their level best to make their garden look the best, and this portrayal is much more pleasant and has humor to it. As well in the movie, the fight scene from Act 1 did take place, but not in a violent way, it was shown as a more comical lawnmower race, which was humorous and more relevant to the theme of the gnomes. In the film, low camera angles were used to show Tybalt as a villainous and evil character, while Gnomeo was filmed with a medium camera angle to show Gnomeo as a more balanced and positive individual.

Thus, the theme of violence is one of the key themes of the famous story of Romeo and Juliet. Even with the transformation of the performance for a modern audience, as can be seen from the film ‘Gnomeo and Juliet’, this theme is preserved.

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