Team F Blog Post

Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is a romantic comedy that focuses on the confounding relationships between two Renaissance couples. Despite its lighthearted nature, the play makes use of deceit often. For example, Beatrice and Benedick’s relationship begins with friends deceiving them into thinking they love each other. The focus of our interpretations was then to explore the effect of time period/era on film, specifically the method by which Benedick is made to think Beatrice is in love with him. This in mind, we decided to direct and record both a modern and a 1920’s version of Act II Scene III.

textEveryone has had an experience where a text message is ambiguous, or one in where we misunderstand the tone of a text. Our modern version of the play makes use of technology to fuel misunderstanding and deceit. Rather than overhearing a conversation while walking in a garden, modern day Benedick stumbles upon an unattended message box that happens to detail Beatrice’s undying love for him. Furthermore, instead of Beatrice calling Benedick to dinner in person, she does it through a text message. The alternating shots and voiceovers are then used to highlight contrast between Benedick’s over-interpretation of Beatrice’s messages and the actual tone of her voice.

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Our 1920’s version was more true to Shakespeare’s original stage directions in that a hiding Benedick happens upon a conversation between Leonato and Don Pedro. Diction and idioms were changed to suit the time period, and Claudio and Leonato’s lines were combined in order to streamline the script. This allowed for more fluidity, cutting back and forth between two characters instead of three. Don Pedro and Leonato’s deceit through word of mouth serves as a sharp contrast to our modern version’s use of technology to deceive.

 

Daniel, Lawrence (Dan), Carly, Andre, Zhen (Jennifer) 

Zhen Deng: Notes Reflection

My annotation on a textual segment of a play begins with a simple reading of the passage. Most English students know firsthand that Shakespeare’s language can be confusing. Thus, in my first reading of the text, I generally try to answer a few key questions. Which characters are involved? Where is the scene taking place? What is the tone? What is being said? I like to scribble the answers to these questions in the margin or at the space at the beginning of a scene. That way, if I can successfully note-take on all the scenes in a play, it’s very easy for me to go back and refresh myself on the key components of the scene.

If I’m doing a close reading of a particular passage, I like to use a highlighter and different colored pens to note important literary devices.

I personally like to organize my close readings by literary device (for example, pointing out all the similes in the passage in one paragraph). Thus, I use a different colored pen/highlighter to indicate each literary device. I don’t like to limit myself to certain literary devices when note-taking. I personally feel that readers should make note of all literary devices they see. Though it’s possible I’ll only write about a few in a close reading paper, it’s important to be aware that all literary devices contribute to the meaning of the passage. If multiple literary devices seem to contradict the argument I’m making, I will think carefully about changing my argument to address these contradictions.

After taking note of the literary devices that appear in the passage, I then take notes on possible author’s purpose for each one. To interpret literary devices, one must first have a solid understanding of characters – Their backgrounds, motivations, and relationships. Before I look at literary devices with more ambiguous meanings, I like to refer back to the answers to the key questions noted down earlier. Then, I try to piece together whether the literary devices seem to point to the same argument and whether that argument is consistent with a character’s personality, motivation, and the general tone of the passage.

Unlike math and science courses, English isn’t a black and white subject, and personal interpretation of text is never right or wrong so long as it is well-supported by evidence. If I feel that I have a solid understanding of a passage, can point out a few literary devices and interpret Shakespeare’s purpose in writing them in, and have taken notes so that it is easy for me to refer back to key components of the passage in the future, my note taking was successful.

Taking notes on a film is very different than taking notes on text. Due to the quick pacing, it might be difficult to fully understand what is being said. Though this may be so, some aspects of literature, such as mood, tone, and symbolism, are more apparent than in text. Some of a director’s choices, like lighting, music, costume, and camera shots, are also easy to take notes on.

Before watching a film interpretation of Shakespeare, I make sure I know the general rundown of the play. That way, it is easier for me to focus more on the director’s interpretive choices because I don’t need to try to understand the general plot. As I’m watching the play, I like to use a simple pencil and notebook to take note of anything that stands out to me, especially if we’re watching the film in class. Along with the literary device, I also note the scene in which it occurs so I may rewatch the segment later on. For example, if I wanted to make note of the transition from delicate, fairy-like music to dark, ominous music during Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech in Luhrmann’s 1996 version of Romeo and Juliet, I would write something like “Cheerful, delicate -> dark, ominous music (Mercutio, before Capulet party).”

After taking notes on a film, if I feel that I have a solid grasp of a director’s specific characterization of main characters, the plot of the film, and have noted some literary devices/director’s choices which I deem to be important, I have been successful in my note taking.

Whether it’s done on film or text, note taking is no doubt an essential part of any literary interpretation. Refining this skill can make or break a paper.

Zhen Deng: Film Review

foreshadowing

Baz Luhrmann makes excellent interpretive choices to emphasize the importance of fate in his 1996 film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Through some may cite its deviations from the original Shakespearean text as demerits, overall, Luhrmann’s use of scenery and film technique to emphasize the importance of fate in his film strongly overcomes any of the film’s shortcomings.

Baz Luhrmann does a great job of emphasizing the role of fate through the introduction of Mercutio in act 1 scene 4. This is achieved by juxtaposing Mercutio’s initial joking attitude with the final seriousness of his Queen Mab speech. Through the use of film technique, a monologue that could be cast aside as random and humorous becomes weighty and serious. Appearing in a short white dress, an overtly fake white wig, and lipstick, Mercutio is initially presented as outgoing character with a wild streak. His initial exchanges with Romeo are light and joking. During these exchanges, the camera alternates between shots of Romeo and Mercutio’s faces. This, along with the director’s choice of high-spirited music, create the initial friendly, humorous atmosphere of the scene.

Suddenly, the high-spirited music stops as Mercutio begins to give his famous “Queen Mab” speech. The speech begins light and humorous as Mercutio describes Queen Mab, a character of folklore and children’s tales. As he begins his speech, the music starts out quiet and mysterious, befitting the subtlety and complexity of the powerful fairy queen. Suddenly, there is a shift in music as Mercutio describes how Mab “driveth o’ a soldier’s neck, and he dremercutio-agitatedams of cutting foreign throats.” The tone has become dark, ominous, and dangerous. Mercutio becomes more and more upset as he describes Queen Mab until he ends his speech with a feral scream. Considering how agitated the previously easy-going Mercutio is directed to become, viewers understand that his speech is not quite as simple as it may appear to be. Upon further inspection, Queen Mab seems comparable to fate – Something that controls “dreamers” and plants horrendous ideas into their minds. Perhaps Mercutio sees that all “dreamers,” including he and Romeo, are controlled by powers beyond their control, and that their “dreams” will end in tragedy, just as the dreams of the soldier and virgin did. Overall, Luhrmann’s interpretation of Mercutio’s Queen Mab monologue lean heavily away from silly, ecstasy-crazed words towards foreshadowing and introducing the importance of uncontrollable fate.

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Similarly, act 1 scene 5, in where Romeo and Juliet discover one another’s identities, also emphasizes the theme of uncontrollable fate. While the original Shakespeare text has Romeo and Juliet discover each other’s identities physically apart, Luhrmann chooses to have the two discover this in sight of one another. Though this deviation from the original text may be noted as a demerit by some critics, by changing his interpretation, Luhrmann is able to use specific shots involving Romeo and Juliet to better emphasize the helplessness Romeo and Juliet feel as a result of uncontrollable fate. The slow zoom out on the high angle shot of Romeo at the bottom of the staircase represents the distance he feels from Juliet. Luhrmann’s choice to position Juliet at the top of the staircase shows Romeo’s new perception of Juliet; she is a target high above his reach – Another lost love. Long, lingering reaction shots of Romeo and Juliet doing nothing but staring at each other in shock disbelief seem to further emphasize the role of fate in this play – Characters cannot control their own fate, they can only watch while realization of their terrible fate slowly dawns on them.

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The theme of uncontrollable fate reoccurs in act 5 scene 1. The outskirts of Verona Beach, where Romeo sits in exile, waiting for news of Juliet, are dusty, dry, and yellowing. The choice of the setting’s scenery creates a strong sense of isolation. The scenery, paired with shots of Romeo’s inaction at the time of Balzehar’s arrival, seems to emphasize the fact that Romeo’s fate is now completely out of his hands. By manipulating the scenery of act 5 scene 1, Luhrmann again masterfully highlights the importance of fate in his interpretation Romeo and Juliet.

In his 1996 interpretation of Romeo and Juliet, Baz Luhrmann masterfully utilizes setting and film technique and to emphasize the importance of fate. Though his film adaptation is by no means perfect, Luhrmann’s use of setting and film technique to emphasis the importance of fate in his film is extremely well done.