Ashley Staples: Scene Comparison

                            0f75d912d6377cde5db61cfd2886b59cRomeo and Juliet, Zeffirelli 1968

Act 3 scene 1 of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet culminates in the death of Tybalt by Romeo’s hands, as they duel over the fate of Mercutio. Romeo, seeking vengeance for his friend, lets his emotions overcome him, furthering the gap between himself and his love, Juliet. The scene dramatically ends with Romeo’s bitter line, “I am fortune’s fool” (3.1.98). Both Zeffirelli’s and Luhrmann’s film versions of Romeo and Juliet use this statement in differing ways. Not only are the deliveries completely unalike, but, also, the contexts lend further insight into the directors’ separate styles and artistic visions.

In Baz Luhrmann’s version, a car crash and a battle over the weapon, a single hand gun, supply the most tension within the action sequence. Luhrmann uses shaky camera work, slow motion and extreme facial close ups during the car accident to heighten the drama and pivot the scene to the character’s confrontation. Choral and electronic music used in tandem intensifies each moment. Both the music and the camera alternately slow and speed up, and the overall effect is one of disorientation and urgency.

At one point, Romeo is held at gunpoint by Tybalt. A terse, vehement exchange follows and, with crazed passion, Romeo repeats the line, “Either thou or I, or both, must go with him” (3.1.91). With each repetition, Romeo seems to become more incensed, and with the final repeat, Romeo yells the line like a war cry. The emphasis on these repeated lines is almost prophetic; Romeo seems to believe he is helpless at the hands of fate, and the only path ahead of him is death. When Romeo shoots Tybalt, the facial closeups mimic both points of view — staring down the barrel of the gun, and watching the life leave Tybalt’s eyes. It is interesting to note that this effect is used instead of a wide shot, where the action would have been seen more clearly. Tybalt’s body falls backwards, viewed from above, which is consistent with the lofty and spiritual themes of the scene. Realization dawns on Romeo as the camera cuts back to his face, pans down his arm, and he drops the gun. The music is gone, and the only sounds are from the storm around him. Romeo screams “I am fortune’s fool” (3.1.98) to heavens above with the camera panning upwards. The scene ends with the camera looking down on Romeo once more, again mimicking a point of view; seemingly of a higher being in control of Romeo’s fate.

Zeffirelli’s version of Act 3 scene 1 is much different. It’s brawling, gritty and visceral. The fight quickly escalates from a passionate duel to an animalistic struggle in the dirt of the street. In this version, Romeo is a more human character embroiled with rage, instead of a crazed prophet driven mad by vengeful justice and destiny. There is no music — only the constant yelling of the two boys’s comrades as they race down the alleyways. The whole group is very mobbish, both fighting each other and watching the real fight simultaneously, each egging on their respective leaders in the duel. The youthfulness of all the characters is emphasized in this version. Each contributing element reflects the innocence and energy of youth, as well as its crude, primal aggression.

Tybalt’s dead body falls forwards onto Romeo, instead of backwards and away from him. This physical connection in death is more human, and thus the fault of the situation lies in the hands of human error more than the whims of fate. The scene again ends with the line, “I am fortune’s fool,” (3.1.98) except here, Romeo cries it out in bitter regret and sorrow.

Both versions of this scene show different sides of chaos, passion and rage. Luhrmann’s Romeo is more focused on the act of killing, speaking of it as if an absolute and unquestionable force was directing him. He seems half-mad; the chaos of the scene is reminiscent of disorientation and helplessness. In the end, Romeo seems to put the blame of the murder in the hands of fate, not himself. Zeffirelli’s version, by contrast, is animalistic and primal. The fight is a brawl that is rife with rage and the intent to kill. It is never verbalized. The murder is a result of human passion rather than an act of fate. Romeo seems to regret his actions and puts the fault on himself. In all, both versions effectively represent the inherent deep emotion of the scene.

Ashley Staples: Scene Comparison

Romeo and Juliet is a classic play by William Shakespeare that has been interpreted through many forms of media over the years. In particular, film directors Franco Zeffirelli and Baz Luhrmann are especially interesting on account of their contrasting takes of the story. They have distinct styles, which is immediately apparent upon watching both films. Comparing the same scene in each movie highlights the differences in choices Zeffirelli and Luhrmann make. The scene I will be focusing on here is Act 1 Scene 5, where Romeo attends the Capulet party and meets Juliet for the first time.

In the Baz Luhrmann version of this scene, the party starts off with high impact. It seems to be from Romeo’s point of view; he is interpreting the world after using drugs. The dizzying effect of slow motion, rapid cuts and close ups of character’s faces reflects Romeo’s experience at the party. This use of cinematography is paired with very bright colours, lights, and flashy costumes, all of which contribute to the frenetic energy of the sequence. The breathless activity finally culminates as Romeo dunks his head in water and comes to his senses. An immediate change of pace takes hold. The shots are longer, as there is slow panning of Romeo’s surroundings. A peaceful and romantic song is being sung over a quiet crowd, and Romeo enjoys the beauty of an aquarium. Very much like the fish swimming through the water, the mood is serene and dreamlike. Juliet’s appearance on the other side of the glass attracts Romeo’s attention and they watch each other for a long time through the water barrier. The soft blue lighting in this moment adds to the peaceful atmosphere.


Luhrmann’s approach to this scene seems to consist of volatile shifts — the rapid movement and energy in one sequence is immediately followed by calm and sensitivity in the next. I think this ultimately adds an element of mystery, especially when the dialogue is scarce. Up to this point, only two lines have been said by any of the characters. The shifts in mood within this scene continue with the overarching surrealism that is paramount in Luhrmann’s style. For example, Juliet is whisked away before Romeo can speak to her, and while she is dancing, he watches her in a kind of romantic daze. Though people are obviously talking in the background, it is not heard what is being said, because from Romeo’s perspective, Juliet is all that matters. Her movements are slowed down, and when it cuts back to reflect on Romeo’s face, his expression is one of awe. Once they are finally reunited, the feeling of intensity and danger returns — the audience knows that they are enemies, and the mood plays on that knowledge. The whispering delivery of the lines, the quick cuts and movements between faces all work up to the moment of their first kiss, which is fraught with peril by the prying eyes of Juliet’s clan.


The scene ends as Romeo runs off and Tybalt says the lines, “I will withdraw; but this intrusion shall/ Now with seeming sweet convert to bitter gall.” Romeo and Juliet (1.5.91-92) In the original play, these lines are spoken before Romeo and Juliet even meet, but their placement at the end of this scene is very impactful and closes the scene with a foreboding mood — foreshadowing what is to come later.


In contrast, Zeffirelli’s take on this scene is shorter, calmer, and more dialogue heavy. I’d go as far to compare it to the use of ‘soft romance’, which is characterized by innocence, sweetness, and overall security; as opposed to ‘hard romance’ which is far more dramatic and contains threatening elements. While Luhrmann’s take definitely incorporated the sense of threat into his scene, Zeffirelli focuses more on the festivity and the innocent curiosity of the two lovers. The cuts between characters are slower, the music calmer and there is a lot more talking in general. the sequence where Juliet dances within a whirlwind of people is exciting, but not the extent of madness like with Luhrmann. the while atmosphere is more romantic and far less hostile. The threat of Tybalt is not emphasized, and the scene ends just as Romeo realizes who Juliet is.

In conclusion, while both directors do an excellent job of encapsulating the youthful romance between Romeo and Juliet, both have distinct styles that emphasize different components of their respective films.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Ed. W. F. Langford. Toronto: Longmans Canada Limited,1962. Print.

Daniel Leong: Scene Comparison

While the “To be or not to be” soliloquy in Act 3 Scene 1 was undoubtedly of paramount importance to the immortalizing of Hamlet as a play, I would argue that in film, Act 2 Scene 2 warrants just as much, if not more, scrutiny and discussion. In particular, there is much to be said about the differences in creative decisions made by directors Zeffirelli and Doran in terms of text splicing, angles, character direction, and choice of visuals, particularly in Hamlet’s short interrogation of his friends but also in the ending soliloquy.

Perhaps the most readily apparent difference between these versions is that Zeffirelli chooses on more than one occasion to change the original order of events or, in some cases, omit lines entirely. With reference to the text, Zeffirelli places the “to be or not to be” soliloquy directly before Hamlet’s friendly encounter with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, then skips forward from the players’ arrival into just after the First Player’s speech. He then moves backwards to the “Flourish of trumpets within” before jumping forward again into halfway through the closing soliloquy. In my opinion, Zeffirelli’s new sequence of events does an admirable job of simplifying the plot without detracting too much from the meaning, as we still have Hamlet’s brooding, his interactions with other characters, and his resulting rage. However, that isn’t to say that Zeffirelli’s is necessarily better; in fact, his decisions almost give us a shallower Hamlet whose motivations and thoughtsare more generic and easy to understand. By contrast, Doran’s Hamlet follows the text exactly, sacrificing simplicity in favor of preserving the complexity of Hamlet’s character and motivations.

The same effect of showing two different Hamlets can be seen in each director’s choice of how to direct Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern during Hamlet’s short interrogation of them. When he first asks if they were sent for, Zeffirelli alternates between head-on shots of Rosencrantz/Guildenstern sitting and lower angle shots of Hamlet’s face, right up until Hamlet reveals that “[He] knows the good king and queen have sent” them, when all three are visible.

Zeffirelli uses these shots to perpetuate the idea of a two-against-one scenario until Hamlet (Whose power is accentuated by low-angle shots) intrudes upon their space and angrily reveals their secret, toppling Rosencrantz’s chair before Guildenstern confesses. Hamlet then steps out from under the shelter into the light and comments upon its poor quality.

Through clever use of angles and character direction in this scene, Zeffirelli parallels exactly what Hamlet intends to do with Claudius and Gertrude: get close to them, accuse them, topple the “throne” and step happily out into the sunlight alone while cursing the place from whence he came.

(Zeffirelli’s Hamlet, 55:00)

Doran achieves the same two-versus-one effect by showing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern facing Hamlet, but leaves a perfect space between the two for Hamlet as though waiting for him to join them. When Hamlet, again, reveals that “[He] knows the good king and queen have sent” them, Doran does have Hamlet join them, but with an intimidating expectant glare rather than friendly acquiescence or violence. Doran’s Hamlet even goes so far as to declare that “If you love me, hold not off” where Zeffirelli’s does not. The difference, then, in how each director uses directs characters and angles to show a different take on the text is clear. Where Zeffirelli’s muscular, manly, low-angle Hamlet uses brute force to get an answer, Doran’s cunning, thoughtful, straight-angle Hamlet employs guilt and emotional blackmail. (9:45) (3:41)

Finally, both directors’ portrayal of the soliloquy primarily combine elements of lighting, angles, and character direction to create a Hamlet who goes from angry to defeated to cunning within seconds of each other. “Am I a coward?” and also “Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!” are both included with similar tones in each version, however, Zeffirelli uses exposure to light to emphasize Hamlet’s weakness whereas Doran uses the contrast between low-angle (Before “O, vengeance!”) and high-angle (Afterwards) shots. When conceiving of the idea to use the players as a means to expose Claudius, Doran’s Hamlet differs from Zeffirelli’s again in that the slowly accelerating camera is used instead of intentionally angled shots of the players and light/dark contrast to show an ominous, cunning Hamlet and a scheming, vengeful Hamlet respectively.



Clearly, both versions of Act 2 Scene 2 have their merits and demerits, Zeffirelli’s interpretation being easier to understand but less profound and Doran’s showing respect to the text at the expense of general comprehensibility.

Mirabelle Harris-Eze: Scene Comparison | Zeffirelli’s Hamlet (1990) and Branagh’s Hamlet (1996)

Hamlet (1996 film) directed by Franco Zeffirelli

Hamlet (1996 film) directed by Franco Zeffirelli

Hamlet (1996 film) directed by Kenneth Branagh

Hamlet (1996 film) directed by Kenneth Branagh









Shakespeare’s Hamlet is arguably one of the most famous plays in English literature. This blog post will compare and contrast Franco Zeffirelli’s Hamlet (1990) and Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet (1996)—in particular the last half of Act III Scene I, encompassing Hamlet’s soliloquy up until Claudius exits with Polonius.

I know that I am not in the minority when I say that Hamlet is my favorite Shakespeare play. In this blog post, I look into how Zeffirelli and Branagh, two directors releasing their film adaptations during the same decade, with similar budgets, interpret Hamlet on screen—just how polarizing could their renditions be?

Script and Running Time

Zeffirelli’s Hamlet runs at 134 (2 hours and 14 minutes) minutes and Branagh’s Hamlet at, nearly double that, 242 minutes (4 hours and 2 minutes). The disparity in running times are apparent in the conversion from Hamlet the text from Hamlet the screenplay.

Hamlet (1990) was cut to a length suitable for the cinema. Long blocks of text were cut down and lines swapped, thus quickening the pace of the plot. In contrast, Hamlet (1996) was the first unabridged theatrical interpretation of the text. I recall it took 4 sittings to watch it in high school English class, and we followed along with our textual copies of Hamlet. Branagh’s decision here renders the film more theatrical than cinematic, which lies in complete opposition to Ziffirelli’s decision to use a multitude of cinematic techniques, many action-film based. This observation is further developed when I talk about the shots both directors favored.

To Be or not To Be…

“To be, or not to be: that is the question”

(Hamlet 3.1.56)

The way the two directors interpret Hamlet’s famous soliloquy on screen was what I was most interested in during my comparative analysis.





Setting of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy in Franco Zeffirelli’s Hamlet

hamlet-branagh-1  hamlet-branagh-3


Setting of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy in Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet

Zeffirelli’s Hamlet employs short takes, the average shot length is 6 seconds, reminiscent of action films. Mel Gibson as Hamlet wanders an underground morgue, the camera steady and shots short. These vary from close ups to wide angle shots, techniques possible solely with cinematography, that emphasize the darkly-lit setting. In contrast, the majority of Branagh’s Hamlet employs long single takes, very often with some sort of moving camerawork. In the “To be or not to be” soliloquy, Kenneth Branagh as Hamlet is filmed standing in front of a mirror, in a brightly-lit hall of mirrors, the camera zooming closer and closer as the speech goes on. This mimics more accurately the experience in a theatre with the long single take, but still uses cinematographic elements with the camera zoom, building tension.

Tension is built in Hamlet (1996) sonically speaking, too. As Branagh delivers his lines, soft, pedantic music crescendos as the soliloquy goes on. Hamlet (1990) is void of music during the speech but Mel Gibson’s voice is filled with heavy reverb—as the scene takes place in an airy, cellar-like place—vocals are more emphasized than musical score.

Hamlet and Ophelia and the Other Guys too

The interaction between Ophelia and Hamlet is approached both uniquely and similarly by Zeffirelli and Branagh.

hamlet-zifferelli-ophelia-side-side-talk hamlet-zifferelli-ophelia-side-side-talk-2


Hamlet and Opheila in Hamlet (1990)


Hamlet and Opheila in Hamlet (1996)

If thou dost marry, I’ll give thee this plague for

thy dowry: be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as

snow, thou shalt not escape calumny . . .

(Hamlet 3.1.35-37)

Hamlet’s line above is delivered loudly and angrily by Gibson, in an arc shot, in Hamlet (1990). In Hamlet (1996) the line is delivered just as loudly by Branagh, and perhaps a little more maniacally, in a tracking shot. Both shots capture the madness of Hamlet, whether genuine or feigned.

The duplicitous natures of Claudius and Polonius are captured similarly as well between the directors. In Hamlet (1990), Claudius and Polonius eavesdrop from behind pillars covered in shadows, while in Hamlet (1996), Claudius and Polonius eavesdrop from behind the mirrors in the hall.


Claudius and Polonius in Hamlet (1990)


Claudius and Polonius in Hamlet (1996)





Acclaimed directors Zeffirelli and Branagh, although releasing their renditions of Hamlet in the same decade, with similar budgets, produce quite unique works. While Zeffirelli’s rendition focuses on mainly cinematic elements, Branagh’s focuses more so on theatrical elements.



Adetola Adedipe: Romeo and Juliet (Act 2, Scene 2) Scene Comparison


Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo & Juliet (1968)

Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo & Juliet (1968)












This scene comparison is from Shakespeare’s: Romeo and Juliet. Personally, don’t like this play at all. The romanticized tragic end of the youngsters, foolishness and irrationality of Romeo and Juliet in the name of true love, the fickleness of Romeo, Juliet’s naiveté and the selfishness of their families not accepting their relationship (through their own personal grudges) which drives the youngsters to extreme rebellion makes for a very frustrating experience as a whole whether it is being watched or read. Another reason I chose this play is because they were portrayed in two ways that contrast each other completely and yet bring across the play in a way that did not change my feelings on the play.

I chose to do the famous Act 2 Scene 2 because of the tendency to portray this scene in a certain way it might have been similar in both films but that was not the case.

The setting in Zeffirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet” with it’s classical landscapes in 14th-century Renaissance Italy while Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet” modern day Verona Beach, California. The films automatically follow the tone set from these directing decisions – such as the use of swords in the 1968 film in comparison to the Sword 9mm series gun in the 1996 version- both effective for styles implemented to tell the story.

The actors in each film are very different in terms of age and acting prowess. In the 1968 film, Romeo and Juliet (Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey) are closer to the age (16 and 14) as stated in the play however are both untrained. This enhances the sense of innocence and loss thereof throughout the play yet retaining the theme of youth and passion. In the 1996 version both actors are older (Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio) than in the play and there is a stronger themes of sexuality rather than innocence portrayed which also identifies with today’s perception of relationships.

In the 1968 version we see Romeo in a garden looking up at he balcony before whispering “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?” (2.2.2-3) and the cameras pans to reveal Juliet. This adds a dramatic effect to this scene which gives off a feeling of curiosity and wonder at this new love. However, in the 1996 version we see Romeo immediately starting to climb and then land in Juliet’s back yard with the glistening water where he proceeds to fumble and over everything adding comedy into the scene. This emphasizes the intrusion of Romeo into a place he does not belong but the symbol of the water represents the purity of their new love while the clumsiness of Romeo adds charm to his character. Later on they are both in the water almost encapsulated in their own world surrounded by the water.

When comparing editing, the 1968 version is slower and less theatrical which can be a positive and a negative thing. The simplicity of the editing makes for more focus on the dialogue and acting which when compared to the other-the-top editing in the 1996 version lets the audience engage more in the film and make for a better watch regardless of the vocabulary. Luhrmann’s faced paced music and dramatic camera shots correspond with the feelings of the audience watching the film. The lights used in the 1996 version are more vibrant and changing in this scene when compared to the 1996 version. The underwater shots in Luhrmann’s version really left an impression on me while Zifferlli’s balcony scene tended to be more on the calm side.

During Juliet’s soliloquy in the 1968 version, the camera is at a long, low angle shot of Juliet looking into the distance on the balcony thinking of Romeo (an unattainable love) while in the 1996 version, there is a closer, high angle shot of Juliet and she is looking upwards. “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other word would smell as sweet.” (2.2.43-44)

The costumes in the scene are similar due to Juliet being in a nightgown in both scenes, however the 1968 version shows Juliet’s gown to be significantly more low cut than the older actress in the 1996 version. I think this is done to add a sense of maturity to the younger actress which is slightly more unlikable to me (as she comes across completely blinded by this new love and completely loses her sense of self without Romeo). While in the 1996 version, a sense of modesty or innocence is added to the older Claire Danes who portrays a more intellectual and deeper character of Juliet- I also find her expressions so much more sassy.


Luhrmann's 1996 Juliet

Luhrmann’s 1996 Juliet

Zeffirelli's 1996 Juliet

Zeffirelli’s 1996 Juliet







This iconic scene has elements that are unique to them yet still bring forth the foolish love between these two young lovers. Both directors appealed to the audience of the time and executed their themes consistently through the film and are brilliant for what they are. Different films but same story: Foolish young love and foolish deaths that is in no way romantic. Although, I would like a guy to sneak into my garden at night to woo me – that might be a tad romantic- even I have to admit that.



Crowl, S. (2008). Shakespeare and film: A Norton guide. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Luhrmann, B., Martinelli, G. (1996) Romeo and juliet [Film]. Mexico: Twentieth Century Fox

Shakespeare, W. (1597). Romeo and Juliet [Play]

Shakespeare, et al., (1968) “Franco Zeffirelli’s production of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet”


Lawrence Demmert-Scene Comparison

Kenneth Branagh and Lawrence Olivier’s respective versions of Henry V take very stylistically different approaches to Act 4 Scene 3. The scenery’s atmosphere is immensely different between the two films, Branagh shot with the sky overcast, the land is soil, the trees surrounding them are barren of leaves, in front of the few soldiers lie barricades. This is in stark contrast to Lawrence Olivier’s opening scene. The sky is blue and beating down on the soldiers, beneath their feet is grass, and between the dozens of tents surrounding the campsite lie legions of soldiers. Branagh appears to try to create a greater feeling of hopelessness; the King’s army has all odds against them. In contrast Olivier chooses scenery that sets up a glorious victory. This is due to Olivier’s decision to contrast England’s social climate during World War II, the movie was meant to rouse the troops. Branagh’s version however was filmed in a time of peace but still maintains a dreary atmosphere. Samuel Crowl’s Shakespeare and Film supports this contrast of the two films “Branagh’s approach fit his skeptical post Vietnam and Falklands war historical moment as appropriately as appropriately as Oliver’s had fit the heroism of the World War II era” (Crowl, 17).


A moment that encapsulates the distinctly different scenery is the opening scene in which Henry V’s companions wait anxiously for the King to arrive.

“Gloucester: Where is the king?
Bedford: The king himself is rode to view their battle.
Westmoreland: Of fighting men they have full three score thousand.
Exeter: There’s five to one; besides, they all are fresh.

Salisbury: God’s arm strike with us! ‘Tis a fearful odds. “(Shakespeare Act 4 scene 3, lines 1-5).

henry-v i7or7ql-imgur

Interestingly Branagh chooses to move the conversation to a different group of soldier’s part way through the dialogue, this would infer a widespread fear and hopelessness;


In contrast to Olivier’s version in which the conversation is isolated between that small group of soldiers. The actors in Branagh have a much more sullen tone, filled with fear; while Olivier has the actors conversing in an impartial tone.


Both films slightly adapt the text from this scene. Both directors deemed lines 24 of 33 to be extraneous but Branagh cut significantly more original text. While Olivier cut only 22 of 129 lines, Branagh cut 48 of 129 lines. Olivier’s method was likely a result of his era; he sticks with the text very closely while only trimming a few lines. Branagh’s version of the play is clearly aimed at a more modern and mainstream audience; it trims quite a bit more text to streamline and push the plot forward. While it may seem that Branagh cut a significant portion of the text, it must be taken into account that he is a victim of his era and therefore must aim for a shorter screen time. In Russell Jackson’s text From Play-script to Screen Play “His [Syd Field] definition of ‘the real dynamic of good screenwriting’ offers an encapsulated definition of successful mainstream work: ‘strong and active characters, combined with a unique, stylized visual narrative that constantly moves the story forward’. Aiming for the ‘ideal’ running time of less than two hours, most Shakespeare films have used no more than 25–30 per cent of the original text”(Russell Jackson, 17). This is everything that Branagh aims for. His scene is very fluid, while to a modern critic Olivier’s version is much more drawn out. An example of this trimming is Branagh cutting lines 93-107. This is an interesting digression, however it does not move the plot forward and is repeated later in the same section. Earlier in the script it explains the soldiers as outnumbered five to one inferring that the battle would be a difficult one. Lines like “A many of our bodies shall no doubt
Find native graves; upon the which, I trust,
Shall witness live in brass of this day’s work:” (Shakespeare 95-97) are extraneous in the sense that they present no new information. In turn these lines must be removed because they do not fit the modern criteria for a successful mainstream work.


Works Cited

Jackson, Russell. “From Play-script to Screenplay.” The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare on Film (n.d.): 17. Web.

Crowl, Samuel. Shakespeare and Film: A Norton Guide. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008. Print.

Shakespeare, William, and T. W. Craik. King Henry V. New York: Bloomsbury, 1995. Print.

Act 2, Scene 2; Romeo & Juliet 1968 and 1996

     Romeo and Juliet is truly a classic play written by Shakespeare. That is part of the reason I chose to compare the act 2, scene 2 in the films that were made by Franco Zeffirelli in 1968 and also the newer version of Romeo and Juliet made by Baz Luhrmann in 1996. The other part of the reason I chose to analyze it was because I have seen and read the play. The two scenes obviously have the exact same concept behind them, yet they were executed in two extremely different ways. There are certain styles and details, beyond the very contrasting setting that the two directors chose that set the directors and scenes apart. Zeffirelli uses elaborate and over the top acting in order to portray the scene in a heart wrenching love story type of way. While Luhrmann uses a modern-day touch of comedy and a very eerie water setting to enhance the sense of urgency that is in the air while the two lovebirds meet. Both directors execute act 2 scene 2 fairly well, however Luhrmann transports the classic play to a familiar setting in order to have it relate to a modern-day audience, thus in my opinion he did it right.

     The settings of each individual film were very specific. Each setting was pivotal in the rest of the directing decisions. Luhrmann could not have made his film theatrical in the same way that Zeffirelli executed his film with elaborate acting and classical landscapes. This is possibly why Luhrmann chose to have it in a modern-day setting. The Verona beach setting enable the classical play to take on a modern-day touch that would easily relate to people in the 1960’s and also today. During the first part of this scene Leonardo DiCaprio who plays Romeo is seen fumbling over patio furniture and causing a ruckus while attempting to utter his “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun,”(2.2.2-3) line this is only possible because of the choice to have props that tie in with his desired setting of the film. Zeffirelli chose the classical setting that was used to speak to the original context of the play. By having the feuding families and love bird set in the 1300’s the castles and balls and elaborate theater type acting all fits together. When Leonard Whiting is saying the exact same “but soft!” line he is sneaking through the bushes, this creates an entirely different feel for the viewer. The viewer is given a quaint teenage feel that is wrapped in a ‘medieval cloak’.

     Juliet plays a crucial role in this particular scene. Her acting either makes or break the scene. In the movie directed by Zeffirelli, Olivia Hussey who plays Juliet over does the acting. She is so elaborate, awkward and over directed. Her actions are unnatural, she takes unnecessarily long pauses and she looks as if she is forcing her love for Romeo. Hussey’s “O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name,”(2.2.33-34) illustrates exactly how there is no girl on this planet who would ever use facial expressions to that extent while talking to herself alone on her balcony no mater how in love she is.

In the movie directed by Luhrmann, although it is more modern, the acting by
Claire Danes is relaxed and natural. She is able to portray her love for Romeo simply by whispering the exact same “O Romeo” line and all the while keeping her body language calm.

The acting plays an enormous role in the film and the acting by Claire Danes was simply superior.

     Both of the directors generate emotions from their respective takes on this particular scene. Luhrmann’s seamlessly humorous pool scene ties in the Verona beach star-crossed lovers idea perfectly, while on the other hand, Zeffirelli’s 1300’s overprocessed backyard teenage love scene over plays the importance of the feelings and urgency, thus ruining it.
Reilly Kruger

Works Cited and Sources:

Zeffrelli Romeo and juliet 1968—
1996 Romeo and Juliet viewed on

Luhrmann 1996
William Shakespeare’s Romeo Juliet. Dir. Baz Luhrmann. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., 1996. Web.
Shakespeare Text

The construction of Richard in Laurence Olivier’s Richard III(1955)

Richard The Third is a character of multiple interpretations and theories about his true intentions. In the text, Richard often invites the idea that he is a persecuted man who tries to win over the sympathy of the audience through his monologues, and of the other characters of the play through his interactions. At the same time, his actions such as his seduction of Anne and his astute manipulation of other characters shows him as more competent and influential then he purports himself to be. While any portrayal of Richard must show him as conniving, his actual nature as a wronged victim, a conniving prince or a hardened psychopath depends upon interpretation. From the calculated yet subtlely insincere way that Olivier delivered Richard’s first monologue, to the way he played his skilled and authoritative seduction of Anne and Richard’s manipulation of the coronation ceremony, Olivier plays Richard as the conniving, power hungry prince first. We are  left doubting whether Richard is truthful in his monologues and if his handicaps are as severe as he makes them seem. However, his passionate desire for the crown allows us to understand his motives, unlike McKellan’s Richard, who is insensitive and withered inside and out, and seems to enjoy “villainy” without any need for it.

In Richard introductory monologue, he gives his account as to why he is miserable and why he seeks power over people. His motives seem quite straight forward. Richard is handicapped, as he says he is “deformed, unfinished, sent befoe my time into this breathing world, scarce half made up, And that so lamely and unfashionably That dogs bark at me as I halt by them”(Act 1, Scene 1 line 23). He also laments his inability to find the love of a woman,” I that am rudely stamp’d, and want love’s majestry to strut before a wanton ambling nymph”(Act 1, Scene 1, line 16-17). Due to his loneliness and lack of occupation, he says that “To entertain these fair well-spoken days, I am determined to prove a villain”(Act 1, Scene 1, Line 30). It is evident that Richard says he is power hungry due to being unloved, and because his plots and treachery will be able to sabotage peoples’ happiness that he was unable to receive himself. However, because Richard is inherently manipulative and untruthful, the authenticity of this monologue can be brought into question. Laurence Olivier alludes to this in his version of the monologue.Richard does not come across as the self-pitying outcast he purports to be in his lines. He is standing straight, his voice is quite self-assured and he delivers the lines with forcefulness and tact rather than with pain and a sense of unworthiness. The only time Richard seems manic or emotional in Olivier’s version is when he is talking about the throne. He breaks into a grin when he says “I know not how to get the crown” (see clip: Olivier, “Now is the Winter of Our Discontent”, 2:49-3:10)and he starts yelling and staggering in almost a drunken way when he states “I will torment myself to catch the English crown!”(Clip:3:20-3:25). It is also significant that Richard is not speaking to himself in the monologue but clearly speaking to the audience, so the Act is much more like a speech than like a meditation;he is aiming to manipulate the listener to support him rather than to confess or reflect to himself.

Loncraine’s Richard provides a notable contrast to Olivier’s. Richard, as played by Ian McKellan gives the same speech in a urinal, talking to himself after addressing a crowd. The scene begins with McKellen addressing what appears to be a state dinner, and giving what seems like a rousing speech that is eagerly attended to. He starts the first few lines of the monologue addressed to the Son of York in Public. The first few lines start cheerfully and seemingly admiringly “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by the son of York”(Act I, Scene 1, Line 1-2) and the transition to the private urinal is made at “He capers nimbly in a ladies chamber”.(1:1:12) Mckellen then mutters the rest of the lines about his disfigured appearance and seeking revenge while he painfully urinates and later as he fixes his moustache in the mirror(See Clip). He delivers the line “I that am not shaped for sportive tricks”(1:1:14) with a cynical sigh and defeated self loathing. He only addresses the camera at the very end, and with familiar surprise, as if he has found an old friend or an accomplice who is “in” with his plans of villainy. Evidently, this Richard is far different to Olivier’s. Olivier’s Richard was the ambitious yet dissatisfied prince eager to manipulate the invisible audience to sympathise with his goals. McKellen’s Richard is not isolated, but is seen as important and celebrated. This Richard is not the outcast prince looking for an audience because he already has an attentive audience in the movie. This Richard is genuinely world-weary and bitter, someone who utters the lines about revenge and murder to himself because he genuinely has no regard for the world. In a way, Olivier’s Richard is the more sympathizable of the two. His evil springs from a genuine isolation, he feels he deserves the throne and is trying to win the audience over to his cause. McKellen’s Richard is already powerful, already celebrated, but plots evil to himself in a jaded and hardened manner. Olivier’s Richard is angry, greedy and manipulative, but his evil springs from an identifiable cause, whereas McKellen’s Richard is decayed and impenetrable.He seems purely motivated by a hatred of life, which makes him more dangerous.

Returning to Olivier’s Richard, a scene which strengthens Richard’s true nature as a seducer and manipulator rather than a genuine victim is his woo-ing of Lady Anne. He makes it known to the audience that he wants to wed the widow of the Prince of Wales. He initially meets her on the funeral procession of her husband, where he obnoxiously stops the procession of the casket and threatens the priests. Anne was naturally enraged but he tries to pacify her telling her that a man of her husband’s character belongs in heaven more than earth. He then says that he belongs in her bed chamber. While Anne spits at him, she responds to this absurd advance by lustily gazing at him up and down and she walks away. The absurd flirtation with Anne is continued when he meets her at her husband’s grave. He confesses that he killed her husband out of his love for her, and after making a few insincere gestures threatening to kill himself if she doesn’t accept him as her new husband, Anne yields herself to him and kisses him. The most obvious extraction from this strange courtship was voiced by Richard himself when he said “Was ever woman in this humour wooed, was ever woman in this humour won?”(Act 2, Scene 2, 222-224). While the courtship doesn’t make any sense, perhaps Olivier is endorsing the possible viewpoint by Shakespeare that a powerful and competent man can win over any woman, even a grieving, recently widowed one. The idea that a woman can be swept up by any man with the social standing and the confidence to woo her is mirrored in Hamlet, where Cladius married his brother’s wife within a month of his brothers funeral. This also supports the idea that Richard is not the neglected,unaccepted,virgin that he makes us feel he is in his monologue. Richard is brash and overconfident with women, it is unlikely that someone with a broken self-image would proposition a woman at her husband’s funeral. More so, the fact that Anne accepted him speaks volumes for his likely status. Anne was portrayed as a weak and shallow woman but even then, she probably accepted him because he was a prince and an eligible bachelor, rather than a freak. This makes us think that his monologue in the beginning about “Dogs bark at me as I halt by them” was probably a ploy for him to stoke up our sympathy rather than a genuine sense of persecution.

Richard iii

The tactic of Richard as tyrant playing a victim is made evident at the scene of his coronation. At the scene where Richard is ripe for the throne, he is shown marching in a procession of priests, singing holy hymns in the robes of a monk. At this point, no-one knows that Richard intends to take the English crown, and him being seen in public as a holy man deflects any suspicion that he may be ambitious. The cloaking of Richard in Monks robes also plays on the handicapped card, as it was known that in medieval times and even today in some countries, that the disabled are often reliant on the Church. The setting is perfect for Richard to deliver rehearsed lines, fed by a co-conspirator, in order to deliver his seemingly-reluctant ascension. He makes sure his accomplice Catesby calls the whole village to hear his lament about him becoming king, as he dramatizes “Will you enforce me to a world of cares?”(Act 3, Scene 7, 222) He also once again invokes his handicap to invite sympathy ” Yet so much is my poverty of spirit, So mighty and so many my defects That I would rather hide me from my greatness”(Act 3, Scene 7, 158-159). Unique to the Olivier version is how Olivier deploys the line “call them again” as a sharp order to Catesby to rally up the villagers who had dispersed, which created the effect of rehearsed scene. The interpretive choice of the director to priestly procession complements the monologue of Richard as a master of appearances. He introduced himself to us as the outcast cripple to disarm us and he portrays himself as the humble, disabled monk to disarm the peasantry. Through these two false appearances, we infer that Olivier created Richard not only as a schemer but someone who has created the persona of a victim, and uses his disability as a tool to achieve his aims rather than have it serve as an impediment to them.

Hamlet: A Scene Comparison

Hamlet: Act 3, Scene 4

For my blog post, I decided to compare scenes from Almereyda‘s Hamlet (2000) and Doran‘s Hamlet (2009), specifically focusing on Act 3, Scene 4.

Both films are modern adaptations of the play, and Almereyda‘s Hamlet in particular takes place in contemporary New York City. The film strongly incorporates technology and uses visuals/imagery to illustrate the impact of innovation and modernization. Almereyda‘s film also omits many lines from the play, and the script is often shuffled around to accommodate the visuals. Although it is clear that the focus is more on imagery rather than the dialogue, the lines are carefully selected before being integrated into the scenes, or discarded to make room for visuals. For example, in one of the scenes, Laertes receives a message from Hamlet via fax, rather than having it delivered by a messenger as seen in the play. Thus, whenever lines from the play are omitted, the use of visuals make up for it. The tone is also very low, mysterious and creepy, forcing the audience to listen closely when Hamlet is speaking. This is how Almereyda draws in the audience and portrays critical aspects of the play.

You can tell just from the poster that there‘s going to be a lot of technology in this movie. Also, can someone tell me what is going on with his hair?

Check out those visuals. The setting is definitely unique and interesting.

Doran’s Hamlet also takes place in a modern setting, but delivers the play as a television film using a single-camera approach. The setting/imagery is also much darker than Almereyda‘s, and Doran follows the script more closely. Furthermore, the emphasis on technology/modernization is significantly less, and the stage‘s overall lighting is very dark. The stage looks completely black in some scenes, which contributes to the film’s unsettling atmosphere. Unlike Almereyda’s use of modern-day costumes, Doran‘s film is more formal and closer to the original play. The characters also speak in British accents rather than the American accents seen in Almereyda‘s film. Additionally, the tone in Doran‘s Hamlet can sometimes be seen as exaggerated, sarcastic and even humorous. In fact, Hamlet displays erratic behaviour and seems completely and utterly insane. Yes, he was referred to as “mad” in Almereyda’s version, but Doran takes it a step further and depicts him as an unpredictable (and potentially dangerous) person. The use of frightening sound effects when he becomes violent further illustrates this. I enjoyed Doran‘s version, as he uses excellent visuals and follows the script more closely and accurately. Almereyda’s version relies too heavily on action and film editing.

Look at how dark it is. It looks pitch black.




In Almereyda‘s film, Act 3, Scene 4 takes place in a hotel room/apartment in New York. While Polonius hides behind a tapestry in the play, he instead conceals himself behind a mirror in the film. When Hamlet enters, he initially seems somewhat calm but progressively gets more aggressive. He becomes violent with his mother, and this is reflected by the dark and eerie music playing in the background. In the play, the scene is written as follows:

HAMLET:                            “No, by the rood, not so.

You are the Queen, your husband’s brother‘s wife,

And, would it were not so, you are my mother.”


It is clear that Hamlet isn’t too happy with his mother, but when he says “would it were not so, you are my mother” (3.4.15), she strikes him (slapping him in the face). This imagery took the text to an entirely new level, as the mother’s rage and inner emotions are revealed to the audience. In Doran’s version, the mother does very little to fight back against Hamlet’s violent behavior and does not stand up for herself. In fact, he utters the same lines in a very taunting manner, putting her beneath him (literally and figuratively). The imagery in Doran’s version is also very dark, with a black/dark brown color in the background. Hamlet is also disheveled and seems completely mad. He enters the room screaming “Mother!” and is twice as aggressive as Almereyda’s Hamlet. The music is also very terrifying and unsettling, as the audience begins to realize that Hamlet has lost his marbles.

He then further goes on to say:

HAMLET: “Come, come, and sit you down; you shall not budge.

You go not till I set you up a glass

Where you may see the inmost part of you.”


In Doran’s version, Hamlet simply knocks his mother to the bed and tells her she cannot leave until she re-evaluates herself and her immoral behavior. He raises his hands to mimic a glass/mirror for her to look into. Hamlet is displeased with the fact that she married her dead husband’s brother, and wants her to repent for her sins.

However, in Almereyda’s version, Gertrude’s face is literally shoved into a mirror for her to gaze upon. The overall imagery of the scene is very dark and depressing, and her gazing into the mirror (where Polonius is standing) may have been foreshadowing his death. The red color of the bed and pillows may indicate the bloodshed that is about to come, and the overall mood of the scene is very dark and disturbing. Gertrude even fears that Hamlet might actually kill her, thus screaming for help and ultimately revealing where Polonius is hidden.

In both films, guns are used to kill Polonius rather than the sword/dagger in the play. This is also interesting, as it portrays important elements of the play in a contemporary manner. In both films, the gun is fired through the glass, killing Polonius.

However, the ghost of Hamlet’s father is depicted quite differently. In Almereyda’s version, the ghost appears sitting in the chair right in front of him, and although Hamlet is startled and afraid, he is still somewhat composed. However, in Doran’s version, there are many cinematic effects that add to the arrival of the ghost. The clock ticks and there is dramatic music, making Hamlet turn pale with fear. When the ghost appears, he looks much more frightening than the one in Almereyda’s version, and Hamlet is visibly shaken. He falls to the ground and screams, and his mother tries to help him, but cannot see the ghost. The ghost even touches her, but she fails to notice. This detailed scene of the ghostly encounter creates a very eerie tone with its dark lighting, sound effects and editing.

He literally makes her look inside a mirror.

I personally preferred Doran‘s version, as it followed the script a lot more and the acting was superb. Almereyda’s version is based more on action and visual effects. Visual effects are great, but the films become more interesting when the dialogue is followed.

Hamlet Scene Study: Act 1 Scene 5 in Doran’s and Almereyda’s Films

Michael Almereyda’s Hamlet, released in 2000, and Gregory Doran’s film from 2009 interpret the source material in vastly different ways.  In Almereyda’s retelling of the play, Ethan Hawke plays Hamlet, a brooding filmmaker in 1990s New York City.  Doran’s Hamlet is more faithful to the original text; a made-for-TV version of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s stage production, it stars David Tennant in the titular role.  An interesting scene to compare the two films is the fifth of the first act, in which the deceased king returns as a ghost to tell Hamlet of his murder at the hands of Claudius.

As with the rest of the film, this scene in Doran’s Hamlet does little to reinvent Shakespeare’s text.  Save for a few superfluous lines that have been removed, the scene retains its original shape.  Foreboding music accompanies almost the entire scene.   It begins with the king, played by Patrick Stewart (who also plays Claudius), leading Hamlet away from Horatio and Marcellus.  The king appears as described in the text; he is dressed in full armour, with his visor raised, and an ethereal mist surrounds him throughout the entire scene.  After they leave the battlements and enter a large, dark room, Hamlet, sword drawn but still unsure as to what exactly he is witnessing, attempts to control the situation, saying “Whither wilt thou lead me? I will go no further” (l.1).  The ghost speaks for the first time, and his loud, haunting, almost robotic voice draws a submission from Hamlet before revealing he is, in fact, “thy father’s spirit” (l.9).


During the next roughly twenty lines, the ghost describes his current torment, slowly circling the dumbstruck Hamlet.  The ghost calls on Hamlet to avenge him, and when Hamlet learns the nature of his father’s death, he falls to his knees.  Gritting his teeth and stabbing his sword into the ground, Hamlet seems eager to take up the charge.  The shot then changes to show the ghost from Hamlet’s point of view, following him as he circles his son again and announces, directly into the camera, that “The serpent that did sting thy father’s life / Now wears his crown” (ll.39-40).  The music briefly adopts a higher, more sorrowful tone as the ghost remembers his “seeming-virtuous queen” (l.46); it is the one moment in which Stewart’s ghost appears truly regretful.  The rest of the scene continues in much the same way, until the ghost aggressively embraces Hamlet, drawing up his head, and demanding that he “Let not the royal bed of Denmark be / A couch for luxury and damned incest” (ll. 83-4).  The embrace becomes more tender; the king cradles his still kneeling son’s head, before the pale light of morning indicates he must leave.  The ghost then disappears, leaving behind only the mist and the echoes of his last command, “Remember me” (l.91).  Hamlet is left, still on his knees, to deliver his subsequent soliloquy.


The same scene in Almereyda’s version has an entirely different tone, but shares certain elements.  It takes place not in the castle, which in this film would be Denmark Corp.’s headquarters, but in Hamlet’s well-lit, but dirty, apartment.  On one side of the room, a television shows images of explosions.  The ghost, played by Sam Shepard, appears on Hamlet’s balcony, and, unlike Patrick Stewart’s, his figure and voice are perfectly normal.  Another difference between the scenes lies in the manner of their speech; Shepard and Hawke avoid the theatricality of Stewart and Tennant, resorting instead to whispers and understated facial expressions.  Shepard’s ghost embraces Hamlet in a similar way to Stewart’s, when he delivers lines 18 to 20, which were among those cut in Doran’s film; he roughly grabs his cowering son’s hair, referring to it as “thy knotted and combined locks to part” (l.18) then gently caresses his cheek.  Almost all of Hamlet’s lines in this scene are cut, notably including lines 29 to 31, in which he announces his desire to seek revenge.  The result is a sullen Hamlet that shows almost no emotion, and seems more inclined to introspection than action.As in Doran’s version of the scene, the ghost hugs Hamlet as he finishes his speech.  In this instance, however, Shepard delivers his final line as a whisper in Hamlet’s ear.  Interestingly, the ghost’s disappearance is illustrated in the same shot sequence in both films: a shot of the two characters embracing, a head-on shot of Hamlet watching his father vanish, and then a shot of where the ghost ought to be standing.  The scene ends with the appearance of the Denmark Corp. logo on TV as Hamlet’s offscreen voice says “The time is out of joint. O cursèd spite, / That ever I was born to set it right!” (194-5), replacing the rest of his soliloquy.

The differences in the interpretations of this scene are indicative of larger patterns throughout the films.  Almereyda’s version is more cerebral, and subtle.  By turning Hamlet’s soliloquies into thoughts, he explores the tortured prince’s growing insanity.  Hawke’s portrayal of Hamlet as completely detached from those around him suggests an attempt to withdraw from society in self-defence, a very difficult thing to do in modern New York.  Ultimately, the Hamlet-3film, while enjoyable, falls short of its potential, as it resists the theatre too much, allowing its characters to become somewhat dull.  Doran’s, on the other hand, makes its theatrical origins abundantly clear.  Tennant shines as a Hamlet that is frequently over-exuberant, almost to the point of being manic.  There is no understatement; the director’s bold choices and actors’ strong performances make for complex, layered characters, and the film is better off for it.



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