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.

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”


Zhen Deng: Film Review


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.


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.


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.

Cailin Murphy: Film Review

For my blog post in English 311, I have chosen to do a film review on Romeo and Juliet directed by Baz Luhrmann. This post will focus on key scenes throughout the play and conduct an analysis on points within the scene compared to how it appears in Shakespeare’s original text to see what were effective choices or otherwise on behalf of the actors, director, or editing team.

The first scene that will be looked at is found in act 2, scene 2. The scene features the “Montague boys” yelling at Romeo come back to the car after he jumps out as they were leaving the Capulet party. The film scene seems to be a continuation of scene 1, acting as an introduction to scene 2. This is noted by the line “He jests at scars that never felt a wound” (act 2, scene 2, line 47) as Romeo is climbing the wall to return to Juliet. In the original text these are two distinct scenes. In the film, the action of Romeo trying not to get caught inside the Capulet walls is an effective portrayal of the overlying theme of forbidden love. Cutting out most of Romeo’s speech is effective of showing his attempt at being quiet. The back and forth dialogue of Romeo and Juliet’s lines, rather than saying their lines at separate times like in the text, is effective as it is like they are engaging in a conversation without the other knowing. During this scene I was intrigued by the directors pattern of water. This scene predominantly takes place in the Capulet’s swimming pool, which at first viewing of the film I found ineffective. However, upon further research I found that Luhrmann used water as a motif to signify clarity (Reel Club, 2011). See link here:

H2Oooohhhhhh: The Motif of Water in WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S ROMEO + JULIET

The second scene to de discussed is Act 4, scene 1. The instance that Juliet brings a gun when she sees Friar Lawrence, rather than a knife was effective in showing that she was a powerful and potentially violent character in her angry state. This was also effective in giving context to the time frame difference between the film and Shakespeare text. Much of Juliet’s speech was omitted from the film in this scene. Friar Lawrence’s speech overlays shots of Juliet’s actions regarding her consumption of the potion, as well as the consequences if all goes according to plan, which we all know is not the case. This is effective in making time or a series of events seem to pass by quicker than they took place, making it easier on the audience to follow along with the story. It is ineffective as we lose the texts depiction of Juliet’s haste and urgency of wanting to take the potion. This idea can be shown through the quote “Give me, give me! O, tell me not of fear” (act 4, scene 1, line 123).

The final scene to be analyzed is act 5, scene 3. In the first stages of this scene Paris is not killed as he is in the text, however there is a police chase, which I did not find effective in my opinion, seemed excessive, but went along with the feel of the film overall. In the film the audience misses out on much of Romeo’s speech when walking to where Juliet lays in the church. It is said later when Romeo is next to Juliet’s seemingly lifeless body. This is effective in that it makes the walk down the aisle of the church more dramatic. Also, this is an effective use of setting and shots, reflecting back to the flash-forward of Romeo being in the church before the Capulet party. Another choice by the director in correlation to the flash-forward was when Romeo says, “Thy drugs are quick” (act 5, scene 3, line 210). This line was originally said in this scene after Romeo drinks the poison rather than taking the drugs before the Capulet party. I just found this to be choice to take note of.

Through this analytical review, the audience can see the many attributes to the film from the original text that are effective and some not so much and perhaps unnecessary in some opinions. With this being said, over all a good representation by Luhrmann in regards to the original text.

Works Cited

“H2Oooohhhhhh: The Motif of Water in WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S ROMEO JULIET.” Reel Club. N.p., 10 July 2011. Web. 09 Oct. 2016.