William Shakespeare’s Romeo and JulietIn Romeo and Juliet, love is depicted in several ways. Both Luhrman and Shakespeare represent love in different ways in different contexts to both the Elizabethan era and the contemporary audience. Both the original and later manifestations of the text are valued because they both communicate to the audience on the values of love and society by employing a variety of devices.
The central subject dealt within Romeo and Juliet is the subject of love. William Shakespeare and Baz Luhrman thus represent love to their audience beyond the distinct ideas of love as simple sentiments. In the play, there are 2 basic levels – the real world of Verona and the private, intimate sphere of Romeo and Juliet’s love.
The fulfillment of Romeo and Juliet’s love in the social life of Verona is hindered by external influences; the most obvious of which is the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues. The “ancient grudge” is one of many conditions and incidents, which together can be, considered an influence counter-acting the relationship between Romeo and Juliet.
Despite the obvious obstacles of conflict and hate, the love of Romeo and Juliet is born and subsists. When Romeo meets Juliet for the first time during the Capulets’ feast (I.v), the language and form of the dialogue shared by Romeo and Juliet shows that heir private sphere is totally different from public life.
Shakespeare thus presents their fist conversation via a sonnet, a poetic convention very popular in the Elizabethan age. A sonnet’s expression of the lyrical “I” allows Shakespeare to break the limits of dramatic performance and to involve his audience emotionally as if they were recipients to a poem. This therefore means that Shakespeare represents Romeo and Juliet’s love by making the audience of the two different levels – one where all forms of social order break down, and the other, where Romeo and Juliet are the centre of the universe.
Luhrman also presents this concept of two opposing levels as a representation of love via the use of cinematic techniques. In the aquarium scene, camera distances vary from medium close-shot to close-up and back again. The idea of social and physical barriers is presented by having the fish tank between the two of them, keeping them apart – thus visualizing to the audience the opposing level of Romeo and Juli…
…ine, it is the water that purifies and cleanses his mind – and it the free, flowing nature of water that Luhrman uses as a representation of love.
It is thus plausible to see that Luhrman portrays Romeo and Juliet as an allegory for the late 20th century, whereby Verona Beach is a caricature of the violent atmosphere of our time as well as serving as a representation of love and conflict. The major difference however between Shakespeare and Luhrman’s portrayal is that 100 years ago, violence and hedonism was a fashion phase, whereas today it is a part of our society.
Due to the lack of technology in society in the 19th century, the art of plays, and the conventions of the Elizabethan theatre had more focus on the words with minimal costuming and cinematic techniques. Yet among other things, the art of theatre is or was a reflection on society, and Luhrman criticizes the present time by setting Shakespeare’s tale in another time, with the same tragedy of death. Thus both Shakespeare and Luhrman portray conflict and the representations of love in two different levels – two different levels that shape and reflects the values of both the Elizabethan and contemporary society.