William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
Although the story of Romeo and Juliet is over 500 years old, it is as relevant and appealing today as it was when first performed.
Although dated, the story of Romeo and Juliet still holds great appeal and relevance to today’s society, despite the differences in morals and values between William Shakespeare’s audience 500 years ago, and Baz Luhrmann’s audience today. The arising issues of order and authority, fate and love entertain/ed and appeals/ed to both viewers in different ways.
Shakespeare’s original play, Romeo and Juliet reflected the important Elizabethan concerns in relation to authority, law and order, making it relevant to the audiences’ morals and values of the time, as well appealing and entertaining.
Shakespeare explored the consequences of order breaking down in society, demonstrated through many characters’ disobediences, with the result of chaos and ultimate consequence being the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.
All characters were disobedient in some way, including Romeo and Juliet themselves. For instance, they both deceived their parents by getting married, Romeo killed Tybalt and Juliet faked death. Other characters, such as Tybalt, Mercutio, Montague and Capulet boys, went against the orders of the Prince by continuing violent actions in the city of Verona. The Friar and the Nurse are also guilty because they aided the young lovers’ immoderate actions - their meetings and marriage.
Shakespeare offers the simple solution to this chaos as being obedient by respecting authority, law and order, being responsible with power as well as to be punished for their sins. This punishment is ultimately seen at the end of the play following the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. All characters have been hurt by this, hence being punished for their disobediences; “All are punished!” – the Prince.
In this sense, Shakespeare’s play sets morals for the Elizabethan era, displaying the results of disobedience, violence and chaos.
Luhrmann’s modern appropriation of the play also deals with authority, law and order, however instead of setting morals and offering solutions, it is relevant in that it displays a different viewpoint on modern society. He displays the world as being hectic and very fast, focused mainly on wealth and power, having lost sight of true values such as love, compassion and moral tenders. This representation of today’s society is also appealing to the audience as Luhrmann also presents an artistic take on the traditional Romeo and Juliet story.
The general perspective of society is represented throughout the film by panoramic shots of the city of Verona, involving violent, hectic scenes such as police raids, gun fights, speeding cars and other generally violent actions. The scenes are quick and vivid; the sequencing constantly changing and moving quickly. The violence seen is similar to the play in that it is a vital role in the morals of the plot.