The love of Romeo and Juliet
The Shakespearean play Romeo and Juliet is known as a very tragic love story, but could their fates have been different even if the plays events progressed slower? The timeline of Romeo and Juliet can be quickly realized by its film adaptation, which emphasized how all the life-changing events in each character took place rapidly. In the Romeo and Juliet film, Franco Zeffirelli’s adaptation stood true to Shakespeare’s original theme of ‘haste makes waste.’
Zeffirelli’s Adaptation – 1968
In his adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, Zeffirelli kept the desperation that Romeo carries with him to be with Juliet and marry her after just meeting her, aligning with the same passion he displays in the play. In Shakespeare’s play, the very next scene after meeting Juliet at night, Romeo pleads with the Friar to marry him and Juliet:
“We met, we woo’d, and made exchange of vow, / I’ll tell thee as we pass; but this I pray, / That thou consent to marry us to-day” (II.iii.63-65)
Romeo’s character is extremely rash, as he knowingly wants to marry his enemy’s daughter and not only that but specifically the day after meeting her. The sequence of events and Romeo’s character retain the same characteristics in the film adaptation. In Zeffirelli’s film (Romeo and Juliet), the movie cuts to Romeo asking the Friar for the same thing in the field right after he confesses his love for Juliet the previous night. Romeo carries the same recklessness to commit to his love right away, even though there are no guarantees in the future that it will turn out right, thus proven in both the play and movie.
Preventing their tragic end
The love between Romeo and Juliet could have prevented the tragic end between the two families, but the secrecy of their love, among other things, are what lead to their demise. In Shakespeare’s play, Juliet finds Romeo had ‘killed’ himself in order to be united with her after mistakenly thinking she was dead:
“What’s here? A cup, clos’d in my true love’s hands? / Poison, I see, hath been his timeless end. / O churl! drunk all, and left no friendly drop,” (V.iii.166-168).
Had he not killed himself right after seeing her dead, he would have been alive and together with Juliet. Unfortunately, wanting to be with her so urgently causes even more damage, eventually leading Juliet to kill herself shortly after. The characterization of Romeo in the film Romeo and Juliet being very impassioned and impulsive closely resembles, if not completely, matches Romeo’s character in the play and portrays the theme successfully.
In the film adaptation, random fights take place between the Montagues and Capulets, and show how the unnecessary feuds continue to serve as a hurdle that halts any progress. In Zeffirelli’s film, the movie starts off with the Montagues and Capulets fighting in the marketplace ,which in the end lead to the prince decreeing if any more fights occur, that their punishments would end in death. While things start heating up, both families always end up fighting without taking a second to evaluate or deescalate the situation, which ends up hurting both of them regardless of intentions.
When Romeo loses his friend Mercutio and kills Tybalt, the turning point and downfall of both families are established. In the play, the feud muddles Romeo’s mind, as seeing the death of his friend Mercutio triggers him to kill Tybalt with lack of judgment:
“Romeo, away, be gone! / The citizens are up, and Tybalt slain. / Stand not amaz’d. The Prince will doom thee death,” (III.i.134-136).
Tybalt, looking for a fight with any of the Montagues just because of their feud, drove Romeo to kill him even though it goes completely against his otherwise, nonviolent nature. Purposeless fights start from nothing, happen so quickly, and lead to nowhere are thus resulted in huge consequences.
In Zeffirelli’s film, the events unfold in a similar fashion as Tybalt provokes Mercutio, Mercutio gets killed by Tybalt, and then Romeo kills Tybalt. The fights that occur in the movie and play highlight the ill-advised nature of both families. Zeffirelli’s film starts off in conflict and ends with the termination of that conflict only after each side both pays a heavy price.
The same setup
Both the film and play have the Capulet family’s lack of support. The family started to push for marriage for Juliet motivates her to do things that she otherwise wouldn’t have done. Her mother asked Juliet at the start of the play what she thought about getting married to Paris and Juliet responded:
“I’ll look to like, if looking liking move; / But no more deep will I endart mine eye / Than your consent gives strength to make it fly” (I.iv.101-103).
In order to satisfy her parents and relieve the pressure on her, she considers the idea of marriage, later influencing her decisions after meeting the “love of her life.” The film displays the same sentiment of Juliet wanting Romeo to swear his love for her by marrying her.
Zeffirelli’s film shows Juliet’s exchange with Romeo at the Capulet ball, she meets with him again at her balcony and makes him pledge his love to her and he vows to marry her the following day. After confessing one’s love for each other, getting married is a completely different commitment that should not be taken lightly.
Juliet is forced to make decisions that are less than ideal, which align with her decisions in the play as well. Later on the the film, after Romeo is banished from Verona, Juliet’s parents force her to marry Paris two days after the incident between Romeo and Tybalt.
Already married to Romeo, this situation poses a problem for Juliet, leading to the death of Romeo and Juliet. Staying true to the theme, the film adaptation of Shakespeare’s original play Romeo and Juliet showcases the same rash decisions made by all the characters that eventually lead to the catastrophic ending for the two main protagonists.
Do you think their deaths could have been prevented? In fact, they weren’t intended to be together! Click here to read more!
If you’re still interested in Shakespeare’s definition of tragedies, continue here to read about them.
Click here to read Girl Spring contributor Sophia Zheng’s view of women in Shakespeare!