Grade 8 Humanities: Week of 11/6/2017 “All The World’s A Stage . . .
Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet is considered to follow Shakespeare’s text most faithfully . . .
As we finished our text this week, the natural next step was to take a look at a few of the stand-out film versions and compare them, not only to the original text, but also to each other.
We wanted to see if there were parts of the ‘reading experience’ that were better than the ‘film experience’ and vice- versa. We also discussed the editing process and why dialogue is often changed, re-arranged, or simply omitted. We discovered that these changes really did, in turn, alter the audience’s response.
For example, discussion in 802 centered on the characterization of Lady Capulet in the original text and the 1996 film version. The general consensus was that, as written, Lady Capulet was not a particularly multi-faceted role. However, Shakespeare left many opportunities to create dimension and we felt those were seized by Baz Luhrmann in his direction of a woman trapped in an arranged (and bad) marriage and who had limited ability to save her own daughter from the same fate.
In 803, we focused on the omission, in both the 1968 and 1996 film versions of Paris’ death. If Romeo does not kill Paris, it creates more sympathy for him in the audience’s eyes, creates a more direct path to Juliet, and cuts down on seemingly extraneous plot points. However, it was duly noted that Prince Escalus claimed to have lost a “brace of kinsman,” which is actually not true if only Mercutio is slaughtered. It reminded us that screenwriters and continuity editors need to do their jobs!
801 noticed that West Side Story subtly explores women’s roles in society. Both the Jets (Montagues) and the Sharks (Capulets) exclude women from many aspects of their lives for not being pretty enough or smart enough. It is of note that in the original text, as well as the film versions that cover several different decades, women are offered some freedom, but they must renounce men in order to enjoy that freedom.
Next week we will embark on our final assignment for Romeo and Juliet in the form of an argumentative essay. It just seems right that a play that opens with an argument should end with one ; )
A set of “running notes” as we viewed the films . . .
Baz Luhrmann adapted Romeo + Juliet in 1996 with MTV-style editing and a multi-cultural cast . . .
And West Side Story, released in 1961 and directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, interpreted Shakespeare’s drama as musical theater with added themes of Nativism, racism, sexism, and poverty.
. . . And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”
— William Shakespeare
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