I figure that if I just keep typing, something profound will eventually come out of all this -

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Romeo, Romeo, where in pop-culture art thou Romeo?

   I think I'm justified in saying that Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare's most well known plays.  Because of this, we find adaptations and references to R&J throughout all aspects of media. You could actually make a game of I-Spy out of it; I spy with my little eye, a reference to Romeo and Juliet on [fill in the blank] Ironically enough, this is what I really want to explore.

   My intention is to find multiple film versions of R&J, watch, and critique how well the film adaptation maintains the over-arching themes of Shakespeare's play. Does the film stay true to all Shakespeares themes or sacrifice a few? Is there a specific reason that a theme is played up while another is glazed over? What does that do to the story? Is it true to the original script or does it break away entirely? Is the adaptation appropriate or is Shakespeare rolling over in his grave?

   Now I know this might seem like a cop-out, but I'm going to give it my best effort to find a variety of films and critique them on strictly outlined standards. I know that this is destined to be, because before writing this blog post, I sat down with my wife to start season 5 of Psych. Guess what the first episode was called? Romeo and Juliet and Juliet. Yep, that's right, R&J referenced in pop-culture. It must be fate. Can I get a pound?

   So, after doing my research, here are the most commonly agreed upon themes of R&J. 
Love - Shocking I know, but who would guess that a major theme of Romeo and Juliet would be love? However, in R&J, the theme of love is a lot more powerful than just some warm fuzzies. The love portrayed in R&J is so powerful that it causes Romeo and Juliet to forsake all family ties:

"Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I'll no longer be a Capulet." - Juliet Act 2 Scene ii

Some also argue that the play is a warning against young love (understandable since Romeo and Juliet meet, marry, and die within a few days-and we thought BYU relationships were bad). Others point out that all of Verona is sexually-charged and that Romeo and Juliet's relationship was purely physical. So, with multiple interpretations, which side does the movie stand on? How does it portray love? Is it puppy-love, or something more meaningful? Is it portrayed as more physical or emotional? Any of these interpretations could be taken by a director within the bounds laid out by Shakespeare, and I'm interested to see how each is portrayed.

Fate - Are Romeo and Juliet fated to die? Was their love doomed from the start, or was it just bad luck? At the beginning, Shakespeare states them to be 'star cross'd lovers,' which could be read to say that there love, and deaths, were written in the stars. However, both Romeo and Juliet choose to take their own lives at the end, suggesting that they still have the ability to choose. Either way, fate and free will are brought into question throughout the play. Does the film adaptation focus on this theme? Does it choose one side or the other? Does it ignore fate?

For the sake of brevity, I'll only address these two now, but other themes to keep in mind are:
  • Family 
  • Time 
  • Light and Dark 
  • Youth 
  • Marriage
  • Hate & Poison - the poison is actually my own addition to hate; I'd like to explore that one a little more later on. Maybe nothing will come of it, but I'd like to think there's some potential to exploring that avenue.
   Anyway, I intend to post again in a day or two laying out some of the movies I'm planning on watching and critiquing. Also, I should have guidelines I'll be using to evaluate the movies. That way I won't just be rambling about whether I liked the movie, but will be able to interpret what themes the movie played up and how that affected the interpretation of R&J.

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