The plot is a major factor used when contrasting the play to the film. However, Shakespeare’s strong and clever use of foreshadowing and dramatic irony, such as the Friar’s caution, “wisely and slowly, they stumble who run fast” (2.3.95), an example of dramatic irony in the film is the close up of Romeo unknowingly stepping on a fatal letter, preparing the audience for the worst, making them anxious of the result of the star-cross lover’s affair. This shows the mindlessness of youth in modern times. Furthermore, Luhrmann’s use of jump cuts and fast cross cuts of the Montagues and the Capulets, followed by camera tracking the argument and action, creates a violent tone in the opening scene developing the same level of anticipation from the audience, creating a pessimistic outlook. However, due to the extensive detail in the play, not all features that mature the tragedy are in the film, including the death of Lady Montague, “Grief of my son’s exile hath stopped her breath” (5.3.210). This dramatic metaphor strongly developed the emotion in the story and provided additional catharsis for the audience, hence developing one of the priorities of a tragedy. These features stress the effect fate has on the star-crossed lovers, helping to convey how powerless youth are against fate.
In order to develop the plot, Shakespeare and Luhrmann explicitly create the characters to demonstrate the tragic consequences of fate. Both creators construct Tybalt as the antagonist by making him an obstruction to Romeo and Juliet’s love. “Come hither, covered with an antic face, To fleer and scorn at our solemnity? Now, by the shock and honor of my kin, To strike him dead I hold it not a sin” (1.5.55). Luhrmann uses a motif of Tybalt’s silver buckle and gun, creating a dangerous foil emphasising the violence of contempory youth. In Shakespeare’s version, Friar Laurence is portrayed as a wise elderly man, who gives accountable advice and is well intended as seen in the antithesis, “These violent delights have violent ends” (2.6.9) which foreshadows the tragic ending. However, Luhrmann represents the Friar differently in the film, Friar Laurence grows herbal remedies and mixes chemical concoctions reflecting the drug problems of the 1990s, justifiying the scene where he gives Juliet a potion. Although he is still portrayed as a well-intentioned man his physicality leads the audience to find him dubious and untrustworthy. The characters in both versions of Romeo and Juliet develop the tragedy by creating obstacles for both protagonists, Romeo and Juliet.
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