Romeo and Juliet was written by William Shakespeare and was one of his most popular plays. It follows a tragic love story about two unlucky lovers from rival families whose death reconciles their feud. In this essay I will be comparing and contrasting the presentation of the prologue in both Franco Zeffirelli’s traditional 1968 version and Baz Luhrmann’s modern 1996 version of the play. The purpose of the prologue is to give an overview of the plot, which helps the audience understand the play that follows and also by announcing the ending at the beginning, helps to make the events of the play seem more inevitable and driven by fate. This was also the case during the Elizabethan era where the Chorus would enter onto the stage and deliver the prologue to the awaiting audience.
Zeffirelli’s more traditional version of Romeo and Juliet has a soft yet dry males voice reciting the prologue which makes it seem more like a bedtime story. However his voice does appear to match the prologue. This film is about death and sorrow as well as love however his voice does not seem to demonstrate this. Unlike Zeffirelli, Luhrmann’s version uses a news reporter to read the prologue which immediately indicates to the audience that this is a modern take on the tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet. It then continues using a dramatic and powerful voice while it sets the scene which once gives a modern twist on the original prologue.
In Zeffirelli’s 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet the music is soft, calm and tranquil and whilst the man’s voice is speaking it is gentle and ‘flutey’ and represents the medieval time in which the play is meant to be set. It is not dramatic and does not draw the audiences’ attention; instead it just flows gently and mildly intrigues which also seems to prepare the audience for the sadness which will be seen later on throughout the film. Whereas in Luhrmann’s version there is loud dramatic music playing which is building up to the beginning of the film and also heightens the audience’s anticipation and gives an exciting and modern feel to the film.
In Luhrmann’s version of Romeo and Juliet, the prologue is presented as a news bulletin that gives the events a feeling of immediacy. The news broadcaster has replaced the Shakespearean Chorus for a modern audience whilst retaining the Chorus’s role of providing a commentary on the events in this tragic love story before they happen. Luhrmann emphasises the setting as the Prologue comes to an end. The scenes of Verona are flashed on the screen with the words ‘‘IN FAIR VERONA’’ which presents this city as being modern as it is dominated by scenes of chaotic urban violence. The cityscape shows police cars, helicopters, and human casualties which sets the scene for the subsequent action of the film. As the prologue continues it reveals photographs of both families on the front page of the city’s newspaper. The rest of the prologue is displayed as newspaper headlines and