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Compare & contrast how Shakespeare and Baz Luhrmann present the themes of love and...

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brandih | eNotes Employee

Posted July 14, 2013 at 9:51 PM via web

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Compare & contrast how Shakespeare and Baz Luhrmann present the themes of love and death in Romeo and Juliet.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 15, 2013 at 6:35 AM (Answer #1)

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There are of course many differences between the original play that Shakespeare wrote and the 20th century production of the story that Luhrmann set in Los Angeles among Latino high-class families. Whilst the central interpretation of love and death is of course present, arguably the film version, because of its different medium and the need to create an impact, does adapt, alter and edit various parts of the original script, and this is something that does make the two versions very different. One example is when Juliet wakes up and finds Romeo dead beside her. In the film version she actually does so just as Romeo is taking the poison, but is not able to prevent him from drinking it. This of course is used to heighten the tragedy. But also, Luhrmann edits some lines of Juliet before she kills herself, having her merely picking up the gun and shooting herself in the head. In Shakespeare's version, Juliet says the following lines before stabbing herself:

O happy dagger!
This is thy sheath;
there rust, and let me die

The sexual innuendo in these lines is clear: "sheath" was a common term for "vagina," and the symbolic significance of Juliet placing Romeo's "dagger" into her "sheath" indicates the way she viewed both the sexual act and death: there was no difference, and killing herself meant a kind of sexual reunification with her husband. This is one way in which the presentation of the themes of love and death differ in Shakespeare's original. Suicide is something that therefore is shown to be able to consummate the love of the two young lovers as death and love are commingled. This is a subtlety that arguably the film loses.

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