How does Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet as it was written compare with Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 film version?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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We can definitely note several differences in Shakespeare's actual play Romeo and Juliet and the film version directed by Franco Zeffirelli in 1968, especially with respect to what Zeffirelli decided to both cut from and add to the production.

We can especially see many differences between Shakespeare's and Zeffirelli's final scene. One major difference is that Zeffirelli decided to cut the part of the scene in which Paris is seen mourning at Juliet's tomb. In fact, we certainly don't see as much of Paris in Zeffirelli's film as we do in Shakespeare's play in general. Shakespeare's description of Paris in mourning is a valuable contribution because it gives the reader/audience a chance to question the correctness of Juliet's actions. If Paris loves Juliet as deeply as Shakespeare shows, then we can question if it was wise for Juliet to have married Romeo, especially when Paris could have provided for her so much more effectively than Romeo. We particularly see Paris's feelings towards Juliet expressed in the following:

Sweet flower, with flowers thy bridal bed I strew,--
O woe! thy canopy is dust and stones;--
Which with sweet water nightly I will dew. (V.III)

In cutting Paris from the final scene, Zeffirelli also cut the duel between Romeo and Paris and Romeo's final murder. Eliminating Paris places Zeffirelli's focus on only Romeo's and Juliet's tragic deaths.

Zeffirelli also drastically changes the final scene by setting it in two locations. In Zeffirelli's film, the final speeches take place the morning after their deaths on the church steps. It is here on these church steps that Friar Laurence confesses his involvement in the couple's secret marriage and Juliet's faked death. More importantly, several speeches are cut out, particularly the speeches between Lords Capulet and Montague in which they make amends and promise to erect monuments. Even Prince Escalus's final speech stating, "Some shall be pardon'd, and some punished," has been cut. Instead, the film ends with the prince's exclamation, "All are punish'd," placing all blame for the deaths on the families.

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