Romeo and Juliet over the years
Since Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, we decided to take a look at the classic Shakespearean love story, Romeo and Juliet, and how it has been adapted and portrayed over the years.
We all know this story. It revolves around two individuals living in the Renaissance era in the city-state of Verona, Italy. The two hailed from feuding families, the Montagues and Capulets, in a time where there was honour in a last name and marriage was a commodity.
Romeo (Montague) and Juliet (Capulet) fall in love against all odds, and sacrifice their lives for the love of each other and in defiance of all things that conspired to keep them apart. They are the most well-known fictional star-crossed lovers in history.
William Shakespeare’s famous love story has been retold many times, in different ways, but none were more iconic than the 1968 and 1996 adaptations. Here we take a short look at them.
Romeo and Juliet (1968)
This film was adapted co-written and directed by Franco Zeffirelli, and stars Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey as the titular characters, destined for drama, passion and death - all in the name of forbidden love.
The movie and sticks pretty closely to the classic plot and details the constant physical altercations on either side of that friction.
The climax of the story is when Juliet fakes her death to escape with her secret husband, only to have him kill himself, because he does not know her plan.
The movie is pretty old, so if you are looking for fast graphics and modern inclusions, this adaption is not for you.
The teenage lead actors expertly perform the roles of the two young lovers destined to die in each other’s arms.
The accents used by the cast of this version of the story didn’t win me over though, because although it is set in Italy, the actors speak variations of English, mixed with Southern European twangs that did not sit well with me.
Overall it is an interesting film to watch, if you are interested in the evolution of the story.
Romeo + Juliet (1996)
This version, one of many in the more modern age, stars heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio in his youthful prime as Romeo and a fresh-faced Claire Danes as Juliet.
It is a fast-paced, well-written screen adaptation of the classic story and throws in a few good comedic moments, amidst all the passion.
Over 21 later, this is still one of DiCaprio’s most memorable roles, as he took on this complex love drama, with a modern day twist that breathed new life in the story for a brand new and younger audience.
The movie heavily relies on the central plot of the original work, but replaces the feuding Montague and Capulet families with rival mafia families, who fight with guns instead of swords.
Most of the dialogue and plot are adapted directly from Shakespeare’s original text, although some minor details in the story were altered to fit the film.
This movie is a more fun and exciting re-telling of Romeo and Juliet, with fast cars, gun battles and scary mafia bosses.
No matter how many times you retell this classic tale, it is still the same timeless story. For me, seeing it in different versions is a bit redundant. So if you see this version, be prepared to see the same thing packaged differently.
You can stream these movies, catch them on Netflix or visit your local DVD shop to see if they still have them in stock.