The Setting and Mood of the Tomb Scene in Romeo and Juliet

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1 McCarthy 1 Cormac McCarthy Mr. Wheeler ENG 9 CP, Per 3 12 May 2015 The Setting and Mood of the Tomb Scene in Romeo and Juliet The power of true love often hinders decision making processes and blurs the line between right and wrong. In Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare s tragedy play of starcrossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet come from wealthy families who are at war with each other and end up falling in love. As the plot progresses they become closer, and fall deeper in love until deciding that it is better to not live at all than to not live together. Though it is impossible to interpret Romeo and Juliet s deaths in any way other than tragic, modern filmmakers have experimented with the tomb scene in order to achieve a mood more suited to their respective versions of the original play. In Franco Zeffirelli s 1968 adaptation, he extends the idea of the Capulet monument to show separation from other characters and initiate a feeling of defeat. In Baz Luhrmann s 1997 representation of the play, he elects to omit the underground tomb and instead creates an illuminated shrine in the church to portray Romeo and Juliet as hero and heroine. These transformations leave the audience with an end result of triumph or tragedy. William Shakespeare produces a tomb scene with a dark and somber mood by focusing on Romeo s violent side and establishing two main obstacles between Romeo and Juliet s final encounter. As Romeo approaches the door to the monument, filled with a mix of emotions he exclaims, Thou detestable maw, thou womb of death, Gorged with the dearest morsel of the earth,

2 McCarthy 2 Thus I enforce thy rotten jaws to open, And despite I ll cram thee with more food! (V.iii.45-48) This clarifies that Romeo is in a mode of attack and will devour anything to be with his Juliet. Before breaking into the tomb, he is met by Paris who intends to arrest him for being a criminal. They begin to fight and Paris is slain. Romeo s second murder brings him closer to death, which is aligned to the idea that the tomb is below ground in order to signify a portal to hell. The mischief that Romeo and Juliet engaged in has killed them both and their childish behavior is nothing to celebrate. Their double suicide is a pathetic ending to a relationship that was never meant to be. The sun and night can never be together at the same time, they are opposites. Shakespeare reminds the reader of this theme by removing hope throughout the play and reinforcing it through the demoralizing final rendezvous. Franco Zeffirelli transforms the original tomb scene by creating a feeling of relief through defeat and tragedy. When Romeo lies with Juliet he is aware that it is the last time together and they are alone. Franco Zeffirelli eliminates the death of Paris to demonstrate that Romeo is just a teenager and there is no need for an additional burden when he takes his own life. Although Romeo is depressed and in need of time, the occasional sound of the watchmen on horseback is a reminder that death is closing in. Franco Zeffirelli connects with the original version because the lovers are still in a subterranean mausoleum and romance and tragedy are still the main focuses. As Romeo removes the translucent cloth and uncovers Juliet s face she emerges as a new person free of her surroundings but still dead. When Romeo drinks his poison and Juliet returns the dagger, their story is over. They put themselves out of the misery and it allows the director to present the scene as a sigh of relief for the children. At the same time a feeling of defeat ripples throughout the town of Verona. Similar to the way that the circle of life goes around, not every

3 McCarthy 3 relationship works out. Franco Zeffirelli uses the tension within Romeo s mind and separates Romeo and Juliet from other characters to present his tomb scene as an escape from reality and manufacture a depressed mood in the form of grief. Baz Luhrmann draws on the Shakespeare original play by initiating an upbeat and triumphant atmosphere in his version of the tomb scene. When Romeo enters the church not a sound can be heard, the watch is already waiting for him yet he goes in undisturbed. He walks up the ramp to Juliet which is surrounded by neon lights of varying colors. This shows how Juliet is a vortex pulling Romeo and the ramp is a channel to his love. The color and brightness of the lights is unlike any other version of Romeo and Juliet and shows that their death is not a sad occasion but rather a reason to celebrate because they have brought an end to the feud between their families. In another essay, Lindsey Scott writes, Luhrmann s tomb scene emphasizes the need to look away from Juliet s assumed course, frequently positioning her body out of the camera shot and instead drawing the viewer s gaze towards Romeo s reaction to the discovery of her body. A further irony is that because Romeo also fails to look on Juliet s body, he fails to see her waking up. He s so consumed by his own grief that he does not see her body begin to move. (138) This time lapse is important because it gives the young lovers a second of shared consciousness to replay their history together in their heads. It adds to the heroic aura by giving the audience a second of hope that Romeo and Juliet will be together forever. The audience can share this lucid second with Romeo and Juliet and feel transported into the film. By connecting with viewers through hope, Luhrmann changes a morbid scene into a triumphant moment and helps cultivate the birth of a legacy.

4 McCarthy 4 Each artist aims to create an adaptation of the original play that best connects with their respective time period. Franco Zeffirelli and Baz Luhrmann draw on and transform William Shakespeare s authentic masterpiece by altering the mood and modifying the layout of specific scenes. The reason that great books have more than one movie adapted from the text is that they provoke the use of the imagination of both readers and cinematic pioneers of multiple generations and diverse cultures. There is no one way to interpret Romeo and Juliet and that causes its rebirth into the world of movies time after time. With the help of talented directors, the life lessons imbedded in this story will be passed on for eternity.

5 McCarthy 5 Works Cited Romeo and Juliet. Dir. Franco Zeffirelli. Perf. Leonard Whiting, Olivia Hussey, Milo O Shea, Pat Heywood, John McEnery, Robert Stephens, Michael York, Bruce Robinson. Paramount Pictures, Film. Scott, Lindsey. Closed in a Dead Man s Tomb : Juliet, Space, and the Body in Franco Zeffirelli s and Baz Luhrmann s Films of Romeo and Juliet. Literature/Film Quarterly 36.2 (2008): EBSCO. Web. 13 April Shakespeare, William. No Fear Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet. Ed. John Crowther. New York: SparkNotes, William Shakespeare s Romeo +Juliet. Dir. Baz Luhrmann. Perf. Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, Brian Dennehy, John Leguizamo, Pete Postlethwaite, Paul Sorvino, Diane Venora. 20th Century Fox,1996. Film.

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