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How they Reflect 17th and 20th Century Contexts Essay

3.1 is a scene in which Mercutio, Romeo’s friend and the main source of humour in the play, is murdered by Tybalt, a Capulet. In anger and vengeance for his dear friend he seeks revenge and consequently kills Tybalt. Baz Luhrmann and Zeffirelli have adapted this play and portrayed it in contrasting 20th century and 17th century contexts.Both have their similarities and differences but effectively illustrate a similar story which is adapted to suit their era. Both films provide different perspectives of the text due to their diverse settings; Luhrmann’s is based in modern day America whereas Zeffirelli’s is based in traditional Italy. In this essay I will analyse the scene in more detail and compare and contrast the two film versions of Act 3 scene to see how they reflect 17th and 20th century contexts.Both scenes have the theme of water; Luhrmann’s sets his on the beach and Zeffirelli’s is with Mercutio taking a bath in the pool. It seems that the fights in both adaptations start off with Mercutio playing in the water, bathing in the pool and shooting in the sea. This theme constant throughout the play and is used by both directors in films. The play starts off in a light-hearted way but the mood soon changes and the violence escalates and the scene eventually ends tragically with two members of the households dead.The arrival of the Capulets is a significant part in this scene. In Luhrmann’s version they enter in a black and modern car making their presence clear to the surrounding people as well as their house. The idea and the manner of the entrance of the car are shown to represent the 20th century context. In Zeffirelli’s version the Capulets similarly enter in a boisterous fashion on foot and also immediately looks to ridicule the Montagues.Costume in the play is also a clear indication to how they represent 17th and 20th century contexts. In Zeffirelli’s, the costume of the Capulets is generally similar to that of the Montagues and is not specifically meant to show a great difference in class or style between the two houses. In contrast Lurhmann shows a difference in clothing between the two houses showing that in the 20th century clothing is rather a symbol of identity than just something used to cover the body.Luhrmann portrays the Capulets regularly dressed in black leather as an image conscious and self-admiring group looking to cause trouble. However, Zeffirelli does use the idea of costume to show some ideas in play. For example in this fight scene both Tybalt and Romeo are wearing hats. Tybalt wears a red hat with slits signifying the devil or maybe even an ominous prefiguration of what was to come, Romeo wears a yellow hat showing a sign of peace.”Mercutio, thou consortest with Romeo”, Tybalt insults Mercutio and from this point onwards the two adaptations take different advances. In Luhrmann’s version Mercutio is offended by this remark and advances on Tybalt, incidentally starting the fight himself. However, in Zeffirelli’s version he is quick-witted, realises what Tybalt was trying to say and makes a double meaning out of it, comparing themselves to minstrels who were fooling around. This reflects 17th and 20th century contexts because it shows people are more sensitive to homosexuals in the 20th century but it was considered normal to be close male friends in the 17th century.There also seems to be a reason to why the fight had started expressed in both versions. They both clearly show Tybalt angry with the Montagues, especially Romeo and he is unable to rid himself of his grudge, “Boy, this will not excuse the injuries that thou hast done me, therefore turn and draw”. However, Romeo tries to reason with Tybalt since he knows he will be his kinsman and tries to avoid reacting to Tybalt’s insults. In Zeffirelli’s version Mercutio is angered by Tybalt and challenges him to a fight. Although, less capable than Tybalt at sword fighting he still manages to mock him and they fight playfully.In this case the fight was not taken seriously and was not a fight to the death but rather a fight to show each other’s skills. This strongly reflects the 17th century context as the public in that era enjoyed sword play and would have been delighted with this lengthy, comical fight with it being similar to fencing, a highly popular sport at the time. In Luhrmann’s adaptation it showed a fist fight in which Romeo refused to fight but Mercutio stepped in and was stabbed with a pane of glass by Tybalt. This scene has a more serious undertone than Zeffirelli’s showing the early turning point of the play and the end of the humour signified by the dark and menacing clouds.It would have seemed that the death of Mercutio was an accident on Tybalt’s behalf, and in both instances Mercutio tries to hide the pain from his fellow friends and they only realise of his wound when it’s too late. “a plague a’ both your houses!” shouts Mercutio either on the stage or on top of the steps, just before his death. This is a pivotal point in the play in which the tragedy is made inevitable and smashes all hope of a happy ending. Romeo is faced with a dilemma of whether to kill Tybalt or not. Eventually he does, and delivers another fierce fight to the audience’s enjoyment, but this time it was a fight to the death.Overall, it is clear that in both versions the story has been adapted and at some points changed to represent the 2 different contexts and also to appeal to the general audience and public at the time of release. Both films share ideas like the theme of water but are also strikingly different at times like in the idea of costume often to relate to their contexts’. It is apparent that Lurhmann has used ideas from Zeffirelli’s version and tailored them to fit into a 20th century context. Luhrmann’s adaptation of Act 3 Scene 1 seems to be more serious and takes a sharper tone whereas Zeffirelli’s is lengthier and more comical giving the audience something to enjoy rather than to mourn over.

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