The play I am referring to is the romantic tragedy written by William Shakespeare in the 16th century, called ‘Romeo and Juliet’. The film was then interpreted again the 1990’s by a director called Baz Luhrmann. The key characters in this story are Romeo, one of the central protagonists; Juliet is the other main character. There is Mercutio who is Romeo’s best friend and finally Tybalt a character who is an enemy to most, and always wanting a fight. The basic outline of the story is: Romeo is part of the Montague house and Juliet is part of the Capulet house, in the play these two families have an ancient and on-going feud between them.
The setting is in Verona, Italy where peace does not last for long. Romeo is faced with unrequited love between himself and Rosaline, part of the Capulet house. Then Mercutio takes Romeo and a few other friends to a ball at the Capulet mansion so Mercutio can prove that Rosaline isn’t the only girl ‘available’ to Romeo. Incidentally at the party Romeo meets Juliet and falls in love with her a first sight. A short while later Romeo and Juliet get married by a priest called Friar Laurence. After the wedding Tybalt is seen provoking the Montagues and insisting to start a fight.
Eventually Mercutio get stabbed and Romeo pursues his best friend’s murderer, in revenge Tybalt is killed brutally by Romeo. Next the police sentence Romeo to banishment from ‘Verona walls’. Meanwhile Juliet is forced into a fixed marriage with a famous, rich lord called Paris. This love is again unrequited, with Juliet having no interest in him. Consequently Juliet goes to Friar Laurence and he gives her a potion to make her look dead on the day of the marriage so when Juliet wakes up she can run away with Romeo.
The fatal flaw in this story is when Romeo finds Juliet looking dead he commits suicide and when she wakes up to find her lover killed she then slaughters herself. After hearing from the tragedies from both families the Capulet and Montague house end the feud and rivalry and become friendlier with each other. The story first starts with the Montague and Capulet houses having an open street brawl. Luhrmann chooses a petrol station for this encounter to create more atmosphere. We first meet Tybalt Capulet at the apocalyptic petrol station fight interpreted by Baz Luhrmann in the opening scene.
The audience first witnesses him when he steps out of the Capulet car and the camera zooms in on his feet, putting out a cigarette. This shot demonstrates that Tybalt is a defensive and territorial character. Also this could show his superiority and protectiveness for the Capulet family. Additionally the cigarette being put out could signalise the Montague family possibly loosing the brawl by being crushed and the ‘light would have gone’. Tybalt is also represented as having an aggressive and violent persona by William Shakespeare in the opening scene.
This is shown when Tybalt says ‘Peace, peace I hate the word’. Firstly when he repeats ‘peace’ this shows that he is mocking the expression. Secondly Tybalt emphasises the word ‘hate’ this illustrates his vented anger and frustration towards the Montague family. In his eyes the idea to end the rivalry is an insult and a disgrace to him. When Tybalt says this line he is refuelling the family feud. Tybalt’s general tone towards the Montague family is very icy and silky also he purposely mocks a lot of phrases made by the opposing family, this shows; he is not genuine and usually sarcastic.
Tybalt dresses very dignified and superior, when the audience first sees him in the opening scene. Furthermore he is always seen (apart from one scene in which he dies), wearing a bullet proof jacket. This could show that he is all the time ready for a fight and never vulnerable. To back this point up Tybalt is constantly carrying around two pistols with the Capulet logo on them. Curiously he is seen wearing a vest with Jesus printed on the front during the opening fight. This might suggest that the never-ending family feud between the Capulet and Montague families could be because of a religious reason.
Tybalt actions and movements give him he nick name ‘Prince of Cats’. This is supposedly so because he is very agile and swift like a cat. His activities are silkily and smooth and he also has a very accurate aim, in the street brawl Tybalt does not stumble or fall over at all. The next time the audience sees Tybalt is at the Capulet ball which Mercutio ‘smuggles’ Romeo and some friends into. Tybalt’s feelings during and after the ball are very strong towards the Montagues as he sees Romeo showing affection toward Juliet when they first meet.
This is clear when he says ‘that villain Romeo’, which suggests that every member of the Montague family is seen as an enemy and foe without even knowing him personally. The phrase ‘don’t judge and book by its cover’ couldn’t be more evident during this line. Tybalt instantly assumes that Romeo is up to no good and a mischief maker when he sees the connection between Romeo and Juliet. Again during the Capulet ball Tybalt has the need to exert his anger and frustration about the central protagonists ‘wrong-doings ‘at he party by complaining to his uncle ‘Capulet’ the head of the family.
He adamantly rejects Tybalt’s plea to start an open fight. Following this Tybalt becomes even more aggravated by this and tries to go out individually to fight the Montagues, without thinking about the possible consequences. In Act 3 Scene 1 it brings and end to Tybalt’s ‘reign of terror’ during the play. The setting of the corruption takes place on Verona beach when Tybalt and a few others approach the Montague’s looking to cause a scene and a fight. Luhrmann presents this encounter by playing sinister and menacing music to introduce the Capulets; this would give the audience the impression that there will be some sort of disagreement.
The music is foreshadowing the epic brawl that is going too happened between the two houses. After the Capulets enter, the surrounding public is scared a frightened with an atmosphere of silence and quietness takes over the beach. It is obvious to see that society is afraid of the family feud and prospect of Tybalt starting a fight. Then Tybalt insults Mercutio by saying ‘thou art consort with Romeo’. Mercutio takes this the wrong way and thinks he possibly could have meant do you ‘homosexually like’ Romeo? Mercutio clashes with him the fight has started.
Luhrmann uses dramatic and loud music to portray this melee. Also there are handheld camera shots of the two foes, showing the viewers the characters reactions and facial expressions. After Tybalt and Mercutio have thrown their insults at each other, Romeo pulls up in his car and tries to resolve the problem by shaking hands, but instead Tybalt rejects this offer and insists to fight with him. This action really reflects Tybalt’s overall personality; he is always ready to fight and is an aggressive and destructive character.
But contrastingly he purposely removes his bullet proof vest to show he is ready for a fight to the death, additionally when Tybalt removes his vest it shows that he is expecting to win the fight. Lastly Tybalt’s friend Abra empties all of Tybalt’s bullets except for one which confirms that one person will die in the fight. Luhrmann really creates ambience in this scene by using the weather to portray the atmosphere and feeling of the characters. Firstly when Mercutio and Tybalt clash the weather suddenly become stormy and wind with thunder and lightning in the sky.
This technique used is pathetic fallacy and gives the audience a huge insight into the character feelings. Such as Tybalt is feeling satisfied because he has got the exact reaction out of Mercutio as he wanted, he intended to agitate him and drive him on argue and clash against him. Next Tybalt fatally stabs Mercutio leading to his death, and in revenge Romeo peruses his friend’s murderer with vigorous action. In this bid of vengeance from Romeo he wildly and violently chases Tybalt who now looks life the coward as he is hunted down by Romeo.
He seems scared and worried for his life, as if sub-consciously knowing that he has gone too far. Following on there is a short street battle, until Romeo finds a Capulet gun and shoots Tybalt many times before falling into a fountain underneath the Friar Laurence’s Church. Throughout the film Luhrmann uses all different types of imagery. He uses mainly fire and water imagery all through the movie. Water Imagery is often used or plays some part in a characters life in this play. Tybalt is seen falling into water when he dies, Romeo and Juliet’s first camera shots we either near or in water.
Also fire imagery is portrayed after the opening scene after being a representation of the family feud. Fire destroys are consumed which is the similar connection with the on-going family rivalry. But water extinguishes fire, which could suggest that the deaths of Romeo, Juliet, Tybalt and Mercutio collectively put out the fire therefore dousing out the family feud. Mercutio is a character who can be described as polarised, two faced or multi-faceted. He has a very changeable and suddenly adaptable personality could change rather randomly.
The two main ‘faces’ of Mercutio are: eccentric, flamboyant, playful and fun but he can become pensive, melancholy and easily frustrated. He is introduced by again the camera showing a close-up of his feet first before any part of his body. This is the first similarity between Tybalt that Luhrmann recognises. This shot could show that Mercutio is also protective, defence and territorial. Baz Luhrmann interprets the character of Mercutio as unconventional, bizarre and possibly homosexual in his actions.
When the audience first see Mercutio in Act 1 Scene 5, just before the Capulet ball, he is dressed as a girl and uses a very high pitched voice, when he sings a song to try and cheers up Romeo from his heartbreak with Rosaline. The costume he wears matches that of his personality by being peculiar and strangely different. Also the director understands the character to be homosexually attracted towards Romeo. This is backed up by the way he talks nimbly, politely and lightly to Romeo. Another trait of Mercutio is that he enjoys being the centre of attention and ‘centre stage’.
This is backed up because during the Capulet ball Mercutio is seen numerous times dancing and singing solo on the stage. At the first glimpse of the party Romeo is having a hallucination and in his ‘dream’ he saw Mercutio singing ‘Young hearts Run Free’, with him also being the main act on the stage. This choice of song strongly reflects Mercutio’s ‘happy’ side. The lyrics of the song is about someone who does what ever he/she wants when ever they like, which is very alike to Mercutio’s personality as he does not usually follow anyone else’s lead and mainly decides to do what he wants.
Also the music is loud and blaring again portraying Mercutio’s persona. The final part of the story that Mercutio plays a major piece in is Act 3 Scene 1 in which he dramatically dies. The significance of his words before he dies illustrates that he could have been upset with the Montagues before he died. Additionally when Mercutio says ‘A plague o both your houses’, this suggests that Mercutio is exclaiming that he is cursing both the Montague and Capulet houses, and blatantly accusing them of causing his death.
Mercutio is also fully aware that the family feud has claimed yet another life. Hence he has unintentionally sacrificed himself, in another opposing family brawl. This portrays his pride because in theory it is Mercutio’s own fault that he was murdered, for interfering when he wasn’t needed. He irritated and antagonised Tybalt consequently leading to his own downfall. Moreover this could be interpreted differently by stating that Mercutio was protecting himself and Romeo, from Tybalt but it was Romeo’s fault for not defending him.
Lastly Mercutio says ‘A scratch, A scratch’ after he has been fatally stabbed. This proves that de does not want the recognition or attention for his terminal injury. Mercutio believes that he should not show his discomfort, distress, or worry as he feared he could be called a coward. After this is takes his late few steps and struggles onto Verona Beach and dies. In Mercutio’s final scene he is wearing a white shirt, this could indicate that he was innocent in this battle, as white is the colour of purity.
Finally with Mercutio dying on the beach the sand could show that the brawl that had just happened could have been a ‘western showdown’ with the windy conditions, loud dramatic music and desert like surroundings. The water imagery used in Mercutio’s death is before the Capulets come to the beach, he is shooting into the water angry because of Romeo’s mystery towards them. His friend Benvolio insists that they leave otherwise they ‘will not escape a brawl’ as there is a lot of tension and anxiety between the opposing families.
Also Mercutio dies on the beach which is near water, again showing the water imagery presented in this film. It is obvious to say now that water imagery is a symbol or foreshadows death. Finally to sum this essay up the characters Tybalt and Mercutio are portrayed and illustrated as slightly contrasting personalities by William Shakespeare and Baz Luhrmann. There are many similarities and difference between them, but overall in the story they are both represented as very proud and honourable characters, no matter how extreme and bizarre, every story must have some sort of entertainment.