Romeo and Juliet
3 (the films): the opening and closing scenes
1. Opening scenes;
2. Closing scenes.
The two films considered in this lecture are:
Romeo and Juliet
, directed by Franco Zeffirelli (1968)
Romeo + Juliet
, directed by Baz Luhrmann (1996)
1. Opening scenes
Opening lines seem totally inexplicable:
: Gregory, on my word we’ll not carry coals.
: No, for then we would be colliers.
: I mean, and we be in choler, we’ll draw.
: Ay, while you live, draw your neck out of collar.
: I strike quickly being moved.
: But thou art not quickly moved to strike. (1.1.1-6)
On one level, they are talking about being servants, and how this makes them feel
constrained. Gregory wants to see Sampson draw his “neck out of collar”, ie. not be
subservient. He wants, in other words, to be manly.
There’s also an imagery of hotness going on. They talk about carrying coals, like a
servant might carry coals. However, coals light fires and fires are a Renaissance image
for rage. This links to “choler” which means angry.
So here, combined with the imagery of coals which cause fire, the young sparks from the
two houses are shown to be easy to ignite into a rage and a fight. (Which is done very
nicely in the Baz Luhrman film when the gas station blows up into flame.)
So, in the opening scene, firey-ness is seen to be the governing quality of the play –
which is certainly borne out throughout.
And this imagery of anger is combined with an imagery of violence against women,
which sees those women caught up in the fight between the two households. The men are
boasting that they will rape their opponents’ womenfolk.
Now, in this context, what do we do with the love between Romeo and Juliet? From an
outsider’s perspective, Romeo is simply enacting the fantasy from the opening scene – he
is consorting with a Capulet woman under the nose of the Capulet family.