Comparing Information Presented Through Different Mediums

Instructor: Monica Sedore

Monica holds a master's degree and teaches 11th grade English. Previously, she has taught first-year writing at the collegiate level and worked extensively in writing centers.

Different mediums, such as television, film, stage, and books, may often present the same story or the same text, but changing the medium will always inherently change the way the story is presented. This lesson uses ''Romeo and Juliet'' as an example to show how information changes when presented through new mediums.

The Two Hours' Traffic of our Stage

Romeo and Juliet was written by William Shakespeare in the late 1500s. Since then, there have been numerous recreations of the famous tragedy, most notably Baz Luhrmann's 1996 film and David Leveaux's 2013 Broadway production. Though the film and modern production of the play adhere to the original script and retain most of the original dialogue, there are noticeable changes, both those that market the story for a modern audience as well as those that help adapt the play to a different medium.

From Stage to Screen

The original text of Romeo and Juliet is a play divided into acts and scenes with stage directions for the actors. Because the play was written in the 16th century, the battles are fought using words and swords. Juliet is a young girl in Verona, Italy, and her father's word is law. She meets Romeo on the same night the eligible bachelor, Paris, asks for her hand in marriage. When Juliet refuses Paris's offer, her father disowns her, and a series of events is set into motion that ultimately leads to the deaths 'of Juliet and her Romeo' (V.III.310).

To adapt this story for a modern audience, film director Baz Luhrmann made a notable change, which was to swap out swords for guns. Interestingly enough, when Benvolio's gun is revealed for the first time in what was known as 'the gas station scene' in Luhrman's film (Act I, Scene I of the play), it is shown to be a 'Sword 9mm Series S,' which is a clever way to marry the classic use of swords in the stage play with the modern use of guns in the film.

A moment later, several of Tybalt's first lines are directed at Benvolio with his own sword drawn. Tybalt says, 'What, drawn, and talk of peace? I hate the/word as I hate Hell, all Montagues, and thee./Have at thee, coward!' (I.I.72-74). In the film, however, he lights a cigarette and says, 'Peace. Peace? I hate the word as I hate Hell, all Montagues, and thee. Bang!' Naturally, some of the dialogue from the original play has been altered or removed in order to fit it into the constraints of a 2-hour motion picture.

A Modern Reimagining

For the first time since 1977, Shakespeare's play returned to the Broadway stage starring Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad. The biggest difference in this reincarnation was that the Capulets were played by black actors while the Montagues were played by white actors. Historically, it can be assumed that Romeo and Juliet was originally portrayed by only white actors (an all-male cast, at that), so giving it an interracial cast gave an additional level of depth to the story of the 'star-crossed lovers' that could be felt more acutely by an audience in 2013.

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