Is Romeo and Juliet a Love Story?

Can Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare really be considered a love story? It is considered a famous love story, but depending on how it is experienced, it can be interpreted differently. People watching the 1968 Zeffirelli film will find the relationship between Romeo and Juliet rushed, whereas viewers of the 1996 Baz Luhrmann film will find the relationship romantic.

In both versions of the movie, the directors made text-based decisions to create their versions of Scene Two Act Two. Perhaps one of the most prominent differences between the portrayals of the balcony scene is the setting Baz Luhrmann chose. It is still at the Capulet mansion, just in their pool instead of the traditional balcony. In the text, Romeo proclaims his love to Juliet by saying, “I take thee at thy word / Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized / Henceforth I will never be Romeo” (II, ii, 49-51). It can be inferred that Luhrmann looked at these lines from the text when choosing his setting. Romeo mentions baptism, which is shown literally with the pool.

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This setting is a major difference from both the text and the Zeffirelli film, but it had artistic value and reasoning. Another difference found between the new film and the original play is the mood Scene Two Act Two creates. In the play, it is comical how Romeo and Juliet think they are in love with each other after just briefly meeting. In the new film, however, the mood is much more romantic. When Romeo is speaking about Juliet, he say, “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? / It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!” (II, ii, 2-3). Romeo refers to Juliet as being a beautiful sun, something that could be interpreted as romantic when reading the play without satire.

There is a good chance Baz Luhrmann looked at lines such as these when he decided to make Romeo and Juliet’s relationship romantic rather than satirical. It’s been established that the new movie is very romantic with the balcony scene, but the old movie has a mood of young love. It is more accurate to the text, however. When Romeo decides to leave, Juliet calls him back but forgets why and says, “And I’ll still stay, to have thee still forget” (II, ii, 175). Juliet tells Romeo that she will purposely forget what she has to stay so Romeo will stay with her longer, which is a very childish thing to do. This is probably why Zeffirelli decided to keep them young and giggly, rather than show it as if it were an actual love story.

There are a few things the new movie, old movie, and play all have in common. One of those things just so happens to be the Nurse calling Juliet back to her room, causing Juliet to run back and forth. Before disappearing into her room, Juliet says to Romeo, “A thousand times goodnight!” (II, ii, 156). After telling Romeo goodnight and going to her room, Juliet comes back out to talk with him again. Both directors likely kept this in to show how young they are.

Although Luhrmann likes to make the story more romantic than Zeffirelli, he still knows that they are young and that it needs to be shown. Lines like these are good pieces of evidence in proving Romeo and Juliet’s childishness. Both Zeffirelli and Luhrmann made decisions on how they wanted their movie to turn out, but both used evidence from the play to support their changes and similarities of Scene Two Act Two. Many of these decisions influence how the audience feels while watching the movie and how the rest of the movie will be. It can be argued that Romeo and Juliet is a love story and it can be argued that it is not.

Regardless of whether it is a love story or not, it can be agreed that it is a great play.