The Revival of a Dead Show Featuring Leonardo DiCaprio

Gracyn Richardson

In 9th grade English class it’s commonly in the curriculum for students to read the Shakespearian play, “The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.”

It’s a common misconception that students should be learning this broad of a play that early on in their high school career, and I honestly find it almost insulting to have children read this play.

The play itself is mature—to the point that they don’t understand the underlying themes throughout the entire play.

They don’t understand Juliet’s affinity for Romeo due to him being closer to her own age and mentality than the man that she was nearly forced to marry.

Also not to mention the underlying jokes that most people don’t understand the first time through reading Shakespeare and a ninth grader is only going to read the assigned reading once.

Although the play is hard to fully analyze as a 14-year-old, a 1996 movie with Leonardo Di[1]Caprio is really easy to watch and understand—which is why the movie is as popular as it is with youth today.

When it first aired, the Leonardo DiCaprio (and Claire Danes) version of Romeo and Juliet was not a hit, it almost was considered something vulgar or disrespectful to playwright Shakespeare—but I honestly feel like that they did the play more justice than what Shakespeare would have ever really given it.

The play itself is already setting up a premise for two children falling in love and wanting to elope and in a grand scheme of manipulation, they ended up both killing themselves out of accident. I didn’t watch the movie until I was 16 and I haven’t revisited “Romeo and Juliet” or this movie since then.

Reimbursing on re-reading the play and re-watching a movie that I read at such a young age, especially when I had little to no understanding of how to properly read literature showed me how easy it was to be misguided by certain teachers.

Though I learned a lot in my 9th grade English class, learning Romeo and Juliet in the first place was mainly for time filler so we could watch the movie and hear an audiobook of the play, while my teacher graded papers from their other classes.

My 20-year-old self is more mentally knowledgeable when it comes to reading Shakespearean plays now, versus reading “Romeo and Juliet” in the first place, I remember it was such a struggle that I barely read it.

Everyone and their mother knows there are multiple different renditions of Shakespearean plays, but this particular movie does stay true to Shakespeare’s script… For the most part.

The major differences are between the setting, the changing from “swords” to the word “guns” in the lines, the families (and their names) aren’t as present in the movie as it is in the play and the twist in the ending that hadn’t been done before.

To divulge more into the families, in the play nearly all of the mentioned family members of both the Montagues (Caroline and Ted) and the Capulets (Fulgencio and Gloria) do make a presence in the play, but in the movie they are supposed to be implied characters, they aren’t as pertinent or as present.

The changing from swords to guns also has to do with the setting of the story, which involves the time period that it is taking place in as well.

The ending of the movie versus the ending of the play shows a Hollywood dramatized version of how the two ended up both dying. In the play, we know that Juliet fakes her death Romeo kills himself right next to her, she wakes up, sees his corpse, and then actually kills herself—brutal.

In the film, Juliet ends up waking up just as Romeo is dying so the last thing he sees before he dies is her waking up—and then Juliet kills herself with his gun—Brutual-er.

The movie gives a very accurate rendition of what the play would probably be like in a mod[1]ern-day setting, while still using the original script and the dialogue that Shakespeare originally wrote for his play.

A lot of the characters do have different characteristics or qualities along with different names. Paris (Mercutio) did a large number in drag for the masquerade ball that Romeo was supposed to meet Juliet at, which some historians would argue Shakespeare would be against, but I personally think with a lot of the cross-dressing that was in his plays, he would’ve appreciated it if anything.

Overall the movie exemplified how with a few different tweaks that you can make all the literature appeal to the eyes of a young audience, while also having the benefit of using young Leonardo DiCaprio as the main character.