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English literature controlled assessment: Romeo and Juliet. Comparing the presentation of Mercutio’s character in the drama text & film adaptation.

Mercutio is the secondary character in the play and also, Romeo’s best friend. He serves a distinct purpose in moving the play forward; he is recognised as one of the most important character in the play and film. Mercutio’s character helps Shakespeare explore the complications of love, conflict and extreme and unreasoning loyalty. Over the years, he has been portrayed differently to suit an appeal to an audience from an earlier era. Baz Buhrmann however, modernised Mercutio’s character to suit a contemporary audience. Mercutio appears to be more modern in the film rather than the play. Luhrmann retained the original text to keep a sense of originality and to also, to enrich Shakespeare’s language. In act 1 scene 4, Mercutio says “in shape no bigger than an agate stone on the forefinger of an alderman” whilst pointing at his index finger. This almost sounds like he is describing some kind of drug; his actions help manipulate the audience into thinking that he’s describing a drug. However, readers don’t get this impression from Shakespeare’s text because we are not able to see Mercutio’s actions. This is one of the ways Luhrmann modernised Mercutio’s speech. Use this paragraph to analyse a more significant point about Mercutio’s character. The queen mab speech in act 1 scene 4 brings out Mercutio’s eloquence and vivid imagination while also illustrating his cynical side. “Begot of nothing but vain fantasy, which is as thin of substance as the air” Mercutio doesn’t believe that dreams come true; dreams are the result of the desires of those who sleep. Likewise, Mercutio also comes across as a very imaginative person in the film. Luhrmann successfully adapted the atmosphere by playing a slow soundtrack whilst Mercutio gave his famous speech. The sudden change of music grabs the viewers’ attention as yet, another side of Mercutio is revealed. Better analysis and more relevant quotes of this point. Refer to another instance in the play where Mercutio is presented as this. More detailed analysis and comparison. Luhrmann portrays Mercutio as the most dominant and extroverted character in the film. His blowing entrance in a girls outfit with a gun strapped on captures the audience’s attention as they silently contemplate his sexuality. Luhrmann chose to present him this way to imply that he is confident and daring; yet still, macho and manly. Compare this with the play. How has he adapted this for a modern audience? His arrival in a car with his name attached to the number plate makes him come across as an arrogant person. Furthermore, Luhrmann added fireworks and explosions to emphasize Mercutio’s dominant side. New point to be discussed and analysed and compared in new paragraph. As with Shakespeare’s version of the party scene, however, sharply contrasts with Mercutio’s portrayal in Luhrmann’s adaptation. There is no evident in the script that tells us Mercutio wore a wig and had a gun strapped on. Despite Mercutio coming across as an important character in the play, his dominant side is less exaggerated. This may be because Shakespeare wanted to predominate [word] the characters of Romeo and Juliet themselves. Explain why you think Luhrmann added this scene although Shakespeare didn’t include it in the play. Is it effective? Mercutio’s language and behaviour during the party scene appears to be vulgar and bawdy. Develop this point in more detail/ quote any language used. He consciously raises his skirt whilst laughing with his mouth wide open. Luhrmann did this to display Mercutio’s effeminate nature. Equally, Shakespeare also portrays him as a bawdy character who takes love as a joke. This comes through by the use of the sexual innuendos “here’s my fiddlestick, here’s that shall make you dance” he re refers to his sword as a “fiddlestick” which causes the whole fight to become sexual and vulgar. Considering the historical context, this is highly effective as the people in Shakespeare’s time enjoyed films/plays with bawdy characters. Develop this point analytically in more detail. Quote more than 1 quote as evidence from across the play. Evaluate the effectiveness of presenting him like this. Mercutio is a sceptical and an anti-romantic man who doesn’t take love too serious. “If love be blind, love cannot hit the mark”-act 2 scene 1. He is suggesting that if you’re in love, you are blind to the other person’s flaws and love cannot succeed. His concept of love noticeably contrasts with Romeo’s who believes that true love exists. More detailed analysis of this. Likewise, Luhrmann also presents Mercutio as a very cynical character who mocks love. Towards the beginning of the film, when Romeo confirms his love for Rose (act1 scene 4) using the image of love as a thorn that pricks, Mercutio mocks his device by punning “if love be rough with you, be rough with love. Prick love for pricking and you beat love down.” He wears a sombre expression as he says this; this conveys that he doesn’t regard love the same way as Romeo. Linking to historical context, express differently many people believed in star-crossed lovers. However, both William Shakespeare and Baz Luhrmann presented Mercutio as the exact opposite; someone who is opposed to love. This is very effective because it brings out his bizarre character. Think about the historical context; be more articulate too. Another way Luhrmann modernised Mercutio is that he chose a black guy to present him. The impact this has on the audience is that we question why Mercutio is black. Perhaps Luhrmann wants to convey the negative stereotype towards black people that still exists till this very day. Did he want to emphasize Mercutio’s aggressive nature because most black people are thought to be aggressive? Or is this simply his way of modernising his character to appeal to a contemporary audience? Don’t use questions. Evaluate how effective his use of a black man is to convey Mercutio’s character. Mercutio manages to sustain his big ego throughout; even when he’s hurt. “ay,ay a scratch, a scratch ” this indicates that he doesn’t want to show any weakness, so he covers it up. The humour which he describes his fatal wound confirms his dignity; it also shows that he does not want to wound his pride. His facial expression (when he turns his back on the audience) appears to look shrivelled in pain; his body language contradicts his words. Mercutio is situated on a broken stage whilst grabbing his wound. He then dauntlessly raises his arm. This is highly effective because it almost seems like it’s the end. Mercutio performed his final act. Luhrmann used both the broken stage and stage directions to convey that fate is one of the most important themes in the play; it is inevitable and we cannot prevent it. Compare this to Shakespeare’s presentation in this scene. How accurate or close is it? Similarly, Shakespeare also uses pathetic fallacy to predominate change word Mercutio’s death. “The gallant hath aspired the clouds” Shakespeare is implying that it has become stormy, and that even natures mourning Mercutio’s death. When Mercutio curses “a plague o both your houses” both Luhrmann and Shakespeare use the weather to reflect and intensify the gloomy atmosphere. This gives the audience a brief hint that tragedy will sooner or later overwhelm comedy, and that both Romeo and Juliet’s fates will darken. Mercutio’s abrupt death has a great impact on the rest of the play as it marks a turning point for both the Montagues and Capulets. Mercutio’s curse still hangs over them… In conclusion, in modernising Mercutio’s character, Luhrmann has been very successful. However, he failed to maintain the spirit of William Shakespeare’s original text. In the film, there wasn’t a sword in sight and the use of a beach as a setting was too modern. Explain what this modernisation took away from Shakespeare’s original idea. How has he done this? 9/20 + 8/20= 17/40 Band 2.

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