Comparing Zeffirelli's Fight Scene with Shakespeare's Text

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SWBAT analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment by reading Zeffirelli's film as a text.

Big Idea

Was Mercutio's death an accident? Is that even possible? Let's see, and then analyze whether this is what Shakespeare might have intended.

Getting Started

5 minutes

We are going to watch a couple of scenes-- from the balcony scene through the fight scene-- in the 1960 and 1990 movie versions of the play. This morning we are going to watch the older version. While we watch, students will compare and contrast the movie with Shakespeare's play. As I start the movie, they will prepare themselves to take notes.

Analyzing the Film to Draw Connections and Make Inferences

50 minutes

The Zeffirelli movie is great. Watching it helps students visualize setting and character interaction. I will pause a few times while we watch to check for understanding and deepen knowledge. Here's an overview:


The Balcony Scene

  • Which lines did Zeffirelli cut? Why might be have made that choice? (RL.9-10.7)


Juliet awaits the Nurse

  • What emotions does Juliet show? Is that how we read the scene in the play? (RL.9-10.3)


The Wedding Scene

  • According to this version, what does Friar Lawrence mean when he says, "Romeo will thank you for both of us?" (RL.9-10.4)
  • Neither Shakespeare nor Zeffirelli show us the wedding. Why do you think they don't show ceremony? (RL.9-10.7)


The Fight Scene

  • I pause the movie when Mercutio gets into the fountain and ask the students to describe Mercutio's mood.
  • When Tybalt enters the scene, I ask the students to describe his mood based on body language.
  • I pause again when Romeo backs down to Tybalt. It is important to discuss the interaction among the characters, especially Mercutio. His mood changes at that moment.
  • When Mercutio fights Tybalt, there is time to continue these conversations. The fight is lengthy, at least in comparison to the play, which has little stage directions.


These questions help students read the movie as they would a book. The movie is a text unto itself and I am trying to treat it as such. These questions also prepare students for a deeper conversation, once we have seen the same scenes in the Luhrmann version.

Wrapping Up

5 minutes

We should have a few minutes at the end of class to discuss our thoughts on the movie and review our notes. First, I will ask them to journal about what they better understand after watching the movie (W.9-10.10). Take a look at some of their notes. Then, I will ask questions, such as:

  • What differences did you notice? Were they a good change, in your opinion? Explain.
  • Is this a good representation of Shakespeare's work? Why or why not? (RL.9-10.9)