Comparing Luhrmann's Fight Scene to Shakespeare's Play

1 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


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 watching scenes from Luhrmann's movie and comparing it to Zeffirelli's version and our reading of the same scenes.

Big Idea

Is Romeo and Juliet relevant in the 21st century?

Getting Started

5 minutes

Last class we watched scenes from the 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet and discussed the director's choices. This class we are going to watch the same scenes-- from the balcony scene through the fight scene-- in Luhrmann's 1996 version.


At the beginning of class, we will gather our notes from last class, wherein we compared Zeffirelli's film to our reading of the play. We will add to these notes as we watched this hour, comparing this film both to the play and the 1968 version (RL.9-10.7).


The scenes, while similar in language and plot, are drastically different. Zeffirelli's film suggests that Mercutio's death was an accident, just two guys who took a joke too far. But Luhrmann's film captures more hatred and anger, suggesting that Tybalt was truly out for blood.

Watch and Learn

45 minutes

You either love or hate the Luhrmann version of Romeo and Juliet. I'm pro. I think that it offers great opportunities to discuss purpose and shows the timelessness of Shakespeare's story. His movie movie suggests that people don't change, even if the way we are entertained has. I remind students all the time that people went to hear the plays. Luhrmann's movie is visual; he shifts the focus from the language and heightens the tension through visual overload, which is how audiences today watch: we go to watch the play/movie. Much like last class, I will pause at key moments to clarify and deepen knowledge.


The Balcony Scene

  • Which scene is truer to the play? Think setting and language (RL.9-10.7)
  • Depending on time, feel free to fast forward over the lengthy kissing-in-the-pool scene :)


The Wedding

  • Why do you think Luhrmann included the ceremony when Shakespeare did not? (RL.9-10.7)


Juliet awaits the Nurse

  • Which scene is closer to the play? (RL.9-10.3)


The Fight Scene

  • I pause when Mercutio puts his foot on the table and ask about his mood. I pause again when Tybalt starts beating Romeo up.
  • The fight between Tybalt and Mercutio is relatively quick, especially in comparison to the Zeffirelli version. It is helpful to watch it twice.
  • It is also helpful to explain to students that this scene cuts back and forth between two moments in time: as Romeo races after Tybalt, Juliet awaits his arrival. My students have not read the next scene where Juliet waits for Romeo, so I explain that they are getting a preview. We will talk about it's effect, ie that it builds tension (RL.9-10.5).


Discussing Interpretations

15 minutes

Students have been taking notes while watching the movie. At this point, I will ask that they use their notes to write something more thoughtful (W.9-10.10). First I will ask which movie they prefer and why. Then I will ask which specific scene in the movie they prefer and why. We will briefly discuss their responses. Here's a sample of their responses.


These discussions are great because it gives them power and confidence. Their opinion on this really matters and can't be wrong (SL.9-10.1).