The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare is one of the most well-known classical pieces of literature still being read today. Almost everyone who has completed high school read the play at some point in their career, and those who never read it for a class can probably still tell you the gist of the famous love story. One activity that is very popular is to have students compare the Franco Zeffirelli movie version from 1968 to the Baz Luhrmann movie version from 1996. While there are many similarities and differences between the movies, both are valuable resources to aid in understanding of the play.
First, read the The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare is contributed with adding thousands of words to the English language, but many of them sounded very different during his time. Reader's often struggle with Shakespeare's works and give up easily. If you find yourself unable to understand the language, replace the "the's" and "thou's" with you and then drop the "st" off words like "hast." If you still struggle, go to a website that offers a modern translation. Sparknotes.com is a great resource.
Once you finish reading the play, watch the
Zeffirelli version of the movie. Most people enjoy this version
because it is more like how we imagine Romeo and Juliet. The clothing is very 16th century and the actors speak with a British accent.
The actors who portray Romeo and Juliet were unknowns at the time of
casting, but they both were praised for their work in this film.
Afterwards, watch the updated 1996 version
directed by Baz Luhrmann. This movie is set in a more modern "Verona
Beach" and the characters use guns instead of swords. The dialogue
comes directly from the play, but the characters speak with their
regular American accents. Many people do not like this version because
of the modern setting, but students often gravitate towards this one
because they can relate to it.
The last, and probably best, way you could experience The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is by actually seeing a production of the play. Check with your local playhouses. Many often do a production of Romeo and Juliet around
Valentine's Day. Make sure the playhouse has a history of Shakespeare
productions so you know that you will be seeing a quality production.
Enjoy the greatest love story ever told, but don't be surprised when
you find yourself needing tissues even though you know the ending.