What is a Youth?

February 14, 2010 at 12:29 am (Film Adaptations, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , )

Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet is one of my favorite movies, so it’s fitting that I begin my blog here. I love the song from the Capulet feast, What is a Youth?.


It’s so beautiful and haunting and captures for me the emotions of these young lovers. The song stays with me long after the movie is over.

The film is lush and romantic, the scenery gorgeous, the costumes lovely, the actors young and full of angst and vitality. The film won Oscars for Best Cinematography and Costume Design. I’m not surprised.

Olivia Hussey was so young (only 15!) and perfect as the innocent but headstrong Juliet. Leonard Whiting’s Romeo is my idea of a dreamy loverboy. I love watching these two together… so sweet, so romantic, so impetuous.

Mercutio (played by John McEnery) is very funny with all his punning. You can see his temper rising with the temperature until he gets to the boiling point with Tybalt (played by Michael York).

Tybalt is one of my least favorite characters in the film. I haven’t re-read the play yet, so I am eager to see how I feel about him when I do. In this film version, I find Tybalt whiny and uptight and annoying. He’s a tattletale at the Capulet feast and he’s a troublemaker when he’s out and about in Verona.

The other characters I love in the film are the Nurse (Pat Heywood) and Friar Laurence (Milo O’Shea). They are both such over-the-top characters. The Nurse is so ribald and hilarious. You get a strong sense of the fondness between her and Juliet and the complete trust Juliet places in her. Friar Laurence is a good and trusted friend to Romeo. You can imagine his world falls apart when he sees the results of his efforts to help the lovers. So sad.

On a lighter note, Friar Laurence reminds me of Keith Moon from The Who. I thought of this throughout the movie. Do you see it?

I would love to hear what others think of this film and if there are other film adaptations of Romeo and Juliet that I should put in my Netflix queue. West Side Story just came in the mail today, so I will blog about that soon.

© All Content, Copyright 2010 by Blog Author, Or What You Will. All Rights Reserved.

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15 Comments

  1. Nan said,

    I think I liked this version too: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117509/
    Maybe I’ll have to watch both of them again, ahhhhhhhhhh romance & tragedy……………

    • orwhatyouwill said,

      Oh good, yeah, I have that one next in my netflix queue, I think. I don’t think I’ve watched it before.

  2. Chris said,

    I hope I’m not repeating anyone, but Romeo + Juliet was released a few years ago.

    Can’t say I saw it, but it was supposed to be modern, urban and gritty. Don’t know if I want to see a romance with that kind of description, but it could be interesting….

  3. Just Play it Cool, Boy « Or What You Will said,

    [...] as well. It’s been a while since I’d seen it, and interesting seeing it right after Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. The first thing that struck me is how much more believable the love affair between Romeo and [...]

  4. Karen said,

    I haven’t seen the version you’re talking about in this post, but the Romeo + Juliet with Leonardo Di Caprio and Clare Danes is great. It’s mostly because I love love love Clare Danes, I have loved her since My So Called Life when she was all of fifteen or so and leading this phenomenal drama.

    The movie definitely takes a different spin, but it’s very cool. It’s pseudo-set in the modern world, but with arts and thous and all that Shakespearean Talk. ;)

    I haven’t read Shakespeare in a long, long (long, long) time, but every summer try to seek out the “Shakespeare in the Park” productions and drag the whole family to them. We saw As You Like it two years ago, and Midsummer Night’s Dream this year. I usually bring my 2 inch thick Shakespeare book so we can read along with the actors. I think it helps the kids see that these words *come* from somewhere, but of course that’s just me being a mom geek. ;)

    Looking forward to hearing more. Might have to re-read some myself! Are you going to do them ALL…the histories? tragedies? all of it? I think i’ve read everything at one point in time or another. Cool project!

    • orwhatyouwill said,

      Thanks Karen. Yup, I’m gonna read them all!

      I’m definitely looking forward to R+J. I used to watch My So-Called Life, too… I liked CD back then, too.

      That big beefy volume has been the barrier to me re-reading the plays. I have one that’s been sitting on a bookshelf for decades, and that’s all it does. Sit and collect dust. I cannot get myself to go near it. So I am very excited about the single volumes that are in transit this very moment!

      Read with me!

  5. What Should I Watch? « Or What You Will said,

    [...] The Wikipedia article looks pretty good, so I’m using that as a starting place. I think I am going to focus on the more recent films, although I will consider going back further (like the 1960s and maybe even the 1950s) when there are films that are really must-sees (like West Side Story and Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet). [...]

  6. “Romeo! Quick! Poison Yourself!” « Or What You Will said,

    [...] Or as Roger Ebert put it, “I think back to the tender passion of the 1968 version, and I want to shout: ”Romeo! Quick! Poison [...]

  7. Fun in the Pun « Or What You Will said,

    [...] “Saucy merchant” and “scurvy knave,” indeed! Whew! (By the way, I find this scene in the Zeffirelli movie really [...]

  8. BBC = Boring, Banal, Choppy « Or What You Will said,

    [...] A basic problem for me with this version is that I never connected with the title characters. The actors playing Romeo (Patrick Ryecart) and Juliet (Rebecca Saire) just didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t believe or care about their love affair. They looked way too May-December for me, and of course, I had ample opportunity to look that up on the Internet while I was watching. Indeed, she was 14 while filming and he was 25. Beyond that, I found her a bit stiff and boring (I guess always comparing her in my mind to Olivia Hussey from the 1968 version). [...]

  9. Susan said,

    This movie was my first exposure to Shakespeare – I saw it from the back of a station wagon at a drive-in movie, peeking over the seat as my mom and dad watched it. We were supposed to be sleeping, but I was falling totally in love with both Romeo and Juliet!
    You’re inspiring me to see it again…

    • orwhatyouwill said,

      Hi Susan! Nice to see you here! :) Yes, definitely watch it again. It’s a really sweet movie.

  10. Pengo said,

    John McEnery has been the “old man” at Shakespeare’s Globe in London for years. Saw him play Shylock in 2007, he’s really tremendous.

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