Religious Figures in Romeo and Juliet, or Luhrmann’s Neon Church

This week, in Shakespeare in the Movies, we are looking specifically at religious imagery and figures in the play and relatively recent film adaptation.  As we know, Luhrmann uses the ‘star-cross’d’ image from the opening sonnet as a guide to the kind of religious imagery he uses throughout, from Romeo’s neon-lit walk towards Juliet’s body to the cross formed by the opening sequence’s gasoline fire.  By tracing the character of Friar Lawrence in particular, the students will be trying to construct a sense of Shakespeare’s portrayal of the Franciscan father’s involvements.  Contrasting his speech about the good/evil in each person and each plant derived from nature with Romeo’s procurement of the poison from the apothecary, we will consider whether the Italianate setting of the play might contribute to a critical portrayal of ‘Catholic’ Christianity or the role of money in church matters.  The strangely secular imagery used by the friar (mention of Titan and a devotion to nature that might be unrivaled outside of the Atheist’s Tragedy) might be a way into this that would allow students to point to specific textual evidence as they discover this reading.

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