Romeo and Juliet

by KE Monahan Huntley

Writer/director Baz Luhrman's 1996 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet invigorates Shakespeare's first tragedy. The experimental filmmaking with its postmodern storyencoding successfully delivers the star-crossed lovers to the MTV generation, making Romeo and Juliet most excellent required viewing-instead of the mandatory abstruse high school assignment.

Scholars often attribute ownership of the Shakespearean tragedy to influence character, Juliet. From a Dramatica perspective, however, the story truly belongs to its main character, Romeo. The dynamics and elements of which he is comprised, and the appreciations that are attached to his throughline, dovetail beautifully to create a complex character fully invested in his domain.

Romeo is a be-er in his approach to conflict, a key reason why his concern of preconscious--acting without thinking--causes problems for him. When it would serve him best to be, he is impulsive, for example, if he had remained in Mantua awaiting word from Friar Lawrence instead leaving his exiled state in haste, the story may have ended differently. (Of course, this is only one of the many "What ifs?")

That Romeo is at odds with himself is also illustrated in his problem of wanting immediate results without taking time to go through the process (mc solution) to achieve his desire (mc critical flaw), and his symptom upon what is not quite right, the inaccuracies and intolerances (non-accurate), that dot his throughline.

The following are illustrations of the essential dynamic and objective story thematic questions for a Dramatica storyform. Note that both the original play and Baz Luhrman's version share the same identical storyform. A complete analysis of the Shakespearean play can be found here.

Character Dynamics


Romeo remains steadfast in his love for Juliet and desire to remain at her side--to the point of following his wife in death.


Romeo has to start acting like the man that Juliet is certain he can be.


Romeo's first preference in approaching a conflict is to adapt himself to the environment (be-er), for example, he lacks interest in the (contentious) " . . . activities of his gang of friends, whom he accompanies only reluctantly to the Capulet feast: 'I'll be a candle holder and look on'" (1.4.38) (Paster 258); After making Juliet his wife, he tries to placate Tybalt rather than fight him; and so forth.

Mental Sex

Romeo uses cause and effect problem solving techniques (male mental sex). As an example, in his first scene with Benvolio, he explains Rosaline's cold heart is the cause of his morose behavior--he does not look beyond this to determine the real reason for his unhappiness--that he has not yet found true love.

IC Resolve

Juliet changes from the Capulet's dutiful daughter to wife of Romeo. She has a mind of her own with no one, save Friar Lawrence, to guide her. As an example, she looks to the woman who raised her for advice: "At her crisis, when Juliet asks her to be wise, the Nurse can only suggest bigamy, a course quite in keeping with the values she herself is made of. Here the Nurse is no longer funny, but she has not changed. It is Juliet who has done that" (Bryant lxxiv).

Plot Dynamics


The "three civil brawls" (1.1.91) the Capulets and Montagues have engaged in force Prince Escalus to determine: "If you ever disturb our streets again,/Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace" (1.1.98-99), thus action drives the story forward. Gibbons asserts: "In Romeo and Juliet the play's decisive events occur with instantaneous suddenness: servants brawl on sight, the lovers fall in love at first sight, the shock of the tragic catastrophe converts the parents suddenly and completely from hate to love" (70).


With their two only children dead (optionlock), the Montagues and Capulets come to their senses and reconcile.


The grief stricken Capulets and Montagues reconcile (success), horrified the ancient grudge has resulted in their children's deaths:


A glooming peace this morning with it brings. The sun for sorrow will not show his head (5.3.316-317).


Romeo ultimately fails (bad) in his efforts to live happily ever after with his "heart's dear love" (2.3.61)-"For never was a story of more woe/Than this of Juliet and her Romeo" (5.3.320-21).

Objective Story Domain

Problems in the objective story are derived from activities and endeavors (physics), principally to do with the ancient grudge between the Capulets and Montagues, and Friar Lawrence's attempt to reconcile the two families. Gibbons explains:

Shakespeare makes the plot depend crucially on messages. He invents the episode in which Romeo, Benvolio, and Mercutio learn by accident from Capulet's illiterate servant of the proposed ball. This scheme is repeated when the Nurse haphazardly encounters the young gallants, and Romeo lightheartedly identifies himself amidst the bawdy mockery of his friends. Later, the Nurse brings Juliet a happy reply (II,v). In the second, tragic, movement of the play, the Nurse brings Juliet the news of Tybalt's death and Romeo's banishment . . . . Shakespeare stresses in both scenes the ease with which messages can go wrong; so Juliet at first thinks it is Romeo, not Tybalt, whom the Nurse saw bedaubed in gore-blood. . . . In the closing movement of the play Balthasar brings Romeo the false report of Juliet's death (v.i); immediately afterwards, as Romeo leaves the stage by one door, bearing a phail of poison, Friar John enters by another to begin the next scene by telling Friar Laurence how he failed to get through with the message that Juliet is drugged, not dead. (41-42)

Objective Story Concern

The objective characters are concerned with engaging in battles of wits, wills, and physical strength-much for the sake of a "quarrel between the two families (doing) . . . so ancient that the original motives are no longer even discussed. Inspired by the 'fiery' Tybalt, factionalism pursues its mindless course despite the efforts of the Prince to end it" (Bevington xxii).

Objective Story Issue

Thematic issues regarding experience in the objective story are illustrated in terms of age. This is seen particularly in Lord Capulet and Nurse, both who think they know what's best for Juliet, and Friar Lawrence, who counsels the young lovers.

Objective Story Problem

Expectations the objective characters have for one another create problems. An illustration of this is seen in Paris, Juliet's prospective bridegroom. Capulet has granted permission for the young man to court and marry his daughter-when Juliet refuses the suit, Capulet is outraged and abusive.

About the Author

KE Monahan Huntley is an editor and publisher based in Southern California. As one of the original contributors to Dramatica, she helped edit and analyze many of the examples. In addition, her numerous articles provided an insightful "conversational" approach to the theory. Today she can be found at Write Between the Lines or follow her on Twitter @kemhuntley.

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