|Abstract or Summary
- Literary and feminist theory have recently begun to recognize William Shakespeare's character of Juliet as a possible feminist heroine, but communicating this interpretation on film will be complicated. Not only will the film need to deal with the issues of adaptation that come with moving any play onto film, but the finished product will also need to avoid the objectification of the female form. An investigation of literary theory, adaptation theory, and feminist film theory reveals that, although this is a formidable task, the original text offers enough power to overcome any obstacle of communication.
Once the earlier literary criticism of A. C. Bradley gives way to feminist literary theory which offers a more empowering interpretation of the character of Juliet, it seems clear that this character could be a powerful cinematic heroine. At this point, it becomes relevant to acknowledge the problems involved in the transfer of text to cinema and the adaptation theories of Andre Bazin, Susan Sontag, and others become applicable. Adding further dimension to the film discussion is Laura Mulvey's theory of "the masculine gaze" as well as Tania Modleski's theories on feminism as it applies to mass culture and audience interpretation.
The theoretical discussion suggests a unique combination of theories with which to investigate the three best-known Romeo and Juliet adaptations (George Cukor, 1936; Franco Zeffirelli, 1968; Baz Luhrmann, 1996) Each of these films uses the medium of cinema to communicate a specific interpretation of the original text. Although none emphasize a strong, decisive heroine, they each present different options for portraying the character of Juliet and offer valuable insight in their moments of oppression as well as empowerment.
Applying this blend of theories to the specific films leads to the idea that future filmmakers could take all the theories into consideration and learn from these previous works to produce a main-stream adaptation of Romeo and Juliet which emphasizes the strength and agency of the main female character. The power of Shakespeare's Juliet is a prolific area of the text which, when explored on screen, has the ability to utilize film as an ally to unite feminist theory with popular culture.