Romeo and Juliet, true love?
Are Romeo and Juliet really the most romantic of all lovers? Or is their love more folly, infatuation and teenage angst?
Modern Day Measure for Measure Screen Play
My name is Caitlin Allen and I am studying at Warwick University. Below as an extract from a screen play that I wrote of a Modernized version of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure.
The initial aim of this project was to make Measure for Measure accessible to anyone who might not have had the opportunity, or the desire, to explore Shakespeare before. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to modernise the language, as the difficult Elizabethan English can be very off-putting for someone who has never studied it. What I wanted to preserve were the moral problems that the play poses, but also to adapt them to make them relevant to a twenty-first century audience. Shakespeare's play relies on its audience having a good understanding of the religious and legal concepts of his age, so I tried to remove these whilst keeping the nature and the importance of the decisions that the characters have to make the same. As the project developed, parallels with George Orwell's 1984 began to emerge, so I drew on that text for the setting of my adaptation. This is an adaptation for the screen, which fits in nicely with the themes of surveillance and viewing present in Shakespeare's play.
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1. CONTEMPORARY LONDON, NIGHTFALL
A sequence of static and tracking shots showing run-down streets and buildings. The streets are dirty, with very few windows lit up and litter gathering in corners. Giant posters of THE DUKE's face above the words 'I LOVE THE PEOPLE' are pasted on walls at regular intervals, so that one is always in shot. The streets are almost entirely empty of people.
EXT. PARTY HEADQUARTERS, DAWN
Approximately one-third of the screen is taken up by one corner of an enormous building. At first it is impossible to determine the height, since the building extends above and below the frame and the remainder of the shot is sky.
The camera tracks slowly down, revealing the size of the building, then begins to pan to the left and zoom outwards slowly and simultaneously, keeping the building on the right-hand side of the screen and revealing the city of London beneath it. The building towers above the city and famous landmarks look quaint and aged in comparison. A layer of smog seems to hang in the air.
At the foot of the building long stone steps link the entranceway to the square of which the building forms one side. Small figures dressed in black overalls hurry up and down the stone steps, some carrying briefcases. Birdsong.
INT. - CONTROL ROOM
An enormous curved wall of television screens, some in black and white, some in colour, all showing scenes from across the city. A thin layer of dust and grime covers the screens and gathers in the gaps between the monitors. In front of this wall and dwarfed by it, in a swivel chair facing the screens and with his feet up on the desk, sits THE DUKE.
PAUSE whilst the camera takes in the surveillance screens, then:
Several men in smart black uniforms enter the room from the sliding doors of a lift in the wall opposite the television screens. They walk in step with each other in a military fashion and position themselves in formation, with ANGELO and ESCALUS at the front. There is nothing in their dress which distinguishes them from the others. ESCALUS is in his early 60s, and despite the years showing in his face he appears to be physically as fit as the younger men.
Once the men's feet have fallen silent THE DUKE swings around in his chair to face them. He is pale, as if he has been indoors a long time, which contrasts with the strong face full of colour that is plastered all over the city (although it is indeed the same face). He is dressed in a tailored suit, with the top buttons of his shirt undone, all in black. Although in his forties, THE DUKE hops down the stairs which lead up to the control platform and stands with his hands in his pockets, facing the deputation.
Comrade Angelo. The rumours that you have heard regarding new and unforeseen difficulties with that continuous source of disquiet to the Party are, unfortunately, true. As loving leader and devoted father of the people I am leaving immediately to rectify the situation. In my absence I lend you our terror and dress you with our love. The power of the Party is in you. As the only remaining founding member, and second only to myself in the ways of the Party, Escalus will serve as your guide. But understand that he is your guide only, you may enforce or mitigate the law as your judgement sees fit. As a man who continually denies himself for the good of the Party, I entrust the safe-keeping of the people to you.
(trying to remain blank but obviously agitated)
Comrade, it is a great honour but I am not ready. Test me further before you bestow such a gift on me.
There can be no delay. In my absence you are the Party, and therefore it follows that everything you do will be just. I will keep you informed of my movements. Take up the mantle comrade; it is your responsibility to the Party and to the people. Lead well.
Whilst the uniformed men remain standing stiffly in their formation, THE DUKE wanders casually between them to the other side of the room, his hands still in his pockets, opens the lift doors with the push of a button, steps inside and turns around to face the camera. We see the doors shut on him. His is expression is blank and impossible to read.
ANGELO and ESCALUS turn to face eachother, their bodies visibly loosening with the departure of THE DUKE. Their eyes lock as they try to work out what their relationship should be.
One of the television monitors in the wall of surveillance screens. This particular camera is fixed on the front of a 'massage parlour' in the red light district. The brothel is on the end of a row of terraced, cheap-build dwellings and some of the other properties may also be brothels. The windows are boarded up but a lurid light falls on to the street from the entrance, which is a curtained doorway. On the roof is a neon sign of a woman leaning back on her elbows with her legs straight up in the air. Her legs open and close with the changing flashes of neon that light up the sign.
The camera zooms in slightly so that the frame of the television monitor disappears from the edges of the shot, and the black and white screen becomes infused with colour. We've left the control room and are now observing the massage parlour 'for real'.
The words 'Two weeks later' appear at the bottom of the screen, and there is a pause before we hear voices. It is mid afternoon and warm out, but the sky is dirty with smog.
FRIEND 1 (V.O.)
Give us the end of your fag? You know I'm stony broke.
FRIEND 2 (V.O.)
You better watch out, you don't know where he picks his fags up from...
FRIEND 1 (V.O.)
And you two are the cleanest pricks in London now, are you?
EXT. - BROTHEL
The three companions are leaning up against the back wall of the brothel, in order to get out of reach of the CCTV camera trained on the front of the premises, and two out of the three are smoking cigarettes. The back yard of the brothel is paved completely with concrete slabs, there is no grass growing anywhere, and a wooden fence separates it from the garden of the neighbouring property. A washing line and some abandoned flower pots litter the yard. The flashing light from the legs of the neon woman can be seen over the roof. LUKE is wearing the black shirt of the Party, but tucked roughly into non-regulation blue jeans, worn with a belt and Doc Marten boots. His two companions are in civilian clothes.
(holier than thou)
Last time I was down the clinic that nurse, Sue, told me she was sick of the sight of you both. Said you should think less about where you can put your dicks next and more about your immortal souls, because if you fuck your whole lives away in brothels you'll spend all eternity paying God back for the pleasure. I bet you spend more time in prostitutes than you do in Church, the pair of you.
So you've been down the clinic lately yourself, have you?
(Laughs) No girl wants a gammy prick up her, do they? Even if she is getting paid for it. He should know. Even Michelle with no front teeth won't let you near her now, will she?
MISTRESS OVERDONE comes out of the back door of the brothel and lights up a cigarette. She is a plump, but not fat, kind-looking woman in her 40s. She is wearing brightly coloured, 'alluring' clothes that are too tight for her and her make-up is done very childishly (blue eye shadow and pink lipstick) in an attempt to look youthful. Her powder has gathered in her wrinkles and does not have the desired effect.
And here comes the lady herself, the mother of all London's whores!
He gets down on one knee in front of her and, looking at her mock adoringly, takes her hand and kisses it.
FRIEND 2 (CONT'D)
...you look ravishing.
He wrinkles his nose as if because of a bad smell.
Do you mean revolting?
(getting to his feet and springing away)
Eurgh, what a stink!
FRIEND 2 pulls a cheeky but warm face at MISTRESS OVERDONE and she looks back at him as if she just finds him tiresome. There are no hard feelings between them.
Well I'll never understand how the Party thinks it best to arrest poor Claudio and leave you stinking rats dirtying up the place. I'm sure you're far more deserving of having your heads lopped off than he is.
What?! What are you on about, you mad old sow?
It's true, just now. Saw it myself.
But what for?
For getting Juliet pregnant, what else?
(surprised, but measured)
Since when was that a punishable offence?! Angelo... I'm going to see this for myself.
LUKE exits the back yard via a wooden door leading onto the alley. As he is leaving, POMPEY enters. POMPEY is in his early 30s, visibly younger than MISTRESS OVERDONE. He is very scruffy and dirty, with holes in his clothes, but there's still something attractive in his rough face.
(to the lads, conspiratorially)
MISTRESS OVERDONE puts out her cigarette when she sees him and turns to go back inside the house. POMPEY gropes her on their way indoors in a way that she obviously doesn't care for.
I've got some bad news for you my lovely...
EXT. - A STREET OF TERRACED HOUSES
Much like the street on which MISTRESS OVERDONE's brothel is situated. CLAUDIO and JULIET are being escorted along by armed members of the Party's police force, who are, of course, all dressed in Party black. JULIET is just visibly pregnant.
LUKE enters the street from the end towards which the other group are headed. He approaches hesitantly.
(eyeing up the guards to see how they react to his presence)
Hey Claudio, what's going on? What are the charges?
Luke. Will saying it make it worse?
It's because of the baby?
(stopping and standing still)
I need you to do something for me.
Throughout the following exchanges both CLAUDIO and LUKE glance repeatedly and nervously at the guards, and the conversation is held in hushed tones as if that might prevent the guards from hearing. The guards remain silent, taking in what is being said as if hoping that CLAUDIO or LUKE might let slip something which could be used as evidence against them.
(very calmly, but clearly terrified)
You know that Juliet is as good as my wife. We haven't had the marriage formally acknowledged by the Party, but in every other respect I'm her husband for God's sake. Of course we were going to apply for authorisation, but you can see how things moved a little quickly...
I can't help but think that, under the Duke... What does it matter if the formal authorisation comes after, as long as I'm looking after her?
The new deputy.
Anyone in his... position... would want to make an impression, right, but why me? Am I really going to be his example?
So what shall I do? Send for the Duke?
Nobody knows where he is, and wherever it is it would take too long. Angelo wants me finished within three days. I need you to go to my sister, Isabella. She's entering the convent today, but I don't think it's too late. Ask her to go to Angelo and plead for me. She's good with words and smart as anything, though she won't admit it. If anyone can change his mind it's her.
LUKE steps aside and stands still, watching CLAUDIO, JULIET and the Party police continue down the street. The camera pans around to follow them. As the group make their way along they pass a man talking to some girls in the doorway of another brothel. The camera fixes on him. The man is THE DUKE in disguise - he has shaved his head and grown a stubbly beard. He wears a black hoodie under which you can see the white collar of a priest, faded black jeans and black boots. He is talking to the prostitutes, handing out leaflets and condoms and his body language suggests he might even be flirting with them, but he follows CLAUDIO with his eyes. The girls clearly think he is a weirdo, but flirt back anyway in case he is custom.
[END OF FIRST EXTRACT]
[EXTRACT TWO - THE FINALE]
EXT. - PARTY HEADQUARTERS, DAY
We see ANGELO and ESCALUS seated at the top of the grand stone steps from the perspective of ISABELLA and MARIANA, who are seven or eight steps below them being questioned.
ANGELO has by this point adopted the unbuttoned black silk shirt and suit of THE DUKE. He leans back in his chair, whereas ESCALUS sits upright and attentive, eyes burning with zeal for upholding the honour of the Party.
To either side of them stand silent crowds of black overall-ed Party members. Most are wearing disapproving looks, but others are blank or tense verging on sympathetic. LUKE is in the front row.
PAN AROUND TO:
THE DUKE, who emerges into the clearing from behind the ranks of Party members. He is dressed as before, in his disguise as a priest, but this time he is wearing a large cardboard sign which has painted on the front the words 'The quality of MERCY is NOT STRAINED'. He turns to look at ISABELLA/the camera.
CAMERA POSITION CHANGES TO TAKE IN ALL OF THE CHARACTERS
Here he is, the filth!
THE DUKE turns to look at the two deputies.
Serious charges have been brought against you. You have been accused of inciting these two children to attempted defamation of a Party leader. Is this true?
Where's the Duke?
We have the Duke's power in us. Watch your tongue.
(quietly incredulous, cutting across ESCALUS, to ISABELLA and MARIANA)
Then all hope is lost. How could the Duke be so unjust as to put your trial in the hands of the criminal you ask for protection from?
Friar, you will regret these words. Not only do you plot against the Party's most noble and pure, comrade Angelo, but you slander him before his own eyes and then accuse our loving leader and devoted father, The Duke, of injustice! Guards, hold him.
You won't touch me. The Duke wouldn't dare have his guards lay a finger on me, no more than he would let them touch himself. I'm a traveller, a mere onlooker in your affair, and I've seen the corruption bubbling up beneath the surface of your wondrous Party.
Slander to the state. Guards!
Several of the men in black overalls move forward, but when ANGELO suddenly sits up and throws an arm out to stop them they freeze.
Luke, is this the man you heard speak so ignorantly about our Duke?
It's him, comrade!
(calm and measured)
You must change places with me, before that statement becomes true. I love the Duke as I love myself.
Lies! Take him to prison, guards! Seize him!
ANGELO nods his assent. As members of the Party police move forward to take hold of him, THE DUKE dashes up the steps, past where ANGELO and ESCALUS are seated, to the entrance of the Party headquarters. To one side of the doors is one of the posters of THE DUKE's face, this one a little larger than life size.
THE DUKE rips the poster down from the wall, turns and takes a few slow, calculated steps back towards the two deputies, holding the larger than life image of his face up next to his own bearded and shaven head.
I love the Duke as I love myself.
After a moment of realisation, ANGELO and ESCALUS get to their feet. The colour drains from ANGELO's face and a look of fierce love and devotion appears on ESCALUS'.
Guards, let those women go. Take the real villain into custody.
He looks sideways at ANGELO, whose eyes widen with fear, but then turns to look LUKE straight in the eye with a hard stare.
THE DUKE (CONT'D)
(To the guards, without taking his eyes off LUKE)
Members of the Party police seize LUKE.
Oh... not good. Not good.
(taking ESCALUS' head firmly in both hands as if to kiss it, then releasing it)
Sit down, Comrade.
ESCALUS sits, with a look of childish joy.
THE DUKE (CONT'D)
(to ANGELO, ripping his cardboard 'MERCY' sign off sideways and throwing it aside)
ANGELO quickly moves away from his seat and stumbles awkwardly down the first few steps, evidently hurting himself.
THE DUKE (CONT'D)
Have you got anything to say that can help lift the stain on your name?
Comrade, I beg of you... That I thought I could act without my indiscretion being discerned by the Party is the most heinous crime against the Party. I confess all, a trial will not be necessary. Please, no trial. I confess... to everything. An immediate sentence and an immediate death... Please...
Come here Mariana.
She moves forward hesitantly
THE DUKE (CONT'D)
Were you ever engaged to be married to this woman?
(looking at a black-clad, white-collared member of the crowd)
Perform the ceremony. When it is done return here immediately, all three.
ANGELO and MARIANA follow the PRIEST into the building.
INT. - UPPER ANGLE SHOT - BLACK AND WHITE CCTV FOOTAGE - CHAPEL IN THE PARTY HEADQUARTERS
ANGELO puts a ring on MARIANA's finger whilst the PRIEST makes the sign of the cross over the couple. ANGELO is still full of terror, pale, shaking and barely in control of his body. MARIANA's expression is of deep concern. ANGELO turns and vomits violently into a flower arrangement.
EXT. - PARTY HEADQUARTERS
THE DUKE is standing right up close to ISABELLA, stroking her face. Their eyes are locked. Her face is blank and passive, but it is clear that this attention is unwanted.
ANGELO, MARIANA and the PRIEST re-enter from the front doors of the Party headquarters and stand off to one side, eyes on THE DUKE.
THE DUKE takes his hand away from ISABELLA's face and takes a step back, still keeping eye contact.
You must forgive this newly married man his assault on your honour, for Mariana's sake. However, for the murder of your brother and the breach of his promise to you, he is guilty and must die. Even the most merciful policies of the Party dictate that it must be so. Angelo dies for Claudio, death for death and measure for measure.
(edging forward, disbelieving)
This is a cruel joke, comrade. You would not take my husband away as soon as you give him to me?
(turning to MARIANA)
Dear child, if you were never married to this man your honour would be irreparably damaged. Now your virtue has been restored and you stand to inherit all Angelo has, upon his death. The Party gives you permission to remarry, and hopes that you will choose better the second time.
I do not want a better man.
Your pleas fall on deaf ears. He must die, according to Party law.
MARIANA dashes to ISABELLA's side, takes hold of ISABELLA's hand and falls to her knees, body angled towards THE DUKE.
Isabella! Please Isabella, kneel with me? Help me to save his life and all my life to come I'll be in debt to you.
Do you think she will fight for your cause, when that cause is the very cause of her own brother's unjust death?
(looking ISABELLA hard in the eyes)
He would turn in his grave.
During the following speeches, the eye contact between ISABELLA and THE DUKE is not broken.
Isabella, please. Just lend me your knees, you don't have to speak a word. I'll say all. We grow from our mistakes and learn to be better. I know his mistake was great but believe me his improvement will be greater. He's my husband now. Won't you help me? Isabella?
He dies for Claudio's death.
(Kneeling. As if she has worked out the Duke's game and knows that this is her only possible 'fuck you' to him.)
Dear Duke, I ask you to look upon this man as if my brother was still living. I partly think he was a good man before he met me. My brother was guilty of the crime he was charged with, Angelo is not. The intention was a crime, but the act never was. Let him live.
Get up. The case has been decided. There will be justice for Claudio. Now there is one more matter to be resolved. Guards, didn't Angelo condemn another to die at the same time as Claudio? A petty criminal? Was the order executed?
ISABELLA helps the despairing MARIANA to her feet. MARIANA returns to ANGELO's side.
Well bring the prisoner to me here. I'd like to know how he was treated at Angelo's hands.
Two guards appear from behind the crowds of black overalls, with a prisoner between them. The prisoner's overalls are ragged and dirty. He has a black cotton sack over his head, as if he were about to be hung, and his hands are tied behind his back. The guards push the prisoner a step ahead of them into the clearing and then remove the head covering. It is CLAUDIO.
(still held by guards)
PAUSE whilst CLAUDIO and ISABELLA stare at each other. He looks frightened, she shocked. ANGELO dry wretches.
Hello Claudio. I hope you were not too much mistreated during your imprisonment. You are free to marry Juliet and honour the Party with many children. Isabella, I ask for your hand. But wait, Angelo, you see you are off the hook. See how your Duke does not let you fall beyond salvation. You are dismissed from your position, but the Party will be watching you. Look that you stray no more from rightness. Love your wife, she is a loyal comrade and loves the Party. See how your Duke is merciful.
(turning to LUKE)
But yet there is one crime here which is unforgivable. Slander against the Party is the greatest crime of all and you must suffer the punishment.
It was harmless! Just a joke. But if it's alright with you comrade I'd much rather a beating than a hanging.
Beaten first, then hanged after.
(looking around at the assembled Party members)
This fool once told me that he got a prostitute pregnant and she kept the child. If anyone can find this girl, he will marry her. Then, after the marriage, he can be beaten and hanged.
Comrade, don't marry me to a prozzie! Please! A man can't take a wife who's already had half of London, have pity on me!
You will marry her, the rest I forfeit. Take him to prison until the young bride is found.
Marrying a prostitute is worse than beating and hanging together!
Slandering the Party deserves it.
Guards take LUKE away. JULIET, now heavily pregnant, slinks quietly through the Party members to stand at CLAUDIO's side. CLAUDIO looks no less wretched at her appearance.
THE DUKE (CONT'D)
Claudio and Juliet, Angelo and Mariana, Luke and his whore, the Duke and Isabella.
He turns to face Isabella once again.
THE DUKE (CONT'D)
(whilst slowly undoing the top buttons of her overalls)
Isabella, I have a... proposal for you. One that you simply won't be able to refuse. Let what's yours be mine, forever.
He brushes open one side of her collar with the back of his hand, revealing her bare skin underneath.
CLOSE UP ON:
ISABELLA's head and upper body. Her expression is blank and her body is stiff but there's something defiant shining in her eyes.
CLOSE UP ON:
ISABELLA's eyes, wide and frozen.
Modern Day Measure for Measure Screen PlayThis is a great way to introduce people to Shakespeare.
Posted by Jemma Bowman 01 Aug 11 12:52 pm