Revised Scene 49: Juliet’s potion speech

One of the major soliloquies in the original Shakespeare version of the play (Act 4 , scene 3) is Juliet’s speech made in the loneliness of her bedroom as she is about the swallow the contents of the vial, given to her by the Friar.  Her mind is in a state of turmoil as she cannot be sure whether the potion will actually kill her or, or whether she might awaken too soon and die from asphyxiation from the airless atmosphere of the vault, with the corrupt decaying body of Tybalt near to her.  Yet, the speech is missing from the movie.  This raises three questions:  (1) Does the soliloquy appear in the original shooting script? (2) If so, was it actually filmed? (3) If it was filmed, why was it edited out?

(1) As will be seen from the typescript of Scene 49 in the shooting script below, the soliloquy does appear in the script, albeit in a slightly shortened version.

(2) Scene 49 was filmed as scripted. In interview, Zeffirelli confirmed that the scene was filmed, but he felt he couldn’t put it in the movie. Basically, almost the entire scene was deleted, except for the last few words and actions of the scene, and even these were amended when filming.

Screen Shot 2019-09-27 at 12.56.30
Scene 49: Juliet takes the vial given to her by the Friar

(3) Why was the potion speech edited out?  Zeffirelli explained:  ” I know I did a terrible thing with that…With the cinema, you have to make up your mind whether you do a film for a small number of people who know it all – and it’s not very exciting to work for them – or really make some sacrifices and compromises but bring culture to a mass audience.  That was what I was trying to do; sometimes I also succeeded.   What I wanted to do with Romeo and Juliet was to keep the attention of the movie audience – normal movie goers – alive, as if they were looking at a film of Carol Burnet.  Something that they could really identify with…It is a beautiful piece of poetry.  In that moment, Juliet could not go into this beautiful piece of poetry.  Really, my heart bled when I had to cut it”: Staging Shakespeare – Seminars on Production Problems” at p.245 (ed. Glenn Loney. Garland Publishing. 1990. New York)

Original scripted version of Scene 49:

Scene 49Scene 49 1Scene 49 2