While The Taming of The Shrew played in theaters in the spring of 1967, the Summer of Love was about to explode in San Francisco and London, signifying the height of the hippie, counter-culture movement. This was a young generation that rebelled against the war in Vietnam and demanded relevance in higher education (Tatspaugh 140). In addition to anti-war protests, sexual exploration was another hallmark of this young generation, to which Romeo and Juliet was the perfect metaphor. This is confirmed by Sarah Munson Deats as cited by film critic Patricia Tatspaugh in her essay, “The Tragedies of Love on Film,” in which Deats is quoted, “This (Zeffirelli's) film was intended for the counter-culture youth, a generation of young people, like Romeo and Juliet, estranged from their parents, torn by the conflict between their youthful cult of passion and the military traditions of their elders” (Tatspaugh 140). Zeffirelli once again set precedent in the presentation of a Shakespeare play, in his casting of young actors for the main roles; most importantly, the director did not shy away from the issue of Juliet's young age of fourteen. Zeffirelli himself once commented on his own decision, “In every scene I said, 'Don't forget she is fourteen. She's fourteen, and that holds the structure of the play together”(Hapgood 2). This would prove to be a bold choice, pushing the boundaries for what was acceptable at the time, it also attracted the younger audience that Zeffirelli had targeted. More importantly, however, it allowed the film to become an experimental film about the exploration of passionate, physical love between teenagers. Moreover, Zeffirelli detailed the sexual maturation of Juliet.
Despite the fact that Juliet “hath not seen the change of fourteen years” (1.2.9), critics such as Mary Bly have noted that Juliet's use of language allows for an audience to “grasp her sexual knowledge and her consciousness of carnal desire” (Bly 99). Although the film omits most of Juliet's most mature dialog including the “gallop apace” speech, in which Juliet demonstrates her sexual maturity through her desire make love with Romeo,
Spread thy close curtain, love performing night,
That runaways' eyes may wink, and Romeo
Leap to these arms untalked of and unseen.
Lovers can see to do their amorous rites
Zeffirelli expresses Juliet's sexual awakening with visual images of ripeness and growth. Literary Critic Lindsey Scott confirms this is in his essay “Closed in a Dead Man's Tomb,” Scott states, “Zeffirelli's script, its verbalization of Juliet's sexual longing is meditated through the films gendered spaces that mark the awakening of carnal desire” (Scott, web article). Zeffirelli appropriately overloads the camera with this type of imagery throughout the sequence of scenes during Capulet's...