The musical West Side Story
The musical West Side Story by Robert Wise is much inspired by the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. These two great pieces of work have similarities but are different in many ways. West Side Story is set in the 1950s while William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is set in the 1300s. Both stories result in a romantic tragedy which causes pain for the characters involved.
The families on West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet both have similarities and differences. In West Side Story their “family” is a gang unlike the two-family households in Romeo and Juliet. West Side Story has the Jets and Sharks whereas in Romeo and Juliet it has two families which are the Montagues and the Capulets. Both dramas are similar to the fact that the families have a deep hatred for each other. In West Side Story the hatred for the Sharks by the Jets is mainly based on the racism of that period. However, it is never explained why the families in Romeo and Juliet hate each other.
Tony from West Side Story is one of the main protagonists who is involved with the Jets, one of the street gangs. Romeo who is from Romeo and Juliet is one of the main protagonists who is on the Montague family. Both characters fall in love at first sight with their love interest.
ROMEO. Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!
For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.
In West Side Story while they are dancing they both go into a state of trance only moving towards each other. After they approach each other, they dance, and both become madly in love. Both Maria and Tony display shocking yet happy facial expressions while both become speechless.
Maria is an immigrant from Puerto Rico, who struggles with racism and the hardships of moving to another country; whereas Juliet was born into a wealthy family and does not experience racism at all. Both Juliet and Maria have a very similar experience with their love interest having a love at first sight. Both Juliet and Maria’s families do not agree with their secret love that they are trying to keep with their love interest.
Riff is Tony’s best friend and share traits and the personality of Mercutio from Shakespeare’s play. During both brawls in each story Riff and Mercutio die from Tybalt/Bernardo. After Bernardo has killed Riff, Tony then kills Bernardo and gets vengeance for his best friend that has just died. This same scenario happens in Shakespeare’s play; Romeo kills Tybalt after he slays Mercutio.
Both dramas have their differences and similarities. This is significantly based on the different experiences that the characters from each story experience based on the time period that they are set in. In West Side Story the Puerto Ricans or the Sharks experience racism and hatred not only from the Jets but also from the police whereas in Romeo and Juliet there is no racism factor, but there is an extreme hatred for both families with no real explanation why. Both families from both stories do experience the loss of a loved one and finally realize at the end of the story that the fighting was not worth it at all.
In conclusion, West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet are similar and different in many ways. West Side Story deals with more relevant views and relevant problems whereas Romeo and Juliet is an old play that has old problems and older views. Both stories show the known tragedy of love which is death, and both teach a lesson of needless hatred.
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