"Romeo and Juliet" and "West Side Story": A comparison

Essay by jhnnyddJunior High, 9th gradeA+, September 2006

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In the mid 1590's, a masterpiece was written and performed as a play. It was a tragic story, but it was a beautiful story. I'm obviously talking about Shakespeare's The Most Excellent and Lamentable "Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet" or for short, "Romeo and Juliet". Over 300 years later, a man named Arthur Laurents, took that same masterpiece, changed the setting, the dialogue and the characters, and got a story called West Side Story as his result. Than, with the help of Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sonheim and Jerome Robbbins, it thrived into a famous Broadway musical.

In this paper I will go into detail about the differences and similarities of the two stories. Before I start, I will state this difference: West Side Story, being a musical and Romeo and Juliet, being a play, changes the extent of dialogue that can be had, because a musical needs to be altered for songs to fit into it.

Romeo and Juliet's dialogue can extend further, since it's a play. As you will see, nearly every aspect of the stories can be compared or contrasted to another.

"Romeo and Juliet" is set mainly in the city of Verona, Italy, where the two households are located, and in Mantua, Italy where Romeo was exiled. There never was a date set in the play, but many say that it takes place at the same time Shakespeare wrote it. We can aproximately calculated when the book was written, because Nurse gave reference to an earthquake: "'Tis since the earthquake now eleven years," (Romeo and Juliet, 1.3.23). This points to a violent earthquake in London, where Shakespeare is speculated to have lived when the book was written. What we do know about time in the story is that it goes through a course...