Romeo and Juliet vs. The West Side Story.

Essay by rougefairieJunior High, 9th grade January 2004

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Though both Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story tell the timeless tale of two forbidden lovers struggling to save their relationship, there are many apparent similarities and also many differences between this classic text and the 1960' movie. Even though West Side Story is set in more modern times, all the characters obviously parallel characters from Shakespeare's famous novel, the differences between the two tales occur in the plot and setting.

Many of the characters in West Side Story are similar to those in Romeo and Juliet. Romeo is Tony, of the Jets. Juliet is Maria, of the Sharks. The candy storeowner serves as a modern Friar Lawrence, helping Romeo in his time of need, while Maria's friend, Anita, could be the equivalent of Juliet's nurse. The Sharks are the Capulets, the Jets the Montagues. Riff is Mercutio, being fighting leaders of the modern Montagues. The Tybalt of West Side Story is Bernardo, him slaying Riff (Mercutio) and in turn being slain by Tony (Romeo).

Another, very evident difference, is the fact that West Side Story is very modernized. Romeo and Juliet is set in the late 1500's in Verona, while West Side Story is set in 1950's New York. The Capulets and Montagues (Sharks and Jets, respectively) of West Side Story use guns, compared to the swords of Romeo and Juliet. The Sharks and Jets are gangs, their equals, the Montagues and Capulets, are families. Even through all these difference, the important part is that the plot remained intact. Both the stories opened with the two parties fighting. A prince (or a police officer in the case of West Side Story) stops their fighting. The Romeos and Juliets meet at a party and fall in love, Romeo goes on to kill Tybalt (Bernardo) and later dies...