Romeo And Juliet With West Side Story

1590 WORDS

Romeo And Juliet With West Side Story

Andy Warhol once said, "They say that time changes things, but actually you
have to change them yourself." Two hundred fifty years passed between the
original Romeo and Juliet and the premiere of West Side Story on Broadway in

1957. However, time did not change the message of the story, simply the
creators’ unique visions evolved. Shakespeare’s delivery of the timeless
tale of desperate love in his classic Romeo and Juliet proves to only intensify
through retelling and modern interpretation. Audiences cherish Romeo and Juliet
as one of the most beloved plays of all time from the Elizabethan Age to the
present. Romeo and Juliet have attained the role as the quintessential lovers,
and the noun, "a Romeo," is synonymous with " lover."

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is closely based on Arthur Brooke's tale, The

Tragicall History of Romeus and Juliet. The language, attitudes, and customs
detailed in the play are generally English, in spite of Brooke’s original

Italian setting. In 1949, choreographer Jerome Robbins decided to retell Brooke
and Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy using song and dance, elements of racism
and nationalism, and a modern vernacular. Robbins called upon the musical
talents of composer Leonard Bernstein and the words of Arthur Laurents for the
script and book. The love story proved to have universal appeal throughout all
artistic forms, as it had already been adjusted for opera and ballet. The
contemporary adaptation of this timeless classic alters details and deepens the
message of hatred, but maintains Brooke and Shakespeare’s vision. The
relationships between the characters, plot sequence, and theme of hatred in West

Side Story and Romeo and Juliet intertwine resulting in two similar, yet varying
versions of the most famous love story of all time. The relationships between
the characters of West Side Story and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet are
reflective of their respective time periods and the original story. Maria and

Juliet represent a slightly practical counterpart to both Tony’s and Romeo’s
idealistic nature. Maria’s brother Bernardo and Juliet’s cousin Tybalt
portray impulsively stubborn and violent characters who both die from wounds
inflicted by the male lead. Lieutenant Schrank is similar to Prince Escalus,
although Schrank is unfair in his treatment and attitude towards one gang- the

Sharks. Anita and Nurse both take on the role as Juliet’s confidant and
trusted friend, often tampering with their roles as messengers. The
mischievously tomboyish Anybodys, who desperately wants to be a Jet, would best
fit into the role of Balthasar, since it was she who aided Tony in escaping
after the rumble, as well as later informing the other Jets that Tony was being
hunted. Finally, the character of Doc appears to fulfill the role of Friar

Laurence because both possess somewhat of a peacekeeping nature. Doc attempts to
get through to Tony by dramatically pleading, "Why do you live like
there’s a war on? Why do you kill?" (2.5). All of the characters are
consistent to the heart and soul of the story as well as the slightly differing
plots. West Side Story maintains Romeo and Juliet’s intricate and exciting
plot using appropriate adaptations to accommodate mid-twentieth-century pop
culture. For instance, both artistic forms portray mutual disrespect between the
parties. At the dawn of Romeo and Juliet, Capulet’s cohorts harass

Montague’s. "I will bite my thumb at them; which is a disgrace to them,
if they bear it," boasts Sampson (1.1.42-43). In the opening scene of West

Side Story, several members of a Puerto Rican gang insult A-rab, a member of the
opposing gang. It is here where Lieutenant Schrank becomes aware of the
potential rumble. In Romeo and Juliet Escalus, Prince of Verona, threatens,
"If ever you disturb our streets again, your lives shall pay the forfeit of
the peace" (1.1.103-104). In West Side Story, Schrank mediates in his own
way when he declares, "I got a hot surprise for you: you hoodlums don't own
the streets"(1.1). Later, another similarity takes place. Riff convinces

Tony to attend the dance at the gym just as Benvolio persuades Romeo to attend
the Capulets’ masquerade. Tony confesses to Riff that he's "reachin' out
for something"(1.2), just what, he doesn't know. Riff encourages Tony by
proposing, "Maybe what you're waitin' for'll be twitchin' at the
dance!" (1.2). Shakespeare and director Jerome Robbins choose to draw the
audience’s attention to the dramatic lovers by giving them unique and eminent
qualities. At the Capulet ball in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, all of the
characters speak in blank verse, but when Romeo and Juliet converse, they speak
in sonnet form. Throughout the

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