Essay, Research Paper
Romeo and Juliet versus West Side Story
By Kirk Forte’
Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, two timeless dramas that will live
forever. Although both of these stories have many similarities, there are also
many differences. These differences include the differences in sililoquy, the
fact that Maria doesn’t die, the fact that we never see Tony or Maria’s parents,
as well as the issues of marriage, the importance of gangs and families to each
story. To understand these differences, I have read and/or watched both Romeo
and Juliet, and the similar tragedy, West Side Story.
Above, I named a few of the many differences between William
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Ernest Leaman’s screenplay, West Side Story.
One main difference is that in Romeo and Juliet the sililoquy is spoken while in
West Side Story there is sililoquy, but it is in song. While both equally
express the character’s feelings at the moment, it is my feeling that West Side
Story’s musical style brings the viewer/listener further into the play and makes
the play more effective. An example of this is when, in Act II, Scene II, of
Romeo and Juliet, otherwise known as the balcony scene, Romeo expresses his
thoughts in a sililoquy until Juliet shows up. While in Romeo and Juliet all of
this is spoken, in West Side Story, this is written as music shared between
Maria and Tony.
Another major difference between these two stories is that in Romeo
and Juliet, Juliet sees Romeo dead and decides to kill herself. While, in West
Side Story, Tony (the Romeo of the play) does die – shot by Chino- Maria is not
so stricken and overshelmed that she decides to kill herself. This is very
important because in Romeo and Juliet, neither Romeo or Juliet is allowed to
move on with their lives. In West Side Story, however, I’m sure Maria, although
not shown in the film, moves on and gets over Tony.
My theory on why the above is true, is that Romeo and Juliet are kept
apart by family ties or blood; Juliet a Capulet and Romeo a Montague. Blood
ties are what family is all about and tend to be very strong bonds. In West
Side Story the only thing holding each other back from one another are their
ties to gangs; Maria, the Sharks and Tony, the Jets. This, in my eyes, makes
Romeo and Juliet’s love for one another stronger than Maria and Tony’s. This is
why it is easier for Maria to get over Tony.
Also a major difference between these tragedies is the issue, or non-
issue as it were, of marriage. Marriage is another tie that Romeo and Juliet
have that Tony and Maria don’t. In Romeo and Juliet’s case marriage is
seriously brought up almost immediately after they meet. In Tony and Maria’s
case marriage is brought up but, only in a joking/kidding manner. To me this
indicates that Romeo and Juliet are more grown up and ready to tackle life’s
challenges, while Tony and Maria are a little more childish and unprepared for
what they’ve gotten themselves into.
Although not a major difference, there is the absence of Tony and
Maria’s parents. This may not affect the story too much, but Romeo and Juliet’s
parents come into major play in William Shakespeare’s love story or love tragedy,
depending on your point of view. In Romeo and Juliet, without Lord Capulet
there is no wedding conflict and much of the quick “thinking” doesn’t have to
You may have previously thought that West Side Story and Romeo and
Juliet were identical love tales. Of course, not counting the fact that West
Side Story is obviously updated. I hope that my report on the differences
between the two has finally cleared this up. I greatly appreciated the
opportunity to write this report and I certainly learned a lot from it. I hope
you’ve enjoyed it.