Shakespeare And West Side Stor Essay, Research Paper
West Side Story
West Side Story, a 1961 production starring Rita Moreno and Natalie Wood, is an adaptation of William Shakespeare s play Romeo and Juliet. West Side Story is a flashy production filled with music, dance and light. It presents Shakespeare s play from a 1960 s inner city perspective.
In the movie two rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, demonstrate cultural prejudices between Puerto Rican and American inner city dwellers. The hatred between the two groups is evident from the beginning of the film. The play opens with the Jets, the American gang, roaming the streets snapping their fingers and dancing. The Jets run into the Sharks while singing and a fight that is filmed as a dance ensues. The cops come and break up the fight. The groups pretend to be friends when associating with the cops. When faced with the prospects of getting in trouble the gangs work together to prevent this from happening. By showing the members of these gangs working together, the directors want to remind the audience that the gangs are made up of boys who do not understand that their prejudice is cycling out of control.
The hatred displayed by the two groups is destined to crush the west side equivalent of Romeo and Juliet, Maria and Tony. The scene where Maria and Tony meet is the most dramatic scene in the movie. The two groups are dancing in the same hall when Maria and Tony see each other. The music, which is loud, the dancing, which is fast, and the lighting, which is bright, changes when they see each other. The floor becomes completely dark, only lightened by a spotlight focused on Tony and Maria. They dance slowly to soft music and then kiss. As soon as they kiss, the lights come back on and the loud music resumes. Bernardo, Maria s brother, pulls them apart; however, they continue to look at each other and the audience becomes aware that their love will not be squelched.
As the movie continues, the love between Maria and Tony grows. In a scene similar to the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet, Tony comes to Maria s balcony and professes his love to her. The scene is characterized by what the audience envisions as a stereotypical intercity apartment balcony. The similarities between the two different scenes show the common link between the two plays, that is, the eternal link between love and relationships, even though times change.
Music has a dramatic affect on the audience in West Side Story. In the balcony scene, music draws the audience into the scene in a more emotional sense. Tony s profession of love is evident through the famous song Maria . Musical and dance compositions give the movie more appeal to the Sixties audience. An especially memorable song occurs when Bernardo and his girlfriend Anita, who is played by Rita Moreno, sing on the roof of their building about American life. Bernardo displays his disdain for Americans in the song, while Anita sings about the things she loves in America. Dancing numbers add to the effect that the music provides. Many of the fight scenes are portrayed in a dancing style. The rumble, which is organized between the two gangs and is meant to be a fair fight, is an example of one of the fights portrayed as a dance. In the dance Bernardo ends up pulling a knife and stabbing Tony s friend, which is then followed by Tony stabbing Bernardo. The dancing stops when the killings occur, and the movie takes a serious turn. At this point in the movie the hatred between the two gangs has changed from dancing, symbolizing a boyish rivalry, to a more somber atmosphere which is symbolized by the lack of dancing. The eventual result of the gangs disdain for each other is the crumbling of the love of Tony and Maria. Bernardo s friend, Geno, shoots and kills Tony. Maria is enraged and blames the gangs on his death. The movie leaves the audience with the perception that the two gangs will no longer fight, though it took death to make them realize that their prejudice was wrong.
West Side Story does an exceptional job of turning the Shakespeare play into a movie with appeal for the modern culture. West Side changes the family feud that destroys Romeo and Juliet into the cultural feud that tears apart Tony and Maria. The dancing, lighting and music increase the appeal to the Sixties audience and performers such as Rita Moreno and Natalie Wood, who are accompanied by the legendary score written by Leonard Bernstein make West Side Story a classic.