What would Romeo and Juliet be like if Juliet hadn't died? What if Paris killed Romeo, instead of vice versa? What if instead of occurring several centuries ago, it took place on the streets of New York City during the 1950s, with a bunch of fresh-faced youths posing as street toughs and dancing and singing their hearts out? Well, just take a look at West Side Story, and you will have your answers. It is impossible for anyone familiar with both texts to not note the obvious major similarities between the two plays. From the opening scenes in both, up through the rumble in West Side Story/death of Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, the plays mirror each other (Poelstra). It isn't until the last part of West Side Story, where Tony, our modern-day Romeo, dies and Maria, Tony's Juliet, doesn't (unlike the two star-crossed lovers of Shakespeare's work), that the major difference between the two works becomes apparent.
Granted, instead of tension between feuding families, West Side Story offers prejudice between races, as illustrated between street gangs, the Jets and Sharks. Some of the characters in West Side Story are carbon copies of those in Romeo and Juliet: Maria (Juliet), Tony (Romeo), Bernardo (Tybalt), Lt. Schrank (Prince), and Anita (Nurse). Others appear to be a composite of characters, namely Riff, a combination of Benvolio and Mercutio, and Doc, who appears to fulfill the role of Friar Laurence (possessed somewhat of a peacekeeping nature: "You couldn't play basketball?", he asks, when informed of their upcoming "war council" [Laurents 57]) yet, at the same time, it is implied in the film version, not the play that he is a pharmacist, and there was, after all, an apothecary in Romeo and Juliet . The tomboyish Anybodys, a Jet wannabe, would best fit into the role of Balthasar (although Doc's character fits into this role marginally as well), since it was she who aided Tony in escaping after the rumble, which... [continues]
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(2000, 04). Romeo &Juliet vs. West Side Story. StudyMode.com. Retrieved 04, 2000, from http://www.studymode.com/essays/Romeo-Juliet-Vs-West-Side-Story-26006.html
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