Emotions, Love And Hatred In Romeo And Juliet And West Side Story
The play, “Romeo and Juliet” written by William Shakespeare back in 1594, and the film “West Side Story” filmed by Wise and Robbins back in 1957 are both pieces of art that utilise the emotions, love and hatred to create a story that still intrigues audiences ever since their debut. West Side Story is a newer, more recognisable version of Romeo and Juliet with very similar plot points, such as a fierce hate between two enemies and star-crossed lovers from opposing sides, lethal violence and a male lead turned murderer. The setting has been altered within these scripts, with fifteenth century Verona becoming Manhattan in the 1950’s. In Romeo and Juliet, hate is caused by an untold ancient grudge between the two families, the Capulets and the Montagues. Whereas in West Side Story, the hate is fuelled by racism between two gangs, the Sharks and the Jets. The Sharks being a gang of Puerto Rican immigrants and the Jets being American teenagers (Though the parents of these hooligans are all immigrants, such as Tony’s polish ancestry). Romeo and Juliet use blank verse, whereas West Side Story uses musical aspects such as singing and dancing. Despite the various differences between these two representations (and the fact that one is set 400 years after another), they both show forms of love and hatred.
West Side Story utilizes the basic plot points of Romeo and Juliet to create their story yet alter them to fit the modern version. West Side Story transforms 16th century Verona (Italy) into Manhattan during the 1950’s. The Montagues and Capulets feud is replaced by hatred fuelled by racism between an all-white American gang called the Jets, and a gang consisting of Puerto Rican immigrants named the Sharks. This is evident in many quotes throughout the film. The Jets state “Every Puerto Ricans’ a lousy chicken”, and Bernardo states to Maria “He’s one of them!”, when Bernardo says ‘them’ he means the Jets. This film also decreases the amount of characters Romeo and Juliet have by merging some characters together, for example, Maria now plays the role of Juliet and Prince Escalus. This is because Maria does not kill herself in the end and instead utilises the gang’s hatred for one another, to end the turmoil. Within Romeo and Juliet, the two protagonists (Romeo and Juliet) are married within a few days of falling in love, yet in West Side Story, Tony and Maria do not marry but instead state that they will once they leave the gang and go off to lead a better life. This is because it was illogical to fall in love and no marry back when Shakespeare wrote his play, yet when West Side Story was set, it wasn’t usual for a couple to get together then after a few days get married as all relationships didn’t work like that at the time. Another problem West Side Story had to handle was the issue of Romeo’s banishment. This plot point was converted to Tony hiding from the law in Doc’s (Friar Laurence’s counterpart) basement as banishment wasn’t a thing in the 1950’s, the criminal would instead be sent to jail.
West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet are both wrriten in different linguistic tehcniques. Romeo and Juliet uses blank verse (Iambic Pentameter), in which is when multiple lines utilise the same number of syllables, such as “O! she doth teach the torches to burn bright. It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night. Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear; Beauty too rich for use, for Earth too dear!” This example is Romeo comparing Juliet to brightness. Whereas in West Side Story, the language is written in prose, which is writing in ordinary form without any technicalities, this allows the film to be less constrictive in it’s wording, instead of blank verse, this film utilises slang from the 1950’s. West Side Story also uses music to display emotion to the viewer, such as when Anton sings ‘Maria’ to display his love for Maria, which the song has been written for. Or when the Jets sing ‘Gee Officer Krupke’ to show the gangs disrespect for the officer and his actions. Both texts compare the leading female protagonist (Juliet/Maria) to sources of light, for example in Romeo and Juliet, Romeo states “Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear”, Juliet being the jewel as a shining jewel would stand out in an ear of an Ethiopian. West Side Story also compares Maria to light by stating