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Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story Comparative Essay Two feuding families in the old city of Verona, and two rival gangs in New York’s West Side; what could these two scenarios possibly have in common? They both consist of a pair of star-crossed lovers and the story of their short lived love, which eventually ends in deaths. William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Arthur Laurents’ West Side Story are similar in many ways. They both have the similar theme of forbidden love and love that is expected or arranged.
Although the balcony scene and the fire escape scene seem very different, these settings are also very similar and contain the same feeling of true love. There is also the symbolism of a name or the power of a name, which remains consistent in both pieces of literature. Using these three comparisons, readers can clearly see the tragedy of love hindered by fate. Love is a theme that is expressed quite clearly in both Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story. There is forbidden love between Romeo and Juliet, as well as between Tony and Maria.
Both sets of characters come from completely different worlds, and because of rivalry and hatred they are not supposed to be together. In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet is told that she has fallen in love with the son of her enemy, and Juliet’s response is “My only love sprung from my only hate,” (Act 1, Scene 5, Line 140). Juliet knows she should not love Romeo because of the hatred between their families. There is also expected or arranged love in both pieces of literature. Juliet is arranged to be married to Paris, and Maria is expected to marry Chino.
When Anita finds out about Maria being in love with Tony, Anita tells her “Forget that boy and find another! One of your own kind – Stick to your own kind! ” (Act 2, Scene 3, Page 212). She is telling Maria that because of the rivalry between the gangs, the racial difference, and because Tony has killed Maria’s brother Bernardo, she should not love Tony but Chino instead. Romeo and Juliet, and Tony and Maria could not help who they had fallen in love with, and unfortunately for these star-crossed lovers the price that they had to pay for love was not cheap.
Whether it is a balcony or a fire escape, both settings are very important to the plot line of the star-crossed lovers. In Romeo and Juliet it is a balcony and in West Side Story it is a fire escape, but in both it is where the love between the couples in truly expressed. Both scenes contain the same feeling of true love, trust, and commitment. It also leads to the marriage or exchange of vows between the lovers. Juliet says to Romeo, “If thy bent of love be honourable, thy purpose marriage, send me word to-morrow,” (Act 2, Scene 2, Line 143-144).
She is questioning Romeo, telling him that if he truly loves her then he will ask her to marry him. They love each other so truly that they were willing to go against their families and get married out of their love for each other. Maria expressed her love and commitment to Tony when she says to him, “Only you, you’re the only thing I’ll see forever. In my eyes, in my words and in everything I do, Nothing else but you,” (Act 1, Scene 5, Page 161). She is telling him how she is completely committed to him, and how she does not care about anyone else but him.
Although Maria and Tony do not get married like Romeo and Juliet, their exchange of vows and love for each other is just as eminent. These scenes are both important to the plot line of the story, and even if it is not exactly the same, these scenes are very similar in the deeper meaning of love and commitment. There is a lot of power in a name. People can make assumptions or judge who you are based on your name. A name is a very powerful symbol in both Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story.
Names cause a lot of trouble for both couples in these pieces of literature. For Romeo and Juliet it is their families’ names, Montagues and Capulets, and the ancient grudge between the families. With Tony and Maria it is not only the different gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, but also the racial difference that keeps them apart. Juliet feels that their families’ names should not keep her and Romeo from loving each other. “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet,” (Act 2, Scene 2, Lines 43-44).
Juliet is saying that even if a rose was not called a rose, it would still be the same; just like if Romeo were not a Montague, he would still be the same as he is, and she would still love him. Bernardo almost instantly questions Maria about Tony, “Couldn’t you see he’s one of them? /No; I saw only him. ” (Act 1, Scene 4, Page 155). Bernardo saw right away that Tony was a rival gang member, and not a Puerto Rican. Maria on the other hand, was ‘blinded’ by her love for Tony and did not care that they were not of the same gang or race.
The power of a name is clearly present in both stories, but the power of love seems to triumph over the power of a name. Both love and fate play a big role in Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story. Being star-crossed lovers, their love was doomed from the beginning. It is evident in the theme of love, where love at first sight is forbidden and where they are to be expected to love someone else. It is also clearly shown through the balcony and fire escape scenes, where they are promising to commit themselves to each other through an exchange of vows, and in doing so proving their love.
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It is also without a doubt apparent in the symbolism of a name, when the lovers ignore the fact that they are not to be together because of this difference. In Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story it is proven time and time again that people cannot control their destiny and that true love can never be suppressed. MLA Documentation Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. New York: Dell Publishing Co. , Inc. , 1965. Laurents, Arthur. West Side Story. New York: Dell Publishing Co. , Inc. , 1965.
Author: Brandon Johnson
Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story Comparative Essay
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There is a lot in common between the two plays Romeo And Juliet and West
Side Story. The main male characters have many things in common. In fact,
Toni and Romeo both miss the beginning fight at the beginning of the plays, they
both fall in love and end up getting killed. The difference between the two is
that Toni takes place in the 1950s'', while Romeo happens in Elizabethan times
(the late 1500s). The two main female characters also have many things in
common. Juliet and Maria both come from families that hate each other's
boyfriend's families. Something that makes Juliet different from Maria is that
Juliet dies and Maria lives. In both of these plays the main male character
kills a relative of their lover. In Romeo And Juliet, Romeo kills Tybalta,
Juliet's cousin. In West Side Story, Toni kills Bernardo, Maria's brother.
There was a person in both play's that tried to make peace. These people were
the Prince and the Lieutenant. The Prince, from Romeo And Juliet, had told
Romeo and Juliet's families that if there was another riot that the heads of
each family will be killed. The Lieutenant, from West Side Story, had told the
Puerto Rican's and the American's that if they get into another fight they all
will have to go to jail. The difference between the two peace-makers is that the
Prince has more power than the Lieutenant. In the story of Romeo and Juliet,
Paris wants to marry Juliet against her wishes. Her father wants Paris West
Side Story to marry Juliet. Juliet goes off and marries Romeo without telling
anyone. In Chino wants to marry Maria against her wishes, just like Paris in
Romeo and Juliet. Maria and Toni do not get married, which is in contrast to
Romeo and Juliet. Marcucio in Romeo and Juliet, is killed while battling Tybalta.
In West Side Story Riff is killed in a knife fight with Bernardo. Both deaths
are accidental and cause the hero's ( Romeo and Toni) to kill the close relative
of their lovers (Tybalta and Bernardo). Both stories conclude in the sad
reconciliation of two fighting factions at the cost of the lives of the two
After comparing and contrasting the two plays I've come the conclusion
that Romeo and Juliet is better than West Side Story. It is better because the
language and the story moves in a more interesting manner. "A grooming peace
this morning with it brings. The Sun for sorrow will not show his head. For
never was there a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo".
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