Shakespeare wrote many play throughout his life which are very well known, in today’s society. Human emotions are not something that change over time and they are also known as universal truths; love, hate, revenge, and envy are all examples of universal truths. This play was so successful movies have copied the plot but changed the scenery. Over the past 400 years since this play was written the world has changed drastically, but the emotions and feelings in this play have withstood the test of time.
This is why the movie West Side Story (1961) was so successful. Shakespeare’s play and movie modeled after it have many similarities and many differences, but one thing remains constant in all of them, the main plot, the idea of love, hate, and revenge all placed toghether. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a timeless play that concentrates on many different human emotions and reactions. Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story are alike in many ways, they were both very successful in their day.
Like Romeo and Juliet, Tony and Maria are of opposite “families”, they fall in love and their love is forbidden. Maria is Puerto Rican and Tony is Irish. In West Side Story they don’t get married but they do have a torrid love affair. The hate between the two groups was modernized to racism and not as many of the main characters die in West Side Story. One of the major differences is that Maria doesn’t die; she is left without Tony.
In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet commits suicide after she finds that Romeo has done the same. Another major difference is that in Romeo and Juliet, Romeo kills Paris who is supposed to marry Juliet then himself when he thinks that Juliet is dead. In West Side Story, Tony is killed by Chino (the equivalent of Paris). Romeo and Juliet had a stronger sense of love and irony. Love is a universal truth that is portrayed similarly in both Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story. Two members of warring groups fall in love.
Love is something that we can all relate to in one way or another and it will never change over time. In Romeo and Juliet both Romeo and Juliet have such a strong love for each other that they both commit suicide when the other dies. In West Side Story, Tony and Maria talk of running away and they have such a strong love that they believe that they can end the hatred with their love. Hate is another universal truth that has a strong influence in both of these plots. Everyone has felt hate at one time or another in their life.
As it is in Romeo and Juliet with Mercutio and Tybalt, in West Side Story Maria’s brother, Bernardo and Tony’s best friend, Riff are the focus of hate. These characters could not see past their blind hatred and many others were killed. The original play Romeo and Juliet and the new movie are almost exactly alike in their script, but the interpretation of the dialogue is unique to the actors. One major difference is that at the end of the original play the two families end their feud but in the new movie that is not shown.
Irony is when something ends up being the opposite of it’s obvious and literal beginning and this change takes out the whole sense of irony that Friar Laurence achieved when he joined the two families. So, in my opinion the simple outcome, of the two groups not shown ending the feud makes the movie loose one of the main ideas of the original Romeo and Juliet; but in its entire, the reproduction into the streets of New York the movie does a good job of adjusting the original Romeo into a possible situation in those times.