The meshing of characters between Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Bernstein’s West Side Story formulate significant similarities between the two. In Romeo and Juliet the story of “Two households both alike in dignity,” (Montagues and Capulets) who have been feuding is parallel to the two gangs in West Side Story (Jets and Sharks). This grouping of loyalties keeps the segregation of the two groups at a dead lock, thus producing the tension that keeps the two lovers in each play (Romeo and Juliet, Tony and Maria) in the unattainable, intangible realm of their idealistic love. It is these two groupings that cause the star-crossed lovers to forfeit their lives in Romeo and Juliet’s instance and costs Tony his life in his and Maria’s love. Why do these groups feud and keep love bound by hatred? How are these groups alike in their intent? What are the similarities between the leaders of the groups or gangs in both Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story? The hatred of diversity is what created these groupings, binding them to love their hate.
In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet the conflict between the Montagues and the Capulets is kept heated by the servants.
Montague: Who set this ancient quarrel new abroach?
Speak, nephew: were you by when it began?
Benvolio: Here were the servants of your adversary
And yours, close fighting ere I did approach.
I drew to part them. In the instant came
The fiery Tybalt with his sword prepared (Shakespeare 875).
The servants uphold the ancient grudge that has plagued the houses of Montague and Capulet.
The older men of the two househol...
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... segregation limits on different cultures and households keeps us away from death. West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet cover up this message of segregation by bleeding the characters together and putting the idea of idealistic love in the forbears of the main characters. This cover up causes us to analyze their love and relationship and separate relationships with the other characters rather than see the picture for what it is. Never was there a story of more woe than that of Racism and what we Know!
Laurents, Arthur. West Side Story. (A musical, based on a conception of Jerome Robbins; music by Leonard Bernstein; lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.) NY: Random House, 1966.
Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Volume I. Ed. W. G. Clark and W. Aldis Wright. NY: Nelson Doubleday, Inc., 247-277.
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