Comparing Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet versus Arthur Laurents West Side Story

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Comparing Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet versus Arthur Laurents West Side Story

In approximately 1594, William Shakespeare began to write one of the most well known tragedies in history, Romeo and Juliet. Arguably, no author to date has matched Shakespeare's skill and beauty in the creation of this work. However, authors have regurgitated and will continue to regurgitate the theme, "star-crossed lovers", for centuries. Martha Duffy remarks in "West Side Glory", "Slang may change and violence escalate, but the theme of star-crossed city kids has never dated, nor has its appeal diminished" (p. 1). The only viable attempt is the work of modern dramatist Arthur Laurents. However, Laurents' West Side Story originally written as an attempt to
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Mr. Houghton also comments, "Doc, who is obviously intended as a counterpart of Friar Laurence, takes no comparably active role in the plotting" (p.10). Houghton also agrees, "More significantly, the false report that the boy receives of the girl's death is carried by Anita through the gang as a willful act, not as an unfortuitous happenstance, such as befell Romeo because of the erroneous information Balthasar conveyed and the prevention of Friar John's delivery of the secret of Juliet's feigned death" (p.10) The greatest alterations in the plot of West Side Story occur in the final scene. In Romeo and Juliet, the final moment is as expected from a Shakespearean tragedy, almost all of the main characters die. However, Houghton explains that Laurents totally abandons Shakespeare's ideals in his final scene. "Laurents eschews Shakespeare's scheme of the fake death of Juliet induced... to allow time for a reunion with Romeo" according to Houghton. Due to this abandonment, Laurents must create his own quasi-tragic ending. Laurents does create the desired ending, and with this creation he removes the slaughter and implants somewhat believable ending. At the end, Laurents' Paris and Juliet (Chino and Maria) are still very much alive, and Tony does not take his own life; he is killed by Chino. Some suggest this ending to be a mere alteration to please the Broadway audience. However, Houghton agrees, "This can hardly be valid, for a truly sentimental
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