Essay on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet vs. West Side Story

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Romeo & Juliet vs. West Side Story      What would Romeo and Juliet be like if Juliet hadn't died? What if Paris killed Romeo, instead of vice versa? What if instead of occurring several centuries ago, it took place on the streets of New York City during the 1950s, with a bunch of fresh-faced youths posing as street toughs and dancing and singing their hearts out? Well, just take a look at West Side Story, and you will have your answers. It is impossible for anyone familiar with both texts to not note the obvious major similarities between the two plays. From the opening scenes in both, up through the rumble in West Side Story/death of Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, the plays mirror each other (Poelstra).…show more content…
In the opening scene of West Side Story, several Sharks, the Puerto Rican gang led by Bernardo, harass A-rab (notice the similarity in name to Abraham), a white dude, a Jet, and therefore, an enemy of the immigrants. In no time at all, other Jets, led by Riff, rush to A-rab's side. No words are exchanged between the gangs, since it is, after all, a musical, and they basically just jump around in exaggerated fashion. Nevertheless, the scene, like the opening of Romeo and Juliet, sets the stage for the remainder of the production.           It is here where Lt. Schrank and his faithful compatriot, Officer Krupke, happen on the scene to break apart a potential rumble just like Escalus, Prince of Verona, did in Romeo and Juliet: "If ever you disturb our streets again, your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace" (I.i.103-4). Or, as Schrank would phrase it, "I got a hot surprise for you: you hoodlums don't own the streets" (Laurents 6).      Following the altercation between the gangs, it is decided by Riff that the time has come to take care of the Puerto Ricans once and for all, "clean em up in one all-out fight!" (Laurents 10). Riff will challenge them at the dance at the gym later that night. But, he wants his old pal Tony, who founded the Jets with him, in as his Lieutenant (Laurents 12). So, he goes to fill in Tony, who has made a sincere effort to

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