Romeo and Juliet versus West
Side Story
By Kirk Forte'

Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, two timeless dramas
that will live forever. Although both of these stories have
many similarities, there are also many differences. These
differences include the differences in sililoquy, the fact that
Maria doesn't die, the fact that we never see Tony or Maria's
parents, as well as the issues of marriage, the importance of
gangs and families to each story. To understand these
differences, I have read and/or watched both Romeo and
Juliet, and the similar tragedy, West Side Story.
Above, I named a few of the many differences between
William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Ernest Leaman's
screenplay, West Side Story. One main difference is that in
Romeo and Juliet the sililoquy is spoken while in West Side
Story there is sililoquy, but it is in song. While both equally
express the character's feelings at the moment, it is my feeling
that West Side Story's musical style brings the viewer/listener
further into the play and makes the play more effective. An
example of this is when, in Act II, Scene II, of Romeo and
Juliet, otherwise known as the balcony scene, Romeo expresses
his thoughts in a sililoquy until Juliet shows up. While in
Romeo and Juliet all of this is spoken, in West Side Story, this is
written as music shared between Maria and Tony.
Another major difference between these two stories is
that in Romeo and Juliet, Juliet sees Romeo dead and decides
to kill herself. While, in West Side Story, Tony (the Romeo of
the play) does die - shot by Chino- Maria is not so stricken and
overshelmed that she decides to kill herself. This is very
important because in Romeo and Juliet, neither Romeo or
Juliet is allowed to move on with their lives. In West Side
Story, however, I'm sure Maria, although not shown in the
film, moves on and gets over Tony.
My theory on why the above is true, is that Romeo and
Juliet are kept apart by family ties or blood; Juliet a Capulet
and Romeo a Montague. Blood ties are what family is all
about and tend to be very strong bonds. In West Side Story the
only thing holding each other back from one another are their
ties to gangs; Maria, the Sharks and Tony, the Jets. This, in
my eyes, makes Romeo and Juliet's love for one another
stronger than Maria and Tony's. This is why it is easier for
Maria to get over Tony.
Also a major difference between these tragedies is the
issue, or non-issue as it were, of marriage. Marriage is
another tie that Romeo and Juliet have that Tony and Maria
don't. In Romeo and Juliet's case marriage is seriously
brought up almost immediately after they meet. In Tony and
Maria's case marriage is brought up but, only in a
joking/kidding manner. To me this indicates that Romeo and
Juliet are more grown up and ready to tackle life's challenges,
while Tony and Maria are a little more childish and
unprepared for what they've gotten themselves into.
Although not a major difference, there is the absence of
Tony and Maria's parents. This may not affect the story too
much, but Romeo and Juliet's parents come into major play in
William Shakespeare's love story or love tragedy, depending
on your point of view. In Romeo and Juliet, without Lord
Capulet there is no wedding conflict and much of the quick
"thinking" doesn't have to take place.
You may have previously thought that West Side Story
and Romeo and Juliet were identical love tales. Of course, not
counting the fact that West Side Story is obviously updated. I
hope that my report on the differences between the two has
finally cleared this up. I greatly appreciated the opportunity
to write this report and I certainly learned a lot from it. I
hope you've enjoyed it.

Romeo and Juliet versus
West Side Story

Kirk Forte'
Period 6
Mrs. Searles
2/9/97 (Final Draft)