Relationship Between Romeo And Juliet By Shakespeare And Its Appropriation West Side Story And How The Respective Contexts Demonstrate Values That Have Been Maintained Or Changed

1178 words - 5 pages

In comparing the play "Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare (1596), with its' film appropriation "West Side Story" directed by Robert Wise (1961), it is evident that the portrayed values have been maintained or changed as a consequence of the time the texts were created in. The vastly different contextual eras predominantly generate altered values towards social and cultural issues such as patriarchy, marriage and family, whilst other ideologies such as the power and nature of love remain valued in both contexts. Subsequently the relationship between the two texts and their respective cultural context is significant and exemplified by the principles they portray. The paradigmatic value of the power of love and its' amoral nature is reflected in both "Romeo and Juliet" and "West Side Story", although the settings change from 16th century Verona to 20th century New York respectively. In Shakespeare's play, Romeo is in love before speaking to Juliet, ("Did my heart love till now? Forswear it 'sight!" - act I scene V line 49). Accordingly, in the appropriation, the blurring and soft focus utilised in the appropriation when Maria and Tony see each other distinctly illustrates the values that true love occurs instantaneously. Additionally both texts portray that despite the social boundaries that exist for lovers, their love comes foremost ("I'll no longer be a Capulet" - Juliet - Act 2, Scene 2, "[love] so strong, there is no right or wrong" - Maria - "I Have A Love") and serves as the pivot for overturning the civil conflict in the community, portraying that true love knows no impediments. The popularity and acceptance of the texts illustrates that the relationship between the lovers stands as a cultural model that is fostered by the unaltered social ideal and understanding of love in the respective contexts. The fundamental division that separates the lovers is a consequence of social values in the contexts and is altered from rival "households" to rival youth gangs from different races in "Romeo and Juliet" and its' appropriation. Society in both texts dictated that the individuals have a strong sense of how family or racial background shaped their lives. Juliet, in pretending to follow the social norm, says to her parents, "Henceforth I am ever ruled by you" (Act IV, Scene II) and reflects that contextually children must obey their parents religiously ("I have learned me to repent the sin of disobedient opposition" Act 4, Scene 2, line 16-17). In contrast, "West Side Story" treats the position of family as subsidiary to ethnic gangs, a portrayal of the value of "stick to your own kind" (Anita in "A Boy Like That") that was prominent in the context of 1950s where ethnic bondage of immigrants and growth of gang culture promoted racist values. Bernardo is the only family granted a screen presence and the drastic alteration in plot signifies the distinction in context as the household was a critical unit in Elizabethan society...

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