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West Side Story As A Modern Romeo And Juliet

1952 words - 8 pages

Shakespeare adaptation is a big time business. From modern retellings to direct versions of movies, plays etc. In his book Big Time Shakespeare, Michael Bristol states that Shakespeare is “profitable in the context of commercial film production” because “Shakespeare's works are a progress of human civilization” (8). Perhaps we can point to this showing of human progress as how Shakespeare has lived for centuries past his physical death. But what this means is that Shakespeare is presenting us with a picture or snapshot of human interaction that results in progress. This is an important thing to note when talking about Shakespeare adaptation because it is that quality that makes Shakespeare so adaptable; if he writes about progress in the most general sense, then we should be able to update it and show the same progress in a more relevant time. These adaptations are possible, says Bristol, because Shakespeare did not write his plays as “closed discursive formations nor are they limited to expressing the concerns and interests of a narrowly circumscribed historical period. They have potential for generating new meanings” (11). The potential for generating new meanings comes from the interpretation that comes with adapting a play. When a play gets updated for adaptation, the meaning usually stays the same, it’s the presentation that’s different.Struck by the adolescent feeling in the Romeo and Juliet, Jerome Robbins began thinking about how he might adapt the role of Romeo to make it seem less passive. He soon began to see that in order to adapt the story, he needed to bring the emotional violence of Romeo and Juliet into the world he was in; the world of 1949. A long way down the road, the adaptation team noticed a newspaper article that talked about Mexican immigrants getting into gang fights with supposedly true Americans. At this point it was like a light clicked on and they decided to move the setting to West New York and have the two noble houses be gangs of Puerto Ricans and Americans. Thus in 1957 the show debuted on Broadway and an astounding 4 years later was turned into a movie.The endings of the dramas are clearly different, yet the themes of the original story are clearly present. Love knowing no boundaries is an obvious theme displayed by the love between two people who, according to social conventions, should not interact at all. Then the theme of the individual versus their society or niche is depicted by various characters in both stories when they attempt to convince the lovers to stick to what they know.Juliet commits suicide when she learns that Romeo would rather die than live without her. But Maria makes a different choice, despite threatening to kill herself. But her love for Tony leads her to force social change by staying alive, as a reminder of this heartbreak that connects both the Sharks and the Jets. This is the fundamental difference. Maria forces social change by being a constant...

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