West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet both revolve around two rival groups and/or gangs. The film Romeo and Juliet (1968) is about two rival families, the Montagues and the Capulets, whose family feuds have gone so far back in their history that they forget the fuel behind their disputes. In West Side Story, the film involves two rival gangs: The Jets, a gang of Caucasian teenagers, and the Sharks, a gang of Puerto Rican immigrants.
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Their feud begins when the Sharks try to invade the Jets’ territory in Manhattan, New York. In both storylines, a boy and a girl of opposing groups fall in love with each other despite the groups differences; But in return, their love results in their death. Between the two films, a direct comparison between the characters can be clearly observed. Tony, from West Side Story, matches Romeo’s character, while Maria matches the character of Juliet.
Bernardo can be portrayed as Tybalt with his temper and need to fight, while Riff is compared to Mercutio’s personality similar to that of a jester. From West Side Story, Anita can be seen as the nurse, watching over Maria/Juliet, and Chino is in direct comparison of Paris; They are supposed to marry the key girl. Maria is set up to marry Chino, exactly like Juliet is supposed to marry Paris. In the films, the meeting of the lovers ultimately starts with a dance in which both Romeo/Tony are convinced by Mercutio/Riff to come, but for different reasons. Mercutio wants Romeo to go and forget about Rosaline by seeing the other women, while Riff needs Tony to go to help with the rivalry of the Sharks. Tony and Maria meet and experience “love at first sight” just like Romeo and Juliet at the dance. They dance together and share a kiss before they are separated and realize that they are from rival families. In both cases, a balcony scene is present. In West Side Story, Tony actually climbs the balcony and makes physical contact with Maria. Those are the major similarities between West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet.
In addition to the plot structures, similar themes are present in West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet. The idea that blinded love can lead to rash decisions is highly present in both storylines. It is present in Romeo and Juliet in a sense that within simply meeting each other, Romeo and Juliet believe they fell in love with one another. Romeo proclaims, “Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night,” forgetting all about Rosaline: the very woman he claims to have loved no less than five minutes prior.
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